Is The Real World Actually Teaching Us Something?

December 9, 2011

Political Theory


The newest Real World, a reality television series on MTV, took place in San Diego this past summer. The show purposefully chooses seven people who hold either very disparate religious beliefs, political views, lifestyles, and/or overall personas so that, when all these people are placed together in one house, continuous drama unravels.

The character of particular notice in this season is Frank Sweeney. He seems to cause the most drama, as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VOtAyOC7Gc shows, and instigate the most arguments with his housemates, especially with Zach Nichols (who is actually from Brighton, MI!) and Ashley Kelsey, two very conservative and introversive people because of his sexuality, promiscous lifestyle, and extroversive personality. Many criticize and are disappointed in Frank, nicknamed “Hurricane Frank” due to his whirlwind of emotions, because he is very manipulative and cheated on his so-called “beloved” boyfriend. However, he seems to have good intentions and to truly want his roommates to experience the most they can, open up emotionally and mentally and connect with each housemate, have the most fun they can, and find themselves in the process so he asks very personal questions and seeks to discuss views and actions that he and his roomates disagree on. For instance, in Season 26, Episode 11, knowing Zach advocated for the military, but did not approve of homosexuals and bisexuals, Frank and Sam, a lesbian roommate, asked Zach’s opinion of homosexuals in the military today, hoping to help Zach understand that his view hurt their feelings and was detrimental to the LGBT community in general. And, for these reasons, I admire Frank, especially since Zach becomes very quiet and then tells Frank to “shut up” first, displaying his introversive and closed-off personality, before he grudging admits his doesn’t approves of homosexuals being a part of the military. Zach’s defensive response to the inquiry is relatively offensive and rude to Frank and Sam, as homosexuals. In this situation then, I think that Frank has a right to respond with hurt feelings and explain sternly to Zach, as he does in the picture on the website, http://www.mtv.ca/tvshows/realworld/article.jhtml?id=37485, that he is insulting the LGBT community and their way of life and that Zach can have his own views, however, they cannot be so offensive.

And, in a way, I think John Stuart Mill, who wrote “On Liberty,” would feel the same admiration as I do for Frank. Do you agree? Or do you believe that Mill may actually not agree with Frank? Or, furthermore, do you think Mill would agree with Zach instead because he did, in a way, defend his opinions well and create more discussion, as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP3Er7a1gxE shows? Or, do you even think Mill would agree with all the housemates, or producing the Real World show overall, because the people communicate their views constantly and, perhaps, without thinking? Stuart Mill says that dissention or discussion, even if wrong, between disparate views will help both sides figure out the more truthful view (the view that can refute criticisms of it) and keep it alive. Mill also discussed Christianity closely in his work, stating that it was never discussed so it could never be fully understood and that would be very detrimental since people would then make numerous mistakes in the future based on their incomplete beliefs of their religion. Mill’s ideas, I believe, relate directly to Zach and Ashley. Do you agree? They are very conservative and religious and stubborn in their views. Mill would not approve of their stubborness in thought. Frank also is stubborn in his advocation for the homosexual community in the military and so on, however, he is one person who still wishes to discuss his feelings and the feelings of others to come to a mutual agreement.

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8 Comments on “Is The Real World Actually Teaching Us Something?”

  1. Mason Bear Says:

    Although I didn’t follow the season of Real World San Diego the youtube after-show clip was enough to characterize the tension and hostility between Frank and Zach. Though they generally disagree for Zach takes on a conservative view in relation to the liberal Frank together they help to reinforce each other’s opinion. Mill would love their relationship as he believed that one cannot understand their own view without having to defend it from an opposing idea. In picking between the two personalities Mill would find the most admiration in Frank. Because Zach generally keeps his feelings bottled up little discussion would occur without the prying of Frank. He acts as a catalyst for discussion by asking personal questions that not all are comfortable with discussing. As a whole I believe Mill would be greatly pleased with the idea of The Real World. The show thrives on drama, and the producers have mastered putting different people (with opposing viewpoints and backgrounds) in a house and watching the action unfold. I would assume an individual like Zach came from a community where the vast majority of people are similar in characteristic and opinion to himself, so placing him in an unfamiliar setting is key to opening up discussion. I think that Mill would tune in to watch the starkly different cast of characters featured in the real world, and the opposing views they represent.

  2. Mason Bear Says:

    Although I didn’t follow the season of Real World San Diego the youtube after-show clip was enough to characterize the tension and hostility between Frank and Zach. Though they generally disagree for Zach takes on a conservative view in relation to the liberal Frank together they help to reinforce each other’s opinion. Mill would love their relationship as he believed that one cannot understand their own view without having to defend it from an opposing idea. In picking between the two personalities Mill would find the most admiration in Frank. Because Zach generally keeps his feelings bottled up little discussion would occur without the prying of Frank. He acts as a catalyst for discussion by asking personal questions that not all are comfortable with discussing. As a whole I believe Mill would be greatly pleased with the idea of The Real World. The show thrives on drama, and the producers have mastered putting different people (with opposing viewpoints and backgrounds) in a house and watching the action unfold. I would assume an individual like Zach came from a community where the vast majority of people are similar in characteristic and opinion to himself, so placing him in an unfamiliar setting is key to opening up discussion. I think that Mill would tune in to watch the starkly different cast of characters featured in the real world, and the opposing views they represent.

