Social issues and Bunim/Murray have always had a perilous relationship. On the one hand, The Real World does showcase pressing and controversial topics such as abortion, gay rights, and drunken hookups. But on the other hand, the show handles these sensitive areas with such a clumsy, anecdotal approach that we sort of wish the producers had never touched the issues in the first place. So begins my disclaimer on this week’s blandtastic take on the Mentally Challenged and Physically Disabled (I use caps to emphasize their place on the Real World’s Pedro-Zamora-Makes-Us-Socially-Important scale). Once again, the double headed monster of Landon and Shavonda took the helm of this week’s ethically-minded storylines, and wouldn’t you know it? The show sucked. But not for lack of trying.The show started off at a rousing Arena Football game where the Philly Soul battled the New York Not Quite NFLers. This was rather refreshing for me since I had forgotten that the Soul actually play football. For a moment there, I thought it was a professional playground assembly team. On the bus ride back from New Yawk, Landon suddenly spotted a hottie â€” or maybe a cutie… or actually, just a very average looking girl â€” sitting a few rows ahead of him. This was Gina from accounting – aka my worst nightmare for the next 22 minutes. Granted, she seemed perfectly fine, but her participation in a Landon-centric plot already had me hating her.
Anyway, in a time tested move that’s employed by third graders across the country, Landon invited Gina to come sit with him in the back of the bus. Oooh. Landon and Gina sitting in a tree… The two had a great heart to heart. About what I don’t know. Maybe the virtues of curly hair? Landon chirped in an interview that Gina was really cute and sweet. Uh, who ISN’T cute and sweet to you, Landon? Landon will go to a butcher and say “That big hairy guy behind the counter? He’s really cute and sweet.”
Well, Landon brought the cute and sweet Gina back to the mansion where the wicked witch of the west – aka Shavonda – was presiding. Cue the angry music. I would love if some clown came running into the house and smacked Shavonda in the face with a frying pan. I mean, I guess anyone could do it, but a clown doing it would be sensational. Anyway, Shavonda was clearly displeased with Landon’s choice of women again, but this time she had some extra moral ground to work with. You see, the Soul has this little No Fraternization policy which means that interns are not allowed to canoodle with employees. Sadly, it seemed as though Landon thought No Fraternization meant he couldn’t start up a Philly Soul fraternity. Too bad. He already had a bunch of Phi Sigma jerseys ordered.
Interestingly enough, the producers decided to use Shavonda’s bitterness as a segueway into her fear of the mentally challenged. Yeah, it was an odd transition. Turns out the roomies were to help out at a charity walk-a-thon to help disabled and special needs children. Not a problem, right? WRONG. This is Shavonda we’re talking about. She revealed that she has a deep seeded fear of the mentally handicapped which may be problematic if she ever wishes to co-mingle with Tina and Coral and the like in future Real World/Road Rules Challenges. But seriously, Shavonda was Scared with a capital S of the kids. Why you ask? Childhood trauma. Ain’t that always the case?
So let’s take a couch trip down through the dark recesses of Shavonda’s inner psyche and find out what horrific event summoned this unrelenting fear of mentally challenged kids. Maybe she was kidnapped by a nomadic clan of special needs children. Or maybe a mentally challenged boy killed her entire family. No. It was worse. Much worse.
When Shavonda was little, the teachers at school used to let the special needs kids out during recess. YES. During recess! Didn’t they realize that was the time for normal – and therefore better – children to play and have fun??? Well, apparently not because those kids came pouring out of their classroom and their arms were flailing about and yes, Shavonda was pushed out of the way at a swingset. No, she wasn’t pushed OFF a swingset. She was pushed NEAR a swingset. The horror! I wonder if Shavonda still wakes up in the middle of the night with nightmares of the brutal shoving.
Now, if you think I am bullshitting, you are sadly wrong. Shavonda did cite a harsh swingset altercation as the source of her nagging fears. In fact, she went so far as to chat with her Soul supervisor about this problem. She basically said, “Look, I’ll try my best, but if I get freaked out, I don’t want to work with the kids.” Around this time, the little PC bug in me kicked in. Isn’t this like the worst outlook EVER? I don’t think Shavonda would like it very much if someone said the same things she was saying, except about black people. That might be, you know, RACIST. So while Shavonda has a right to feel intimidated, her dismissive outlook sort of makes her look like a huge jerk. Well, that and the fact that she’s so damn annoying.
