“The Real World” was – and continues to be – a popular television show, and its influence remains far greater than its core MTV viewing audience. Through its collection of diverse personalities and a willingness to address controversial issues, when “The Real World” first aired in 1992 it started what many deem to be our modern-day reality TV phenomenon. In doing so, not only did “The Real World” spark a new entertainment genre, but its impact was far greater, for it helped blur the already dotted lines between authentic and artificial. In other words, one can argue that “The Real World” fueled an ongoing transformation of what we all perceive as “real” in our world.
As is the case with numerous so-called reality TV shows, “The Real World” has received various allegations of being simulated and/or staged. Due in part to such accusations, some viewers are not convinced that “The Real World” is fully “real.” Some accuse MTV of shoddy and selective editorial choices that take events out of context, and as a result, offer inaccurate impressions of what “really” occurred. And of course, some perceive the very concept of “The Real World” as a grand misnomer, for in the real world people do not live like “The Real World.” In summary, for many, “The Real World” does not seem “real” at all.
But what is “real” in our world? Who decides? While the various criticisms of “The Real World” (and other so-called “reality-based” shows) are indeed valid, what is striking is that such questions surrounding what constitutes reality can also be directed at our own perceptions. For example, we in the general public always receive an edited intake of information based upon a wide variety of personal choices, economic influences, physical and cultural location, and external political agendas. We never receive the “real story.” However, we too often fail to recognize the multitude of factors that shape our (limited) insights, and in doing so, we too often assume that our personal views of reality are somehow universal or enlightened. In doing so, we too often judge alternatives views not merely as different, but as somehow deficient.
In order to pursue a common good in our increasingly diverse society, a key step is recognizing the variety of influences that shape our particular views of the world. For example, while technology allows for countless local, national, and international connections, far too many of us are isolated from alternative points of view. Instead of exploring the mass diversity that fills our human community, an alarming amount of us utilize our technological tools to merely close in upon a narrow view, surround ourselves with like-minded communities, and grip on to that which is most comfortable and self-affirming. In doing so, that which we often experience each day is like watching “The Real World,” as our personal observations are only an edited (and sometimes staged and/or simulated) view of a much larger local and global narrative.
Instead of sinking deeper into limited concepts of reality, we should look beyond our common information sources, and instead seek alternative views, new understanding, and as a result, fresh and multifaceted concepts of diverse realities in our world.
In other words, the time is upon us to actively seek out that which the directors of our world seek to edit out from public consumption, as there are always many sides to each and every story. In doing so, instead of labeling that which is different as deficient, we will find that which is different is actually what makes our world most real, for in learning the many other sides to a story, we more fully learn the reality of our own.
Want to add your voice?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at email@example.com.)