  3. mrau188 Says:

    I believe that everyone has the right to their own opinion when it comes to their beliefs about sensitive issues such as the one that you discussed. This is a very interesting article about how people work together that have different views and are able to live together in the same house even though they have their differences. When people need to assemble together and try and force a way of thinking upon another individual it is not a healthy system and i feel in a way that this is what is going on in this specific situation. However, i do believe that zach should be a little less hard headed and open up a little bit about the problems that he has with the whole thing with his roommates. Communication is key in finding out what is actually going on in this situation so i guess you are right yes we can actually learn something from the hit mtv show the real world.

  4. lkpeacock Says:

    MTV chooses the characters for the Real World to allow for the most drama and to encourage the type of dialogue that creates controversy and arguments. It is what attracts the most viewers. I think putting people with very different backgrounds, different beliefs, and different morals will inevitably lead to a discussion of differences in opinions.

    I do not know if Mill would encourage the hostility that sometimes arises within the house. Placing very different people in one small space does not seem the healthiest, and most likely will not lead to thoughtful and meaningful conversations. On the show, the characters tend to yell and use hostility to respond to the different beliefs of another roommate. I have not been following the Real World San Diego, but I have seen some in the past and it seems to be a general trend. Mill would support the talk between Frank, Sam, and Zach because they were putting their separate views out in the open, and even though they disagreed, at least they all listened to each other’s ideas.

    I think Real World is not an example society should necessarily follow because of the extremes of personalities between characters and the drama the show encourages, but it is a hyperbole of the behavior that Mill thinks is important for society to realize the truth.

  5. nozomigg Says:

    I think there are several qualities about Frank that Mill would appreciate. First of all, Frank is very forward in his opinions. Because Mill was a such a huge advocate for the Freedom of Speech – and even more importantly, for the lack of censorship – Mill would appreciate Frank’s neglect to suppress any of his opinions. Although Zach’s reaction is a negative one, Frank presses his issue rather than backing down and hiding his beliefs.

    Additionally, Frank seems to approach this subject in a calm manner, as shown by the picture and by the rest of the article. This helps us determine that his intentions, much like Mill would approve of, are only to engage in a conversation or debate about an issue that he knows himself and Zach have opposing views on. This is instead of confronting Zach angrily. Frank’s content comes from addressing a sensitive issue and resolving the tension between two opposing views; not from maintaining a fake friendship or starting a fight. Similarly, Mill believed that the only happiness came from intellectual and moral happiness, rather than a fake physical form of happiness. He also believed in avoiding conflict where it could be avoided.

    Most importantly, however, Mill believed in learning about other opinions; not to change your own necessarily, but perhaps to strengthen it. Especially in this case between Zach and Frank, where Zach cowardly tries to avoid any views that oppose his own, and Frank basically forces the opposition out of him, Mill would definitely be in favor of Frank’s approach to the issue.

  6. weinben Says:

    The Real World reality television series serves as a character study by putting eight very different individuals in close confines and letting the cameras role. The explosive nature of the drama and hostility in the show, stemming from disagree or miscommunication from the participants’ differing ideologies and backgrounds, has made it one of MTV’s most popular and infamous shows. Regarding the discrepancy in this particular season over homosexual service in the armed forces, I would have to believe Mill would be split. Yes, Zach should listen and come to understand where Frank and Sam are coming from, and understand that people should not be barred from serving based on sexual orientation, as that is discriminatory. On this, Mill might say that Zach’s views and the current practices in the military get in the way of other people’s wellbeing and happiness, and that goes against what he spouts in On Liberty. However, to fully understand the argument between Frank, Sam and Zach, we need to look at it objectively from Zach’s viewpoint. The military, we can safely say, is mostly filled by males, and males who are more or less socially conservative, as recent polls on their website state. If having gays openly serve in the military put, say, 75% of the force in an uncomfortable mindset, should the minority be granted this right? I’m not saying that it is acceptable that so many people might not agree with homosexuality, but it needs to be said that there are a lot of people who do not agree and will not change their mind. Does the presence of one gay disrupt the happiness and ability to perform of eight or nine more guys? If this is the case then it would make sense, using Mill’s logic, that the overall most happiness would come from not having gays in the military.

  7. hannahlevitt Says:

    I think that Mill would agree with Frank to a certain extent, but it is where his harm clause comes in that it gets tricky. Mill believes that people should have freedom of speech until the point where it harms someone else.
    In this case, I think Mill would say that Frank is free to advocate for the LGBT community but that his personal attacks can be seen as harming Zach. Regardless of what one’s beliefs are in terms of LGBT rights, everyone is free to their own opinion. Frank putting Zach on the spot like that on national television is harming his happiness, and therefore I think Mill would disagree with that.

  8. arielleshanker Says:

    I’m not sure that Mill’s argument applies in the case of Hurricane Frank on “The Real World.” Although it seems that Frank and the rest of his housemates’ clashing personalities foster a more open and engaging environment in which people can speak their minds, I believe it is at the discomfort of the more introverted housemates. As a shy person myself, I can say for certain that when people approach me abrasively asking me personal questions, I feel very uncomfortable and in the future I am less likely to share information with that person since they were not delicate about the earlier situation. Mills implies there is only one instance in which to limit one’s freedom of speech– if it defames an individual’s character. While forcing someone to face their issues isn’t exactly defamation, their timid character/nature is put in jeopardy when they are put in that position. There is no harm in encouraging someone to step out of their comfort zone every once in a while, but just know that it might cost you your relationship with that person.

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