“The Real World” Recap: Washington DC, Show Me Your Bisexuals!

Hey, remember that MTV show The Real World? It premiered in 1992 and was secretly replaced in 2002 by what we’ll call “The Real World Gone Wild.” The original Real World placed a carefully selected six to eight 18-to-25-year-olds into a house in a carefully selected city to see what would happen when this diverse human group “stopped being polite and started getting real.” (With cameras in their faces.) It was a social experiment; a compelling & entertaining mini-doc which provided a fairly representative emotional portrait of twentysomething America at that time.

Then something changed. Jezebel has this look back at the last ten years of The Real World, and well — it’s nothing like the first eight. Amid an increasingly reality-saturated market in the genre they’d basically invented, the show began floundering in the ’00s. In 2001, unbeknownst to the cast, The Real World installed night-vision cameras, Big Brother-style, in its Chicago house to capture hookups. In 2002, things stopped getting polite and started getting stupid.

The Real World Las Vegas marked the beginning of the end. The insanely (if traditionally) good-looking cast shacked up on the top floor of The Palm; that glossy slick shrine to commerce, and bada-bing, bada-boom, bisexual threesome in the hot tub! Brynn, Trishelle and the mutual object of their affections, Steven, went at it and it was hot, but ordinary. The season ambled on; they went to the gym, worked at a bar, and threw forks at each other. Also; they cried a lot. In previous seasons, you could count on ME to be the one crying a lot. Ensuing seasons pursued substanceless drama; actions spurred not by cultural conflicts or challenged ethics or bizarre living conditions but by alcohol, primal sexual desire, or a desire to be famous. The San Diego House’s rap sheet included alleged rape & unrelated arrests and the entire Key West cast was employed at a spray-tan salon.

We like girls making out in hot tubs, obviously. But we can handle a little more than that, too, like interesting girls making out in hot tubs, and you did it so well before!

But is it really a choice, or has The Real World’s original intent gone old-fashioned in a world where most 18-25 year olds are no longer shocked by homosexuality or unable to fathom the idea of growing up poor? Did the show change to compete with trashy reality TV or did it change because there weren’t enough hearty meanings to mine anymore? Many homophobes know better now anyhow and would hold their tongue on camera. No one wants a glaad alert taken out on their ass. That’s so gay.

Regardless, it’s unfortunate because  The Real World was one of our earliest allies for the good kind of visibility. Queers all over the world saw a life they could live & a city where they could love and be loved. We saw living breathing people with supportive communities. We saw semi grown-up gays who were unashamed to be gay, which was practically revolutionary.

The Real World is where many American teenagers saw their first gay person — Norm, Pedro, Genesis, Dan, Ruthie, Danny, Beth — and Pedro put a human face on the AIDS crisis that no one ever forgot. But when TRW became just another 22 minutes of fodder for The Soup, the show ceased its boundary-breaking representations of sexuality in favor of representations of sex. Bisexuality wasn’t something “lipstick lesbian” Genesis grappled with, it was something girls did when they were drunk in the hot tub.

But maybe it’s us — we’ve heard so many tragic stories on television told by the people who lived through said tragedies that we’re just desensitized. An alcoholic parent becomes the required story of a certain character type, rather than a real, full, visceral aspect of a unique person’s personality.

Anyhow, because The Real World: DC‘s bisexual girl actually seems more intelligent than the Ikki Twins, we thought we’d check it out!

The recent Brooklyn season (featuring Katelynn, the program’s first trans cast member) gave critics some hope for the show’s future, and so many fans are hoping that D.C redeems itself. This season, many of the kids are all doing actual political work (at The Human Rights Campaign, The Washington Blade, Africa Action and the gay bar Halo!). Also we have a crush on Emily!

The most striking difference at first glance between older seasons and new seasons is that these kids are very self-aware of their on-screen portrayls. They know their roles. Also possibly many of them are ready for a lifetime of related gigs: hosting Miami Club nights, speaking at colleges and competing in The Real World-Road Rules Challenges. There’s no shame in that — who wouldn’t want to get paid to do athletic challenges to compete for more money on the beach with a bunch of good-looking people — but it’s another thing that’s Changed and which applicants are prepared for. Reunion specials are almost repetitive and hardly something you would’ve taped (on VHS), like you did when the first few seasons held their “reunions.”

We have a lot less Andres, Dominics, Mohammeds, Aarons, Irenes, and others content to vanish at the shows conclusion.  This isn’t just the start of six months, this could be the start of a career. So who’s ready to be America’s Next Top Token?

So the first episode of The Real World DC aired last night.

On a scale of one to ten, I don’t think Emily the bisexual is going to make out with a ton of girls like Tila Tequila did when she was on MTV.

The Real World: D.C.  Premiere Recap: Looks Can Be DCeiving

1. Real World 2.0

Did you know this season was especially special because of the magic of real-time tweeting? A tweeter known as RealWorldDCNEWZ has been reporting on the show’s every moves. The Washingtonian provides a run-down of exactly how they already know about everything that happened and who everyone is — it feels meta, maybe, if I know what meta means. This facebook group has tracked the cast all season and has a lot of weird photos about just how “real” it feels to have cameras around you everywhere. Cast members weren’t allowed to tweet or facebook from the house though.

The Anti Real World blog has also been keeping close tabs on the enemy.

In this video, a Real World crew rudely tries to block a news anchor trying to interview fans outside the house:

2. The Cast:

Ashley is 22, from California, and moved to Texas to be with her boyfriend and then they broke up. Ashley loves Barack Obama. She also loves talking & gasping. When she was a kid her stepdad tried to kill her but Christ got her through it. This picture of her is the worst picture of her ever taken, she’s way cuter:

Mike is 21 and from Colorado. You probs already know that he’s a bisexual, but that won’t come out until later, at their first meal around a large table (that’s how this show works, pay attention). Mike works for a rental car company and owns a large boat.

Andrew is from Denver. He’s a virgin who keeps saying he’s not a virgin. Actually I don’t know if he’s a virgin, but I’m pretty sure he’s a virgin. (watch andrew’s greatest moments here.) In Andrew’s home tape, Andrew is wearing a robe and socks, drinking wine in front of a fake fireplace while talking about ladies. He’s a comic book artist. Obvs. Unfortunately Andrew’s comic book stardom dreams were deferred when his comics were accused of being offensive to “lesbians and women and stuff like that.”

Emily on Andrew: “”He’s making me laugh, he’s not wearing a Jesus shirt, I think we’re going to get along.”

Emily! Hello our favorite poetess bisexual Emily! Emily was raised in a church cult. They lived, breathed & ate the bible. But a girl can only eat so much Bible before she starts to crave some tattoos and body piercing.

Andrew on Emily: “I wanted to improve my chances of getting laid by forcing Emily to be my roommate.”

Callie is 21 and from Texas. Just like my ex-boyfriend who yelled at me for cursing in D.C’s Ronald Regan Airport, Ronald Regan is Callie’s favorite president. The producers drop Callie, looking cherub and wide-eyed and small-townie, in the middle of D.C. where one black man is playing his bongo drums. A few cars drive by. The camera swerves aggressively around Callie, which might be why she thinks she is lost and keeps looking at maps. We cut to her Home Video where Callie explains that where she comes from, there are no bongo drums or cars, only a Jail and a Greyhound Bus Station, and Momma and Poppa sure have been real quiet since they went down to the basement for moonshine last week

Ashley on Callie: “It kinda bugs me that Callie doesn’t know where she stands on the political spectrum, but I’m kinda hoping she goes left. Because left is right.” (wink!)

Ty is hails from the bad part of Baltimore. His Mom abandoned him and when he was five he got adopted. In his home video he shows us crackhouses and his Hot Muscles. His girlfriend apparently dumped him at the bus station ’cause she doesn’t like him living with a bunch of other girls. That’s cold. But Ty doesn’t care, he’s about to go live with a bunch of girls!

Erika is from Chicago and likes rock ‘n roll and rock ‘n roll accessories; like tattoos & fast cars & Manic Panic. Her boyfriend isn’t as cute as her, but is probs very nice. Her musical goal is to meet producers, get in the studio, and record her material. Good plan. Rumor has it she left the show early ’cause of rumors circulating about her past. That could be a rumor though.

