Looking Back At “The Real World: San Francisco,” The Show That Changed The World

To be honest, the only thing I really remember about The Real World way back when it first started was that during my senior year of college, the girl who lived next door to me wanted to be on the show. I even recall her filling out an application. I think I watched a few episodes in her room because I recall the guy called Puck and how nasty he was and how he got thrown off the show.

I really don’t remember Pedro or the fact that he was not only gay and HIV positive, but had full-blown AIDS.This story is amazing because it’s been 20 years since the start of The Real World and they are revisiting San Francisco. The writer also interviewed the woman who, at the time of filming, was Pedro’s housemate, but also Pedro’s antagonist, then friend. She’s also a Conservative Catholic.

If you subscribe to the Celluloid Closet theory of LGBT representation — that straight homophobia and internalized homophobia alike were perpetuated by pop culture’s total erasure (or, if anything, horrific representation) of gay people pre-’90s — then you probably think that The Real World’s 1992 premiere on MTV should mark the moment when the world started to change. The show was born during the tail end of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, but it was more of a product of ACT UP’s Silence Equals Death aesthetic: From the first season on, The Real World asserted the then-radical idea that diversity, which included a gay cast member as a rule, was its DNA.

“If we were going to put seven people in a house together, we knew that how we would get our story would be through conflict,” said Jonathan Murray, who created the show with the late Mary-Ellis Bunim. “And that conflict would only come if the people living together wouldn’t normally live together. They would make mistakes, or they would be uncomfortable, or they’d have to figure out how to get along. They’d say things that weren’t appropriate. They would be struggling to figure out how to co-exist with someone who they’re normally not used to co-existing with.”

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