Okay, so far on this season of Real World: Philadephia we’ve had the introductory episode, the roommate flirtation episode, and the gay episode. What am I missing? Oh yes! The racial outburst episode! What season would be complete without the obligatory white buffoons and the angry black hotheads? After months of calm and jovial behavior from Jacquese, I was starting to wonder if the stereotypes Bunim/Murray had fed me for so many years might just be a specific portrayal of the African-American community. Imagine my relief when tonight’s episode restored my narrow view! Ah, nascent reality stars. How I enjoy the warm embrace of your clichés! Don’t ever leave me again.Now if you’re reading this right now and preparing to fire off a letter along the lines of “B-Side, you’re a racist!”, do yourself a favor and enroll in my Learning Annex class, “How to recognize sarcasm, you idiot.” You see, sometimes people have to pause and give others the benefit of the doubt that what they’re communicating doesn’t have malicious or spiteful intent. This is a lesson that MJ and Karamo could have equally used to avoid a lot of headaches during last night’s inevitable racial confrontation.
We knew we were in trouble tonight when the episode started off with Landon yapping about the first time he said the “N” word. Oh Landon, you are indomitable! Needless to say, Karamo was not amused. Well, truth be told, Landon was telling his story to express how young and naive he was as a child, but sensing that he was losing his audience, Landon decided to tell his other black person story. Turns out Landon had a black roommate in college, and man was he funny! According to Landon, the guy was “hilarious!” I feared that he might say something dumb like “Are all your people funny like that?” but thankfully, such lunacy has been contained with Cameran from San Diego (“I lived with a black person, and they are cool as hell!”).
Seriously though, what’s the deal with the white people on these shows? Why do they feel compelled to always share every mundane story involving black people? I mean, I know they’re trying to reach out and show that they’re open minded and color blind or whatever, but isn’t it sort of patronizing to relay the story about the time you saw a black guy on the subway and he was black but you were cool with it because black people are just like you and me?
Later, at dinner time, Karamo’s mom called up, and when she asked her boy how he was doing, he confessed that he was about to lose it with his roommates. Well, be a proud black man, not an angry one, advised mom. Karamo assured his mother that he had no desire to be the angry black man. No siree. These were sentiments echoed later during a conversation with Shavonda. Don’t wanna be the angry black man.
Now, for all you Bunim/Murray Productions newbies, here’s something you should know. The producers of this franchise (as well as Road Rules and the Real World/Road Rules Challenge) have just about the very worst sense of misdirection. Sure, they may hide behind the excuse of “foreshadowing”, but I mean come on. We know where every episode is heading after just five minutes. In this case, it was only a matter of time before Karamo became the angry black man. In the meantime, we might as well busy ourselves with a lame subplot regarding Shavonda and her dad. Calling home to get some money, Shavonda excitedly detailed Philadelphia for her father. “It’s like New York!” she exclaimed, noting the presence of cobblestone, Benjamin Franklin’s home, Betsy’s Ross’s house, etc. Um, actually, New York City has none of those things. I think the city you’re thinking of is actually Philadelphia, the city that you’re coincidentally living in.
Anyway, Shavonda’s call home resulted in a heart to heart, or perhaps heart to breasts, conversation with Sarah about growing up with an abusive mother. As Shavonda detailed childhood with a mother who beat her and a father who let it happen, Sarah couldn’t have looked more bored. She was probably trying to gauge whether or not she could have sex with a pillow. Eventually, Sarah realized she needed to emote in some way, so she started to cry. Yes, let’s make this moment about Sarah, shall we?
Around this time we were given our first commercial break which featured an interesting spot for Rock the Vote. Apparently Pulitzer Prize winner Sway and his sidekick P. Diddy stopped by the Real World house and recruited the roommates to hit the streets and register people to vote. Well, P. Diddy didn’t actually interact with the citizens of Philadelphia, but he watched lovingly from the luxury tour bus. You know, it’s moments like these that I’m glad we have a show called “The Real World” because I often find that there aren’t enough TV series which really get the essence of everyday life. I mean, Sway and P. Diddy are always stopping by my apartment, and I’m like “Hellloooo???? TV?? Why do we have to always see the fighting and hooking up? There are other aspects to life, like when P. Diddy and Sway visit.” Finally, somebody got it right.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Shavonda was down in the dumps because her no good father didn’t deposit a check in her account so she could be financially solvent. This led to a well-intentioned discussion with Sarah who explained that she would cover Shavonda if they all go out for a meal. Hey, that was actually nice of Sarah. “We love Shavonda,” Sarah then told us. Why, that’s very nice also! She has “so many jokes to tell us!” Yay! Shavonda is funny! Kinda like Landon’s college roommate. Hey, maybe if they take her to dinner, Shavonda could do a little Vaudeville for everyone!
Okay, okay. Sarah’s comments weren’t actually racist, and it was a very nice gesture, so for once, I’ll lay off her. Meanwhile, Shavonda received some pecuniary relief from her ex-stepmother’s boyfriend, whom she had never met. “I have to thank him when I meet him… I guess,” Shavonda said. Wow, if that’s not gracious, I don’t know what is.