Josh on Erika: “I’m gonna be so hung up on the fact that the girls are so hot, oh my gosh, it’s gonna be hard to keep it in the cage. I’m kinda hung up on Erika.”

Josh is 23 and from Philadelphia. He also loves music, which means he’s Erika’s type but omg, they both have significant others so now they can’t bone OR CAN THEY. Josh was in lockup and in gangs but now he’s on the up-and-up. So basically he’s gonna be the one who keeps his cool while everyone else flips out about cereal bowls.

As the cast members meet each other in twosomes, they mostly gush to each other about how well they think they’re going to get along. This will be very useful in Tribal Council.

3. Guess What the House is Big





Mike & Ashley both refuse to sleep under a picture of Ronald Regan, I have a feeling Callie is gonna eat that sucker right up if she’s not too full from eating Emily’s leftover Bible or the Subway Sandwiches Product-Placed all over the house.

4. Central Typecasting

The first 15 minutes of a Real World premiere is always the same. You know, 4-6 of the eight cast members will drink some Snapple, claim some beds, play the Casio, listen to Erika “sing,” talk crap about each other in interviews, get boners, go to the bathroom, try to figure out when it would be appropriate to get drunk and/or naked, wonder who’s secretly gay, squeal and seem overall v.excited about life as they wait for other cast members to arrive.

Everyone thinks Andrew is the weirdest person they’ve ever met, clearly they’ve never checked out the kids hunched over those fancy decks of cards in the corner of the lunchroom. Those are his friends on Second Life.

Ashley says, “I’m waiting for the really hot black guy with the big muscles to come in!” Aren’t we all, sweetie. And speak of the Angel of Christ, the doorbell rings!

Ashley: “You guys we have roommates!” [Ashley runs exicted to the door, is greeted by a black guy with big muscles]
Andrew: [from downstairs] “I hope he’s black!”
[Ashley, thrilled, brings her catch downstairs]
Ashley: “I told you he was gonna be a black guy!”
Andrew: “Where’s the lesbian?”

Emily says Ty looks like her ex-boyfriend. I wanted Ashley to look like her ex-girlfriend, but I’ll settle b/c Ty is defo the cutest boy and he keeps his clothes neat in the closet which is nice. Later Callie & Erika will move all his clothes for him when they decide to switch rooms, and they’ll use a towel to transport his clean underwear, and this will confuse me.

These kids are all so happy! It must be because they’re between 18-25 so they don’t know yet about how life is. What do you think, Micheal Sera Andrew? I think Andrew is trying to be meta on purpose, and I like that in a man.

Andrew: “I kid around about it, but I’m not racist. I’m a big basketball fan. You can’t be a basketball fan and a racist.”

5. The Gods > The Gays

Emily reveals that she’s bisexual and “open” to things right away, which goes over well per ushe as there are no Southern Virgins or John in the Cowboy Hats to jump in and condemn. The guys, just like they did in ’92, and always will, mostly nod with smarmy approval, thinking about Trishelle and Brynn in the hot tub.

Unfortunately Emily’s revelation is not followed by Dani Campbell’s surprise guest appearance and subsequent trip to the hot tub with tequila. Actual tequila, the drink, not the girl.

The cast collectively laments the lack of a gay guy, which happens every season so they can give us shots of the gay guy awkwardly wondering if his hair looks bad.

Later, at the first meal around an large table, as I predicted, Mike reveals his bisexuality when the crew is sharing how many people they’ve each had sex with. Then we snap to the other kids expressing surprise, but really the best they can get is Ashley saying she did not expect him to say that.

Mike: “Yeah I like to snowboard, yeah I have a different sexuality than you do.”

I was ready for the other dudes to say they are either “cool with it” or “want to switch rooms” and then for Callie to say that in addition to never seeing snow or eating a turkey drumstick in her life, she’s never known a bisexual.

Actually, Ty says he’s never met a bisexual guy before, and before I can angrily type that he probably has, he just didn’t know it, he says, “Well, I probably have, but I guess I just didn’t know it.”