With Landon’s ethical dilemma and Shavonda’s lack of tolerance, poor Mel was stuck having to choose which person to condescendingly pass judgment on. Her choice? Shavonda! Mel rolled her eyes and groaned “Shavonda! You have such a FEAR! You should face it.” I can’t say that I disagreed with Mel, but I did enjoy stubborn Shavonda sneer her displeasure. As soon as Mel left, she squawked “Mel’s so judgmental!” I really wish the producers had cut to a montage of Shavonda calling all of Landon’s girls sluts. But seriously, Mel shouldn’t be so judgmental of Shavonda. It’s not like Shavonda is mentally challenged and therefore an open target for judgment.
AHH! Sorry, I had a gripping flashback to Shavonda’s swingset incident.
Well, after that brutal memory, I can certainly understand why Shavonda ultimately declared that “If I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it.” Yes, the motto for Real World work ethics. That poor kid in a wheelchair may need some assistance, but if Shavonda don’t want to do it, that poor kid’s gonna have to just chill. I would say “slow your roll” but that would have a really mean unintended pun.
While Shavonda grappled with her demons, Landon and Gina inched closer to crossing the No Fraternization line. Landon brought his lady friend to Glam – aka the resident hookup bar with the gayish name – where the two continued their incessant flirting. Gina warned Landon that no one can know if they fraternize, which made me want to whisper “We can see you! We’re right here!” Eventually there was some kissy kissy and hanky panky and blandy blandy, and the lovebirds finally went their separate ways for the night. Once at home, Landon pulled out Gina’s number and gave her a ring to make sure she made it home safely. It was fairly peculiar because we heard Landon say “Gina?” and then the producers wrote “Gina” on the screen and pointed to the little card with her number. THANKS. I think we figured it out though. It’s not that hard to deduce that the number he dialed which resulted in him saying “Gina” was in fact Gina’s number. Who do they think we are? Shavonda’s worst enemies?
Speaking of the Shav to the On to the Da, the dreaded walk-a-thon was upon us. Dunh dunh dunh. The group’s chipper leader informed them that they’d either be working registration, working with players, or working with a sponsor family. So basically Shavonda’s fears of being submerged in a teeming crowd of mentally challenged kids was completely unfounded. Imagine that. Of course, why Shavonda felt threatened by a five year old is beyond me.
Even in this non-threatening environment, Shavonda still seemed deeply uncomfortable. When paired with a sponsor family, she slunk off to the corner and borderline glared at the little girl with Muscular Dystrophy and then crowed her surprise at how her family treated their daughter normally. Wow! You mean they didn’t treat her like a retard!!! Sigh.
At the end of the day, Shavonda was so proud of herself (when isn’t she?) that she called up pseudo boyfriend Shaun, who has become the tumor-like add on to this season’s cast. She babbled to him about how wonderful everything was and how she was getting over her fear of special needs kids and blah blah blah she’s an idiot.
With that storyline neatly wrapped up, we only had Landon left to deal with. He and Gina from accounting were at the walk-a-thon too, and unwisely they chose to swap spit right at the end. That is SO not Soul. The next day, the CFO of the company – yes, the CFO – lectured the Real World interns about fraternization. Wow, so this Arena Football team must really suck if the CFO has the time to enforce anti-fraternization rules. Isn’t there some ornery Human Resources person who can take care of this? I mean, they LIVE for these types of moments.
The entire intervention was quite passive aggressive because it was clearly directed all towards Landon. For a moment he feared losing his job, and if you lose your job on the Real World now, you get booted from the show. Upon hearing this new stipulation, I instantly wanted Landon to fraternize with every Soul employee, even Mimi the CFO. Alas, he kept his job, even though we later found out he had touched Gina’s boob. Mel, still sweating about not getting a word in edgewise, complained to Willie about the Soul not reprimanding Landon. Well, somebody’s got to do it. Why not Mel? Amazingly, we were deprived of seeing any sort of Mel passive aggression. Instead we saw the boring anti-climax of Landon breaking up with Gina from accounting. He didn’t want to get her fired, and she should really be dating guys that can make her truly happy, like Ned from graphics or Paul from payroll. And so ended Landon’s foray into corporate scandal. We can only hope the next ethical crossroads will be so boring.