Post Racialism, Romance, and The Real World D.C.

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-04-03 16:55Z by Steven

Post Racialism, Romance, and The Real World D.C.

Volume 11, Issue 13 (2010-05-07)

Jon Kraszewski, Assistant Professor of Communication
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersery

MTV recently finished airing The Real World, DC, the twenty-third season of this long-running reality series. This past season, Ty, an African American from Baltimore, and Emily, a white roommate from Columbia, Missouri, became the series first interracial heterosexual couple. The Real World previously captured a few interracial one-night stands between roommates and people outside the house, and season three occasionally portrayed the courtship and engagement of Pedro Zamora and Sean Sasser, an interracial gay couple, although Sean was not part of the cast. The relationship between Emily and Ty is unique because both were members of the cast and had an ongoing relationship.
The romance, which is part of a larger post-racial project on The Real World where race no longer matters in an integrated world, is representative of a third era of race relations on the series. During the Clinton presidency, The Real World focused on defining country conservative roommates as racists and then on the urban African Americans who teach these country hicks the errors of their ways, in the process transforming the rural roommates into hip, urban liberals free of any racism and in line with MTV’s then liberal brand. In the early 2000s, The Real World turned its attention to multiracial roommates with one black and one white parent. Here MTV transitioned out of its liberal brand and courted viewers across the political spectrum, a move the channel had to make to stay relevant after the election of George W. Bush and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Real World tapped into the liberal beliefs (i.e., multiracialism could help dismantle America’s racist past) and conservative notions (i.e., multiracialism was a neoliberal project of racial self-management in opposition to African American civil rights initiatives) present in multiracial activism at the time to win over viewers of various political backgrounds. Since the election of President Barack Obama, The Real World has presented race as inconsequential, as an afterthought in an integrated world. In the 2009 season set in Cancun, the roommates were multiracial, black, white, and Latina. Aside from the roommates identifying their races in the premiere, they never mentioned race again…

…As it defines Ty and Emily as atheist hipsters and dedicated athletes, The Real World provides troubling assumptions about blackness by positioning Ty as a threat to whiteness. Here race matters, even though the post racialism in the series claims it does not…

…It is hard not to see the post-racial world on the DC season as a nostalgic fantasy of blackness’ threat to a white America, especially since the season is set in America’s capital. Although race doesn’t matter in the way the series initially portrays the romance of Ty and Emily, race becomes important as Ty becomes a threat to Emily, the other roommates (especially white women), and white moms…

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Multiracialism on The Real World and the Reconfiguration of Politics in MTV’s Brand During the 2000s

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2011-11-25 18:30Z by Steven

Multiracialism on The Real World and the Reconfiguration of Politics in MTV’s Brand During the 2000s

Popular Communication
Volume 8, Issue 2, 2010
pages 132-146
DOI: 10.1080/15405701003676105

Jon Kraszewski, Assistant Professor of Communication
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersery

The Real World’s focus on multiracial identity is part of the MTV’s efforts to rebrand itself as being more tolerant of all political opinions in the 2000s. Post-2000 seasons of The Real World contain two different portraits of multiracialism that appeal to viewers across the political spectrum. The liberalism in these seasons comes from multiracialism functioning as a liberal utopia free of racism, one where fluidity, not hostility, defines race relations. At the same time, these seasons appeal to conservative sensibilities by making multiracial cast members models of neoliberal self-management that conservatives recently have used to justify dismantling the welfare state and civil rights initiatives. While neither the liberal nor the conservative portraits of multiracialism on post-2000 seasons of The Real World appear to be overtly racist, I unearth subtext where The Real World articulates multiracialism to white supremacy and anti-blackness.

The Real World is one of the longest running series in American television history. Premiering in 1992. the series has already completed 22 seasons, and MTV recently contracted for four more. Scholars have interrogated the racial politics of the series, but they have equated race with either blackness, specifically the series’ stereotypical portraits of black masculinity, or tensions between urban blacks and rural whites (Bell-Jordan, 2008; Kraszewski, 2009; Orbe, 1998; Park, 2008). This focus has excluded scholarly engagement with other racial identities on the series. This essay unsettles the scholarly equation of race with blackness in The Real World by exploring the politics of multiracialism on the series in the 2000s. A list of multiracial characters on recent seasons includes Aneesa from The Real World, Chicago; Irulon and Arissa from The Real World, Las Vegas; Adam from The Real World, Paris, and Brianna from The Real World, Hollywood. These cast members has one parent who is black and one who is white. The erasure of these characters from discussions about race relates to a larger omission of mixed-race people from media studies scholarship. In Mixed Race Hollywood, Beltrán and Fojas (2008) write that despite “the veritable explosion of multiracial imagery in Hollywood film and media culture today, there has been little published scholarship to dale on the history or current representation of mixed-race individuals, romances, families, or stars on screen” (p. 2).

Analyzing a long-running series such as The Real World presents methodological and historical problems: a channel undergoes branding changes over the course of 18 years, which…

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