If you’re about my age, in your 30s, then you grew up with MTV’s The Real World and Road Rules as the reality shows to go to. Before this overload of ‘reality’ television, I was fascinated by what I assumed was reality.
I was convinced that I would audition for Road Rules, so I could travel; or audition for Real World, so I could be filmed ‘coming of age’. Then I realized how much more enjoyable it was to be a voyeur. Who doesn’t enjoy people watching, and learning the why and how adulthood, and social pairings? It’s fascinating stuff. By watching those early seasons of those shows, we saw young adults date, befriend, then argue, cohabitate, party, we saw them be.
In the 1998 season of the show, set in Seattle, we saw the truth. We saw that there are some realities that aren’t very glamorous, and we saw how some truths are exploited by the media for ratings. Two of the castmates, Stephen and Irene, did not get along well, and that’s putting it mildly. When Irene had reached her tipping point, and had already decided she was leaving the show, she gave her farewell to Stephen by effectively outing him on national television; Stephen retaliated by first throwing a beloved item from Irene’s childhood into the bay outside the cast’s home (the set was on a pier), and then by flagging down Irene’s vehicle before it pulled away and slapping her. This is what became known at the time as, ‘the bitchslap heard round the world’.
At the time, I was shocked by both those moments. Firstly, I was horrified by the fact that Stephen was allowed to stay on the program. The way it was shown, it appears that the castmates chose to let him stay under the condition that he seek counseling for his anger issues. I agree that he needed counseling, but don’t feel he needed to stay on the show. I feel that by letting him stay on, his terrible behavior was glorified. Secondly, I was disgusted that Irene’s chose to out him, by implying that being homosexual was a laughable insult. If it was premeditated or not, it’s edited to look that way, and it is gross. Something so personal, whether true or not, should never be used to attack someone regardless of the circumstances.
Now, 15 years later, Irene wrote an article for Vulture magazine (which you can read HERE), retelling her experience on the show. I found it interesting, and worth sharing. So, give it a once over, and let me know your thoughts.