Update: Dustin Zito discusses his lying and homophobic comments, and the reaction of the cast to learning about his past, and Fratpad producer explains why images of Dustin’s gay sex were removed.
The Real World Las Vegas, the show’s 25th season, debuted last night, and while it all but dispensed with narrative and replaced it with montages of bodies, it did address Dustin Zito’s past as a gay porn star, or as he called it, being a model.
I haven’t watched the show consistently in years, but I was still surprised at what it actually was: a nearly non-stop montage of half-naked bodies in and out of the hot tub and beds. Even in public they were groping each other and the camera lingered over skin. I have no objection to pornography but it was so much–Cinemax movies have nothing on this–that it was unsettling, at the very least. And the episode spent basically no time on introductions but instead watched as the cast immediately began to start humping anything they could find, creating predictable conflict with relationships they have back home.
MTV’s initial bio for Dustin did not mention his porn past at all, which I referenced in this essay as an example of the cast’s lack of jobs or careers. But I was soon informed that MTV’s bio on their web site had a vague reference to it (it says Dustin was “a cast member on a web site that featured an uncensored look at a house of attractive guys living together”). The trailer for the season also obliquely referenced it, which I missed the first time around, in part because Dustin looks different in that quick moment, and in part because his castmate just says, “You got taped having sex. It’s all over the Internet,” which sounds like both revelations are surprising. Of course, they aren’t surprising to him, because he outright admitted his past, even in casting.
And because he performed for a web site, this wasn’t a secret. Dustin performed for Fratmen and in Frat Pad as “Spencer,” where he engaged in behavior that included randomly fondling his co-stars, performing oral sex on and masturbating another man, and giving and receiving anal sex. (While there are plenty of photos of him naked, there are surprisingly few pictures of his oral sex experience, as most of the photos from that video just feature him and his co-star naked together and the aftermath of their interaction. But other screenshots survive.)
But it came up in the first half-hour of the first episode, as the cast played “never have I ever” and Dustin admitted having sex in a hot tub, having a three way, and kissing someone of the same sex. That prompted Leroy to say, “I don’t feel that Dustin’s gay, but I do feel that that’s kinda weird.” (I feel like it’s weird that in 2011 male same-sex kissing still freaks out someone who moments later is seen making out with two female strangers simultaneously, but feel that it’s even weirder that the producers’ insistence on having the cast speak in present tense in interviews produces awkward sentences like that one.)
That kind of reaction prompted Dustin to say, “Oh god, I’m going to have a tough time talking about my past.” We then saw his casting interview, in which he said, “High school was over and I was like, all of the people were going to college, I don’t know what I wanted to do, so I did a webcam thing.” The producers then showed censored video from Frat Pad.
Dustin insisted, “none of the models are gay; it was a job for me, that’s strictly a job.” And he added, “For me, it’s such a big deal for me to be judged; I’m scared at this point to open up.” Dustin later encouraged fellow cast member Mike to drop his moral code and hook up with random women “in order to be a well-rounded person.” Really.
Later, Dustin gave in to “temptation” and started making out with Heather–there’s no character development any more so on-screen text reminds us of their names–and after a montage of them making out that was worthy of an R-rated movie, we saw Dustin say in an interview, “There’s still this secret that I’m hiding. And if we develop a relationship, I know I gotta tell her. And am I prepared for that?”
Apparently, that will be one of this season’s story arcs, if you can count whatever happens as a story or imagine the editing is actually constructing an arc. Instead, most of the show just looks like this: