Unanswered Questions About The Real World: Portland

I salute Bunim/Murray for hiring Coral as the Real World: Portland Reunion moderator, because she's one of the few on-air personalities who could have hoped to hold shit together if it got physical again with Averey and Nia. It's one of the few things about the reunion show that made sense, though; most of the conversations and revelations just confused me -- about the entire season, really, in retrospect.

Let's start with the twelve-episode season order. Granted, it seemed to go on a lot longer than twelve weeks, but the Sydney season had twenty-five episodes, not counting various blooper reels and reunions. San Francisco had twenty. Recent seasons have had the smaller number, probably for network reasons, but the Portland reunion suggested that a lot got left on the cutting room floor: "toileting incidents" with Daisy beyond what touched off that brawl, for starters; Jordan's relationships with anyone in the house past, like, the third week; anything at their workplace, Schmizza, after Nia got mercifully pink-slipped. Anastasia got super-upset at the reunion that she always supported Jordan and he'd been hurtfully critical of her, to the point of stomping off the reunion set and throwing her gum at him, but I don't recall seeing any of that during the episodes, or even the implication of it.

Anastasia also started crying when she revealed that the Mark donnybrook stemmed from him obviously (to her) using drugs again, and that she wanted to leave the house to get him some help. I can imagine why viewers weren't allowed to know that; I also feel like, in past seasons, B/M would have found a way to imply it and would have spent more time on it, versus making Anastasia seem like a dizzy drama queen. Which I think she also kind of is, but there was in fact a context here. The audience just didn't know that.

We also didn't know that Jessica's Wall O' Tyler went up after maybe a week of dating -- it seemed like three weeks, and that's still a little too intense, but again, we had no context -- or that everyone else in the house continually pulled Tyler aside to tell him he could do better. I mean! That is both a dick move and, to me anyway, hilarious, and I find it really hard to believe that it never happened on-camera. The majority of an episode was spent on that break-up and on Jessica's purity-ring nonsense, and we kept having to hear about the no-boys-in-the-bed rule and we had to follow Jessica to church -- Tyler already signed the waiver, heaven help the kid, so let's see that stuff.

And then let's run it back for Nia, who spent the bulk of her talking time on the reunion spinning and reframing incidents to make herself the victim of domestic violence. As fascinating a case study as Nia is of 1) a woman who has survived an assault struggling to put herself in control of situations and people at all times, as a coping mechanism; and 2) why bullies often get away with their crap for so long, thanks to others either fearing them or, more likely, just not considering it a good use of time to engage? Girl: there are recordings of your behavior. Lawyering the childish, aggressive stunts you pulled that didn't air is bad enough, but we all saw what happened. You sucker-punched Averey; you admitted to taunting Johnny and Jordan because, if either of them snaps, you're a woman and an automatic victim. The least negative assessment I can give that is "post-traumatic stress," and I will give that assessment, but get some help already. (And why didn't production step in here?)

The Portland season gave me more or less what I expected: booze-fueled drama, the self-importance specific to being 21 years old. Bunk a seven-pack of self-selected attention whores together and give them nothing to do besides pick at each other, this is what you get, and I understand that. The franchise and/or the network might consider returning to a longer season, though, so The Real World doesn't seem quite so much like a collage of contrivance. Shortening the season makes it less meaningful, not more.

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