Nobody expects much from The Real World anymore. As Gawker's Brian Moylan pointed out last April, "the show and the audience have changed drastically since it started. It is time to put the old girl down."
And yet the show continues, currently airing its 24th season, shot in New Orleans and featuring one of the most reprehensible cast members to be featured in quite some time, Ryan Leslie, who spends much of his screen time rattling off blatantly homophobic statements while simultaneously reminding everyone that he is not, and will never be, gay. Leslie's sexuality is his own business; in watching the show, you get the sense that we are to infer that Leslie is, in fact, gay and that his homophobia is his means of attempting to fight his own identity. But regardless of Leslie's sexuality or motivations, it seems as though MTV has no problem continuing to showcase his homophobia, and neglecting to issue any statements regarding hate speech, which is what's taking place here, in favor of allowing the audience to make their own assumptions.
Leslie's Twitter feed had come under fire in recent weeks as a depository for many of his homophobic rants; when called out on his hate speech by ONTD's Aurosan, Leslie retaliated by posting such charming statements as "I would like to see you in person and smash your gay fucking face in," which prompted a call for an apology from GLAAD, which Leslie issued in a later tweet, noting that he wanted "to apologize to the gay community–tweet not meant to offend. I take responsibility for what I said on Friday and I am sorry." That was on July 27. The tweet you see above was posted yesterday. Clearly, Leslie isn't sorry at all.
GLAAD has noted that it "is speaking to MTV about the dangers of showcasing Leslie's anti-LGBT attitudes on such a widely viewed series like The Real World," but it's frustrating that they even have to point out Leslie's hate speech to the network, or ask that MTV consider putting some context to Leslie's rants. His cast mate, Preston Charles, told the Advocate that he initially sympathized with Leslie, who truly seems frustrated with being called gay due to fitting certain stereotypes, but that "sympathy was squashed because, despite efforts to connect with and understand the kid, Ryan's behavior was and remains not only disgusting, but pretty damn hurtful." It's one thing to showcase Leslie's homophobic attitudes on the show—acting as if people like Leslie do not exist would be quite unfair—but without any attempt to point out to the audience at home why Ryan's behavior is so reprehensible, is the show really just providing a platform for hate?
It's especially strange when you consider that the network seems to want to position itself as more socially aware, broadcasting shows like Teen Mom and If You Really Knew Me in an attempt to engage viewers in conversations about difficult topics like teen pregnancy and bullying. But on the other hand, this is the same network that broadcast images of a woman being punched in the face repeatedly before removing the clip and attempting to position itself as anti-violence, even as subsequent episodes of the program—Jersey Shore, highlighted various fights, including an incident where cast member Ronnie Magro actually knocks another man out with one punch. Women are allowed to hit women on the Jersey Shore, and men are allowed to hit men. Two female cast members have slapped two male cast members, and those incidents were broadcast repeatedly without any disclaimer regarding violence of any sort. It seems that only the act of a man hitting a woman requires a statement on the network's behalf—everything else is fair game and a source of entertainment.
It is not MTV's responsibility to change Ryan Leslie's attitudes or to monitor what he posts on his personal Twitter page. But Leslie is, in a way, representing the network, and allowing him to continue to post truly hateful things—and say them on the show (which they willingly chose him for, by the way)—without attempting to distance themselves from his words positions them as tolerant of this behavior, and even as profiting off of it, and it solidifies the notion that The Real World has long overstayed its welcome: it's no longer about people who stop being polite and start getting real, it's about providing a platform for people like Leslie to attempt to make a name for themselves by consistently taking pride in how much they hate everybody else.
MTV Must Cancel The Real World [Gawker]
Real World Homophobia [Advocate]
Closeted Real World Nobody Threatens Your Moderation Team [ONTD]
Real World's Ryan Leslie Offers Apology For Anti-Gay Tweets [ONTD]