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Kill Your Television: The Bold and the Beautiful 

Wednesday, Nov 27 2013

It had the hazy, disjointed feel of a dream. I was sitting in The Real World house on Sutter, on the edge of the Tenderloin. The producer plonked me down in the foyer, if you could call it that. Really, the entire space was one big soundstage created out of an office building. Partitions separated each room, all of which were decorated with bold colors and funky gimcrack. It reminded me of the "It's a Small World" ride, in that up close and live it looked pretty rinky-dink. At Disneyland, you wait an hour to get in your boat and then float past painted particleboard cutouts of kids with glitter on their faces doing the hula, an Irish jig, or the watusi. Here I saw various stereotypes of America's youth shuffle by: the bad boy, the androgyne, the hot chick, the slut, united by the the common denominator of having fucking amazing bodies. I'd always wondered if a great body on TV looked as good in person; the camera adds 10 pounds, after all. But no, these physiques were worthy of the Leni Riefenstahl treatment. Then there were their personalities, which were charming italicized. One girl was being interviewed by another journalist, and I marveled at her poise, confidence, and candor.

MTV knows what it's doing.

I decided that, instead of meeting every single person in the cast, I would just get paired up with one, and I knew immediately who I wanted. When I first saw her I thought she was a drag queen, something that I later found out she takes as a compliment. "Hi!" she said to me, bounding up, hand out for a firm shake. She was a tall, slim African-American with a poof of hair and impossibly perfect teeth. "I'm Arielle," she said, launching into her intro as if she knew she had to do it but really didn't want to, but also in possession of enough self-esteem that she knew I would find what she had to say interesting. Sadly, I did. She's a model who lives in Oakland, but she really wants to be a film director, and she spends most of her free time making independent horror movies. "I made my roommates my subjects!" she laughed. Now there's an idea... dismember the entire Real World cast on camera. I instantly liked her.

MTV knows what it's doing.

She gave me a tour. There was the requisite hot tub, the hidden corners where either sex or confessions between cast members took place; the bedrooms, which still seemed to bear the energy stamps of a ton of banging. Was there a lot of sex this season? "Oh, hell yes," she said. Of course. MTV has had to try to amp up everything in an attempt to keep viewers interested in the franchise. So far, it hasn't worked, and rumor has it that if this next season doesn't see better numbers, it will be its last.

We meandered past the other cast members, all of whom seemed a bit weary. Filming had finished and they were doing press junkets and publicity stills. Soon they would go back to their real lives.

When I was 21, I wanted to be on this show so badly. The pull to fame for just being yourself — especially for just being yourself — was great. I needed validation. There's a power in being pretty, but being pretty on TV and then having the world want you for both your beauty and your wit? Instant self-esteem. Of course, we all know how this story goes: You get it and then you still feel like shit. Fast-forward to the drug overdose.

Arielle, however, seems like one of those people who has never needed validation. She just is confident and interesting. She makes no bones about the fact that she is on the show to try and launch her filmmaking career. She also knew who Dario Argento was, so she passed my Horror 101 test. An entire cast of self-actualized people would be boring though, so I was reassured when I found out that there is a super-conservative, naïve waif in the cast, along with a loosey-goosey ho bag and a macho shithead. Just like every season.

"Did you have fun?!" the producer asked me on the way out. I really did. In fact, I felt a lot different about The Real World after meeting Arielle and spending time with everyone. What would probably have been a total hit piece on the entire genre softened into my being the president of the Arielle Scott Fan Club. I might even watch the freakin' show.

MTV knows what it's doing.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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