The Real World’s increasing violence, decreasing consequences

The Real World Portland had what may have been the most violent fight in the 28-season history of the MTV series, leaving two cast members to move out because they were so fearful. It made the show look like its sibling Challenge shows, which have repeatedly featured violence and drunken violence, and Bad Girls Club, which is from the same producers. It also made it clear that a lot has changed from the era in which Stephen was ordered into anger management after slapping Irene on The Real World Seattle after she said he was gay (which, it turned out, he is).

The MTV show may have been the reason why I started watching reality TV in the first place, but I didn’t watch a single minute of this season until I watched the clip below, and that was too much. It’s a cliched understatement to point out how much the show has changed since its early seasons.

But Variety’s AJ Marechal has a smart take on these developments, which are far worse than the cast’s shallowness. She makes a compelling case that “the reality of these shoots is that there are cameras surrounding these cast members, and their spot on a show is a privilege, not a right.”

Marechal learned from Bunim-Murray that “there is no contractual policy against fighting on Real World, contrary to what many viewers and cast members may have thought” and notes that “as seasons progressed on the series and its spinoffs, producers have stepped further and further away from their involvement in physical altercations, leaving cast members with fewer concrete consequences for their actions while cameras roll.”

That’s definitely true and it’s also crazy, especially since it’s a clear shift from the way it used to be. Such a callous and hands-off tolerance toward violence on behalf of the producers and network is far more obnoxious than CBS’ tolerance of bigoted comments on Big Brother because it has the potential for immediate damage, physical injury, never mind that it is shown to its very young audience as resulting in no consequences at all.

That’s shameful and pathetic.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.