The Real World: "Trouble Throughout The House"
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The Real World: "Trouble Throughout The House"

In the few weeks that I’ve been writing about The Real World: New York, I've started to notice a persistent theme in the comments: Becky is hot.  Coincidentally, Becky's hotness is also the subject of this week’s episode, "Trouble Throughout The House."

The first sign of trouble is in Becky's bedroom. “My love life goes in spurts,” Becky, clad in an oversize red men’s shirt, declares woefully (cut to a shot of a running faucet; very clever, Bunim-Murray Productions). We learn that though she was seeing someone “for a long time,” she’s currently single and sick of going to bed alone at night. “Yeah, I feel a little deprived,” she admits. Translation: Becky’s horny.

The entire first act of this episode is dedicated to Becky’s futile quest for a little satisfaction. In a recording session, Becky—clad in a white tank top, no bra, and a  vaguely ethnic beaded necklace—sings a tepid little song with lyrics about “Mr. Sunshine.”  Her voice is wispy and unremarkable—but hey, wait, are those her nipples? Becky cops to an ill-defined relationship with Adam, her producer.  “He’s incredibly cute, and we cuddle all the time, but it’s not an ongoing romance.” It would be interesting to hear Adam’s take on their no-strings-attached “cuddling,” but alas, this is Becky’s story.

A brief confessional conversation between the roomies further establishes the subject of Becky’s potent sexuality. We learn that she was “15 or just turned 16” when she lost her virginity to the school jock. “Good kisser, terrible lay, and we did it on his waterbed,” she says, as cool as can be. Eric, articulate as ever, shares his views on Becky. “If she wants something from you, she’ll get it, because she knows how to get to you with, like, her looks and the way she talks and stuff like that.”

So, to summarize: Becky is sexy. The gang heads out for a night at the Limelight, where Becky’s determined to meet a man. She puts on her “cheesiest” club-going outfit: a pair of microscopic black hot pants, a clingy black top with sheer sleeves, a black blazer. To complete the Robert Palmer-girl look, she paints her lips bright red and slicks her hair back. Before she and her roomies head out for a night at the Limelight, Becky spontaneously sticks a pair of Dixie cups in her top, in imitation of Madonna’s infamous “Blonde Ambition” cone bra. In case it was unclear: Becky is officially on the prowl. 

If she were on The Real World today, Becky would no doubt be spouting clichés about how, when it comes to sex, she’s “just like a guy.” Instead, this being the early ‘90s, Becky’s sexy outfit is a matter of concern to her roommates, particularly Heather (“I don’t know what she was thinking about”), though, for the record, Andre was fully on-board with the ensemble (“It was pretty cute”). At the Limelight, Becky makes a valiant effort to meet a man, bending over provocatively and crawling on the tables but comes up empty. (Had she been looking to meet a homicidal party promoter, she would have had better luck.) Drunk and frustrated, Becky makes a scene back at the loft, crawling into bed with Eric, smacking her own ass, and waking up Kevin in the process.

“Get out of my room!” he screams, perfectly setting up the next act of the episode, where the roommates hold a meeting to air their grievances about life in the loft. Eric is fed up with the filthy kitchen, full of dirty dishes and bowls full of raw meat, Heather and Andre are fed up with Eric’s constant whinging, everyone’s fed up with the phone situation, and no one knows where Kevin is or what he does all day.

As if on cue, Kevin walks into the apartment in the middle of the meeting. “I walk in, and half the people have sunglasses on, so I’m thinking people don’t want to look each other in the eyes,” he notes. Either that, or they’re stoned. Becky’s wearing a wide-brimmed suede hat and round glasses, while Eric’s doing his best Boyz N’ The Hood impression (the Snapple sort of ruins the effect though, doesn’t it):

Kevin’s got some beef with his roomies, especially Eric, whose sister stayed at the apartment for a few days, even though Eric never told anyone about it. It’s all pretty banal stuff, but the best part is when Becky, rather condescendingly, brings up the issue of her (relative) maturity. “I’m gonna get smashed for this, but there is a difference between our ages and you guys’ ages.” (The creative grammar is all hers.) Julie’s not having it. “If this is a level of maturity, let me never be mature,” she says.

The real drama arrives in the final act of the episode, when Kevin leaves a letter for Eric. During the house meeting, Kevin seemed reasonable and calm, so it’s odd that his letter seems, well, a bit unhinged. Even though he shares a room with Eric, Kevin leaves the note in living area downstairs, and by the time Kevin returns to the loft, the letter has been discussed and re-read exhaustively, and Eric’s steaming mad (“Right now I hate him so bad,” he says, angrily stabbing the air with his finger). We only get to hear snippets of the letter, all of which sound make Kevin sound bitter and slightly paranoid: “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth” and “your life is valued twice as much as mine.” As the episode ends, Kevin returns to the apartment, sits down, and waits for Eric, who’s obviously pissed, to say something about the letter.

What really stands out to me about this episode—other than Becky’s boobs—is how the editing feels, if not quite manipulative, then certainly more “deliberate” than in previous installments; you can see the producers' fingerprints more clearly than before. There are several montages used to illustrate the increasing chaos in the loft as well as Becky's manifest sexiness, there’s a quasi-cliffhanger of an ending, and then there’s Kevin’s letter, which we never actually hear in full, nor do we get a straight explanation of what happened between him and Eric’s sister. In other words, we don’t know if his beef with Eric is justified. Almost two decades later, Kevin is probably best remembered as the “angry black guy” from the first season of The Real World (To be fair, I follow him on Twitter, and he mostly seems like a nice, politically engaged guy who likes to take Bikram yoga classes). In later seasons, the Angry Black Guy (or Girl) would become an unfortunate stock character on this series—and in reality TV more broadly. Did Kevin really earn the label, or was he just an angsty but intelligent guy with a bit of a chip on his shoulder? We shall see…

Stray observations:

  • “I just want to choke Eric, actually. I don’t want to kill him.”
  • Kevin may be a writer, but he has terrible handwriting. “That looks like a bunch of scrabble,” says Heather, after looking at his letter.
  • Anyone notice that in one of her talking-head interviews, Julie is sitting in the kitchen, with the fridge door wide open?
  • The winner of this week’s best-dressed award is—do I even need to say it?—Becky. She gets points not just for her creative use of disposable drinking cups, but also for her versatility. My favorite was the wide-brimmed leather hat with ribbed sweater ensemble (above), which is what I imagine shepherds in New Zealand probably wear.
  • More hats of note: Norm’s fez, Eric’s green thingy, Julie’s red baseball cap.
  • Norm lost his virginity at age 21 at his friend Lisa Siegel’s apartment, but annoyingly, we don’t get to find out if it was with a man or a woman. Lisa, if you’re out there, let us know. 
  • It’s fun to catch a glimpse of The Limelight, the infamous former church-turned-drugden which closed in 2001 and which recently re-opened as a shopping center. Fun trivia: Andy Warhol hosted the opening night party at The Limelight in 1983.
  • As a reminder, you can relive the magic on YouTube or Hulu Plus.

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