With this subplot neatly wrapped up, it was time to zip on back to the simmering cauldron that is Karamo. Oh wait, first let’s look at Melanie feeding the fish. Alright, it’s been two seconds. She’s done for the episode. Moving on…
Sure to be a recipe for disaster, Karamo, Landon, and MJ – aka the Board of Trustees for the Museum of Tolerance – headed out for a guys night out. Yeah, those always work out well. The evening started off precariously as MJ told a great story about the time when he drove into the projects once and a guy came up to him and said “What the hell are you doing here?” Oh shit, that’s good stuff. Would have been funnier if a black guy was telling it though. Karamo was a good sport about the story because MJ was truthfully trying to empathize with the feeling of being out of one’s element or comfort zone. Karamo then took the time to revisit Landon’s N-word story and say by the way, I’ve been ready to punch you for three days now. Normally, I would have recommended an approach such as “I know you didn’t mean anything by it, but the very utterance of that word, even in the context of a story, is so offensive to me that I’d really appreciate it if you just never say it.” But I guess “I was ready to take you out” is a serviceable alternate.
Things went from bad to worse in the bar as Karamo suddenly found himself surrounded by officers. Now this was pretty bad. I mean, talk about blatant racism. The poor guy is the only black person in the bar so someone actually calls the po’ and says he has a gun. Um, yeah. Whoever did that was an idiot and should feel ashamed of themselves. Heading into the commercial break, Karamo seemed to be even tempered though as he called out for MJ to help him. Of course MJ was bedazzled by a bevy of blondes (with nice bodies AND nice roots); so he was completely oblivious to the ten police officers surrounding his friend.
Why is Karamo such a downer? Can’t he see this chick is totally digging me?
Returning from the commercial break, we discovered that Karamo’s temper had suddenly exploded. He finally flagged down MJ and Landon and the group all stepped outside where Karamo screamed at the officers and basically acted like… the angry black man! Bravo! We’ve been missing you.
I’m going to put aside my sarcasm for just a second though because Karamo’s situation was actually very serious. Truth is that he was unfairly the target of latent racism, and even worse, this has apparently happened to him many times. Even worse than that is that situations like these are not uncommon. Still, all the frustration that Karamo had was poorly channeled into rage against the cops, and by the way, you sort of don’t want to piss off the police, especially if you’re so obviously innocent anyway. I mean, if you say to the cops “This is the twelfth time this has happened to me,” I doubt any officer will be like “Oh, well, in that case, feel free to curse me some more and then we’ll just go our own ways.”
Unfortunately, Karamo seems to have a lot of rage, and when MJ tried to calm him down, it was just a disaster. It sort of reminded me of that scene in Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum tries to distract the Tyrannosaurus Rex but instead just becomes the next item on the dinosaur tasting menu. Karamo instantly accused MJ of badgering him and not understanding the situation and yada yada yada angry black man etc. MJ wasn’t exactly perfect here either. “It was just a prank,” he kept saying. Yeah, a very racist prank. MJ’s attempt the diffuse the situation was regretfully quite patronizing. Finally, when Karamo was done with the cops and had calmed down ever so slightly, he asked MJ how many times in his life had he been in that situation. Okay, time for some dialogue. Very nice. Oh wait, no. MJ just shook his head and walked away, accusing Karamo of running his mouth. Way to go MJ. Way to be sensitive to your friend’s needs. Landon meanwhile walked along the two awkwardly with a nervous smile. Personally, I think he was just trying to remember every detail so he would have a third really good black person story.
Karamo separated from the guys and arrived at the house first. Mel – back for a surprise 5 second encore from her fish feeding moment – commented that “Karamo looked upset.” Eagle eyes! I wonder what gave it away? The scowl on his face or the quiet mumble of hello? Karamo then relayed the whole story to the girls, except it sort of had a different ring to it. Karamo’s version: I was in the club when suddenly I was surrounded by all these cops that accused me of having a gun, and then MJ told me I was overreacting.
The court of public opinion let out a gasp and a few ohmygods. Of course, they didn’t hear that part about Karamo going out on the street and raising hell; so they actually thought MJ dismissed the entire incident. Just as judgment was being passed, MJ and Landon returned to the dojo to weigh in on their take. Landon just giggled and tried to stay out of it. MJ rolled his eyes and simply said the whole thing was nothing. Uh no, it’s not nothing. Your friend almost went to jail for no reason except someone’s racist accusation. Honestly, these guys need Judge Judy to move in and regulate. It’s a bit disheartening to see two people become so angry with each other when a little open communication could solve it all. Whoa, why am I acting like Oprah? I need to shut up.
So the episode finally came to a close with rage brewing under the rooftop. MJ tried to simply end the argument by offering to shake hands. Um, that works at the END of the fight, not at the height of it. Karamo unsurprisingly spurned the gesture. For the sake of these two guys and their dealings with people outside of the Real World, I hope MJ and Karamo can resolve their issues in the ensuing episodes. Luckily, the previews of next week’s episode show a special visit from Jon Bon Jovi. He’ll make everything happy again! Yay!