The long line of hopeful “Real World” applicants wrapped along the side of Scotty’s Brewhouse on Wednesday demonstrated what experts have said for years: Reality television can turn into an obsession for some.
IDS reporter Alyssa Goldman spoke with Bryant Paul, an associate professor of telecommunications, to find out why some people can’t get enough of this franchise.
IDS A lot of people showed up to the “Real World” casting call and said ridiculous things — anything to get them on TV. Why do people do that?
BRYANT PAUL People want to be known and want attention. The general idea is that the more well-known you are, the more popular you are and the more people look up to you.
IDS Why did the producers request people who were between the ages of 20-24?
PAUL They’re more interesting as a demographic. They want to get people who are more established but naive — mature yet still immature.
Also, one of the main reasons is because everyone is of drinking age, and that is what gets people into serious trouble.
Also, if 24-year-olds are on the show, advertisers will reach out to that demographic, and this age group has more upper mobility than, say, 18-year-olds.
IDS I started watching the “Real World” when I was around 12, so I didn’t really fit their target audience.
PAUL There’s this whole question about who really is the audience. MTV is supposedly for high-school and college students, so you must have thought you were big shit.
IDS Yes. Yes, I did.
PAUL You probably thought you were getting inside information into what your future held and what you were supposed to become. This is a reason why some — not all — kids watching these shows become messed up.
IDS How so?
PAUL How did you know what to do at your first college party or during your first hookup?
PAUL The media gives us expectations of what we are supposed to do, and we learn from what we see.
IDS Has the “Real World” become less real?
PAUL Nothing about reality TV is ever real. I think the “Real World” covered more socially conscious issues including AIDS, but that was more relevant during the early ’90s.
If the “Real World” did not evolve, it would have become the PBS of reality shows and would become irrelevant. In order to keep up with the ratings of celebrity-focused reality shows, the situations have to become more and more contrived.
IDS What advice do you have for people who went to the “Real World” casting call yesterday?
PAUL You have to realize you are a product, but you have to appear unaware — seem as if you don’t even know you are on a show. Or you can be so aware that you are almost a joke.
Producers don’t want some average person — they want someone who is strange. If I want to watch normal people I could go to Nick’s. But when I’m watching TV I want to watch something out of the ordinary.
You want to be different but not so different that viewers can’t relate to you. But if you’re trying to make yourself look like a train-wreck then you need to wonder your own self-worth.
If you tell the casting crew you’re almost a functioning alcoholic, that’s just sad. You have to wonder whose best interests they have in mind.