But the whole table ends up fighting anyhow, but not about sexuality … they fight about religion. This is the photo that MTV has captioned as “Mike shocks everyone by revealing he is bisexual”:

Righttt … this is where we’re at now, we’re down to oldest and most impossible to reconcile debate ever of all time which is the existence of God. This topic is where lines are drawn — and for Ashley and Ty, it means they’re never going to hang out again EVER!

Turns out half the cast is Christian and goes to church and is deeply connected to their religion (the shocker this time is that open-minded Ashley and bisexual Mike are the ones most dedicated to their religious beliefs, rather than innocent Mormon Julie or whatnot). Mike is the kind of Christian that drops Jesus dying for your sins into casual conversation. Erika says they put up a big rainbow outside her church which makes me want to eat cupcakes with her, it’s like she’s over there with her little white flag, like Dido or something. I don’t even care that the idea of a gigantic rainbow over the entire church feels a little The-Gatesy to me.

Ty says there’s not a man up in the clouds between Mars and Saturn. Ty says God doesn’t exist. Chaos ensues and everyone is struck by lightning.

6.  Life Isn’t Like Facebook Kids You Can’t Just See Someone’s Everything Whenever

Erika & Ashley listen to Josh’s confessional and hears him say he has a crush on Erika. Later, Ashley listens to Ty & Mike being bros and having a mature convo to smooth over the Godfight last night. Earlier, So far this show has been basically Harriet the Spy meets High School Musical meets that show The Real World that used to be on MTV.

Ashley: “I’m not spying, I’m listening in, ’cause I’m trying to understand where Ty is coming from!”

7. Andrew has a “snugglebear” named “Snowball.”

Andrew: “Do I think Emily is someone I might score with? … eh, in my dreams.”

At the commercial break, that dude Mark from the first Road Rules is still hanging out on the teevee, wearing Ed Hardy, sporting a hot rod ‘do and some chicks.

We return to Emily discovering that Andrew told her a bunch of lies when they first met, like about being a cage-fighter, and a photography teacher and a skydiving instructor and so on. At first I thought he was supposed to annoy me, but he’s oddly refreshing for being so faithful to his own personality.

Andrew: “Look at me. I’m not a cagefighter. I’m a lover.”

Well are you looking forward to this season? are you going to watch any episodes? did you even watch this one? Did you ever like this show in its previous seasons?

Do you remember when it was about lovers, not cagefighters?

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3197 articles for us.


  1. Genesis from Real World Boston changed my life. It was the first image of a lesbian on TV who I related to in some way. I totally agree that Real World New Orleans was the last of the 1.0 version of the show before it went completely off the rails. Last season’s RW Brooklyn cast was exceptional and returned to the former template.

    • Oh absolutely Genesis was a huge deal to me in how it changed my thinking as well, and her casting was actually the first time I had heard the term “lipstick lesbian.” As ridiculous as it sounds growing up in such a liberal town as I did, I honestly thought all lesbians were like The Indigo Girls. Who I love, obvs, more than any other band in ever, but I didn’t see myself fitting in to that kind of group socially (obvs if you only have one template for what any subculture looks like, it won’t seem to be a good fit for most people, clearly such are the confusions of childhood). The Boston season was my favorite, actually. I cried like ten times b/c of Elka being sad about her Mom dying. Elka was also THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD.

      Also though wasn’t it funny how they always had Genesis in like A LOT OF ACTUAL LIPSTICK? I didn’t realize it was just a term for a while.

      • I still have all of RW Boston on VHS sitting in my apartment… I’ve thought about getting it digitized to DVD. Elka was cute but I was all about Montana and her crazy bf Vaj. OMG, we should have a RW Boston marathon one night.

        And yes, Genesis was very lip-liner happy back in ’96. Remember the ep where Genesis reacted to Ellen coming out on her sitcom?

