A 'Real World: Homecoming' Realization About What Is, And Isn't, Reality

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A 'Real World: Homecoming' Realization About What Is, And Isn't, Reality

It's not just that reality TV has changed over the last 20 years, but how it's changed. I mean, it's no shock that the genre has evolved because hello, the world is a completely different place now. We have watches that can tell us our heart rate and also text our fuck buddy. It's nuts. We live in the future. But there are things I do really miss about one of the original reality shows – The Real World – and I'm aware that makes me sound like one of those old people who are like "when I was a kid..." but really, I just miss the authenticity and newness of it all. The lack of jadedness. Sure, the original cast members signed up to have their lives taped, but they really couldn't have imagined what level of fame they would reach or what their longevity would look like. There was no precedent.

That's why I am so happy Paramount Plus+ is taking us back and walking us down memory lane with Real World Homecoming: New Orleans. Watching the series, which reunites the original cast of 2000, one is reminded of simpler times and how reality TV used to work.

Here's what stood out to me.

They Look Different

When you've been watching Bravo for awhile, your mind truly rots. Adele was right. And I am saying this as someone whose mind is completely rotten, mush honestly, just filled with quotes and call-backs to episodes that aired in 2008. Know thyself!

But the truth is, one of the things your mind does is acclimate you to plastic surgery; you start to think it's the norm, and an expected part of the human condition. The big lips, the expressionless faces, the nips and tucks. So, when you are presented with people who are also in the reality TV space, who have faces that... move, you are taken aback. It's not something you really realize until you are maybe an episode or two into Real World Homecoming, but when you fully realize that these faces are beautifully flawed and made of skin, not strings, it's refreshing. When you find yourself thinking, "Wow, when she cries, you can see her face move," it's sort of jarring. And this is in no way trying to shame anyone for having plastic surgery. But at some point, it is a little scary how we all just accept it as the beauty standard and forget what "real" faces look like.

I love seeing these non-plastic faces. And it's part of why I am falling in love with these reboots with the original casts, who had no idea what they were getting into.

They Had No Framework for Reality Stardom

Now, when you have people who join long running shows such as The Bachelor, or Real Housewives franchises, they are mostly aware what comes with that, which is brand deals, Instagram followers, clout, and a platform. And chances are, these cast members are probably already active on Instagram or TikTok.

But back in 2000, there was none of that; if anything you might have had AIM. Maybe. The cast had no idea how to navigate any of the fame, let alone plan for it and its opportunities. They didn't have a road map, or anyone helping them who had experienced it before. I don't know what could prepare anyone for doing a 2002 photoshoot with Beyonce, ahem, Danny Roberts.

But that's the thing: there was no preparation to be done because the photoshoot was going to be in a print magazine, the end. There was no social media to dissect it, no websites yet to draw phalluses on it. There was nowhere for it to live on. When something can die, the anxiety, in a lot of ways, lessens.

No Social Media Presence (Even Now)

I went to look for the cast members of Real World Homecoming: New Orleans on Instagram, and I was shocked by the amount of followers they had... meaning they had way less than I ever could have imagined. In my mind these people are legends, stars, icons, but they really lived out their reality star dreams in the early aughts, then went on to live normal lives. That would never happen now. Ever. People who sign on now are going on to get a platform, to gain followers, to use their online presence to maybe influence how viewers watch the show... we see that all the time. Look at the ladies of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Love Is Blind.

When you sign up for the love of the game, and not for what the game can do for you, it shows. These days, we have docu-soaps like Selling Sunset that are storyboarded within an inch of its life and the Kardashian's reality show that re-writes history, but back then? We had Julie acting crazy.

Well, I guess some things never change.

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