‘Real World’ is no more fake than our world

America’s leading music television network is looking for its next set of famous faces, and it’s looking for them at Yale. On Saturday, hundreds lined up, hopeful for a chance to join the casts of the next seasons of “Real World” and “Road Rules.” One by one, MTV turned them down.

But we urge those who were not selected not to despair. Although a favorite pastime of students seems to be criticizing Yale for being utterly unlike the real world, it is quite a bit like “Real World,” and — fame, fortune and foolishness aside — a semester living under MTV’s roof might not be so different from staying under Yale’s.

MTV’s casting call this weekend was part of its 16-stop tour of the country, as the network seeks minorities from campuses nationwide. In picking New Haven, the casting directors, who said they’d love to see a Yalie on the show, came to the right place; we’re living out “Real World” everyday. Same germophobic roommate. Same sex-iling nymphomaniac. Same delusional conviction that someone is conspiring against you by making you actually live with these people. Of course, replace the chemistry problem sets with a hot tub and a fight over the bathroom suddenly seem a lot easier to handle.

It’s easy to make fun of “Real World’s” surreal environment, but such criticisms can be revealing of our own lives here. “Real World” may be contrived, but so is Yale. We have been handpicked to, as a group, include students of every conceivable background. We are forced to live and interact with each other in a range of stressful situations. Conflicts inevitably occur, are blown out of proportion, and are resolved. And if our every waking hour were (God forbid) videotaped, we’d discover many vices in common with “Real World” cast members: melodrama, self-involvement and painstaking overanalysis.

But beyond its superficial exterior, “Real World” has had things to offer. Throughout its history, the show has reflected social changes, pushing the boundaries of gay rights, race relations and cultural exchange; it has always fundamentally been a social experiment. And in some ways, Yale is too. What happens when the housing powers-that-be assign a Jew and three Asians to share a suite? Or when everyone in your suite talks to their parents in a different language? How do you learn to live and work with diverse people? But if we are living among a group as artificially constructed as “Real World,” we can use the opportunity to learn the same lessons as the show’s cast members. We can use the luxury of these four years to embrace the chance for self-analysis. Self-involvement will help us discover who we are. We can make mistakes in our interactions with others, and — unlike our television counterparts — we can do so without an audience heckling us each time we do.

In recognizing parallels between Yale and “Real World,” we should realize both the limitations and opportunities that an environment like ours creates. We wish MTV’s finalists luck. Perhaps their college years have not prepared them for the real world, but if they’re lucky they’ll learn from the challenges of “Real World,” and will emerge from it, like all of us from Yale’s ivy-covered gates, better off for the experience.

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