  2. My question is…. is the real world Anti-Semitic? I mean seriously… I can only count about 3ish jews that have been on the show. I’m so sick of hearing about the catholic church for one season… i want latkes and shofars and bar mitzvah dancing stories…. we all love g-d, but this is getting a bit ridic now.

    there girls are w/e this season. i do love “solid as barrack” girl because seriously she was like ew republican you have swine.

    andrew can seriously just go jump off a building. which is what seems to happen in the season. in the words of ms. khloe kardashian “he is DISGUSTING and i want nothing to do with him.” seriously, pathological liar and kind of over him.

    the bi guy is clearly gay. they hint at that during the season. he seems kind of crazy too…

    oh snap here we go again…. will i watch? yes. do i want my jews? duh.


    • I don’t think it’s Anti-Semitic … Jews are 1.9% of the religious population in the US and Christians are 79% of the religious population in the U.S. Also I dunno … as a Jew, I feel like a lot of Jewish families would be pretty horrified to have their kids on the TV (I could say the same for Muslim families as well) and are also statistically less likely to be estranged to the degree that they could go on TV without affecting their families.

      haha. hi eric mathew! you should be on it, you could be a gay jew who is also clearly gay.

      • obvs. you know i am trying…. but also almost had an interview to work there… so not sure how that would go over… maybe they forget me. i can try my hardest… promise that if i do get on, you will come and visit… you could even be inconspicuous and have your face blurred out. oooh!

        • You could also have the fun that I used to have with my small town roommate by telling them every goofy thing you do is because you’re Jewish.

          “So you always fold your underwear?”
          “My people believe that wrinkled clothing is an affront to God. Cultural sensitivity, please”

          Okay, it wasn’t that bad but it was PRETTY CLOSE.

  3. I have never watched or really heard of this show. Maybe it’s because I am from Canada. Maybe it’s because I don’t watch teevee on the actual teevee box. I enjoyed this recap though. I think I’m gonna stick with that.

  4. I used to love the Real World 1.0 and now, after missing several seasons, I am excited to hopefully get to watch this one! I must say though, this recap is approx 16x better than the show was. And judging by the previews, seems like Emily may not hookup w/ too many girls b/c her and Ty might have a lil somethin somethin goin on, but apparently Mike gets some action on the pool table! Also, I like how when Erika came to the door someone was like “Ooh I knew there’d be a lesbian!”

  5. omg does anyone else remember the part of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius when Dave Eggers wanted to be on the Real World super bad, but I think he lost the spot to, like, a guy who made comics? I feel like that was Andrew, like Dave Eggers should have been on there instead of Andrew. Or maybe Andrew is Dave Eggers. I don’t know, I’ve never seen a full episode of this show. I bet Callie cries a lot.

  6. I didn’t even watch this, I mean I will if I catch it. But I read anyway because I know Riese is so recapalicious.

  7. “Krystal Leigh Cunningham,” is the 27/28 year old woman that hooked up with DC’s Real World cast member Andrew in the hot tub on the 2nd episode. Little history on Krystal; she is the girl that needed attention growing up. After her mother paraded her around in pageants before she could walk who wouldn’t? Her childhood bedroom was plastered with ribbons and awards from her forced 80’s brush with “Toddlers in Tiaras,” that she would brag about to “friends” growing up which consequently made her a laugh! She was the girl throughout elementary, middle and high school that tried oh so desperately to make friends, but NO amount of money or make-up allowed her to do so. She was a very prude sheltered girl that unfortunately turned her into a “freak of a socialite.” Once she graduated from high school her history was unknown so she was able to start over, found herself some fake friends that accepted her…FINALLY! Krystal bought her fake boobies after spending many years working for Abercrombie & Fitch. Now she is a event promo girl in the DC area flaunting her body and being molested by men while offering free shots. No matter how much you; “fake and bake,” spray, purchase knock off designer studs, plaster your face with make-up and grind your flat ass with men on grungy DC dance floors you will never find true love…So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Krystal Leigh Cunningham put out the fire following your 15 minutes of fame from your hot tub cameo on DC’s Real World and get with the real world and stop dressing up in nasty outfits. Save your skin from cancer and get a REAL LIFE and a REAL job! Oh, but don’t worry your appearance will be syndicated forever…which includes your “granny panties,” that really, really need to be explained!

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