As we’ve all come to expect, last night’s episode of Real World San Diego revolved around Frank falling in love with someone and the question of whether Zach and Ashley will change their opinions about homosexuality or gay people. We also get to see the actual Gay Pride parade which was being lead up to in the previous episode and Nate’s anti-suicide website getting launched. Hit the jump to get the deets. The episode continued directly from the previous with most of the roommates going to the lesbian highlighter party. Zach and Ashley stayed home, but everyone else seemed to have a good time. When she got back, Sam wanted to draw a penis on Ashley’s face as she was sleeping, but Zach stopped her. They had a conversation about how he doesn’t want her sexuality thrown in his face. The next day, Nate gets his suicide prevention website (which he continues to call an “online blog”) The Living Memoir off the ground (more on that in a bit) after that he goes out with some of the people and gets annihilated. Meanwhile, Sam and Frank are out at a bar (unintended double meaning!). This dude named Mike walks up and starts talking to Frank out of the blue. I have to say, my first thoughts were “fame whore.” I don’t have anything to base this on, but I just had a feeling that he was there to be on camera. By the end of the episode I think he might actually just be a pretty good dude, but the real issue has more to do with Frank’s insane attachment issues. He basically replaced Alexandra with Mike and is super excited because Mike likes him back. I bet Frank would argue Mike could cure cancer. Basically, Frank is so desperate to be loved–by a man specifically and in as unabashed a way as possible–that he flipped head over heels for this dude in about 30 seconds. I get the acceptance thing, but Frank needs to learn how to not get so sucked in so quickly or he’s always going to have the same relationship problems. Anyway, Frank brings Mike back to the house and later Nate stumbles in insanely drunk (he winds up between the bed and the wall). The next morning everyone but Nate (who’s still passed out), Ashley and Zach go to help hand out flags for the military people marching in the parade. Later, the other three head to the parade because they have to work for the House of Blues. Basically, Zach and Ashley sit their awkwardly while Nate gets people to sign up for some contest. The other roommates come over and Zach continues to look both scary and uncomfortable. While he stands there, Ashley says some offensive things but laughs them off. In last week’s post, I commented that Zach and Ashley basically form a small unit with each other that keeps them and their views safe. Even with all the craziness around them, they can rely on one another to reinforce whatever their existing beliefs are. I get the feeling that both of them would would be more open and curious if the other wasn’t there. You two might band together and not grow or advance as people because you’re comfortable in the ways you established back home. I think Ashley was uncomfortable with the parade because it was different and went against her basic ideas of what men and women should do in public. I don’t think she’s filled with hate and really I don’t think the same about Zach. I do think they are very set in their ways and have grown up in worlds where those ways have never been questioned. And, honestly, if it wasn’t for their attraction to one another or their feeling that gay people are icky, they would be the most boring people on the show. There were TWO scenes of them in bed reading together like an old married couple. I know that not every night is going to be a drink-fueled extravaganza, but sequestering yourselves to read, one of the least social things imaginable, flies in the face of the whole purpose of the show. I have more to say about the casting this season, but I figure I should get through the rest of the episode first. As I mentioned, Nate’s charity got off the ground in this episode. The basic idea is to have people who have either thought about or been changed by suicide to record their stories. It sounded an awful lot like It Gets Better, which Frank pointed out after Nate showed him the site. Frank and Mike also talked to Nate about how the set-up sounded kind of shady. See, it was started by a watch company that donates 10% of their profits to various charities. Frank thought it was odd that the watch company would benefit from people trying to talk about their experiences with suicide, but Nate didn’t seem to care, mostly because he had nothing invested in it. Mike suggested he talk to a lawyer, but Nate brushed it off. I think it’d be a good idea, just to have your bases covered. I think it’s great that Nate’s so involved and excited about the project, but I think there’s also potential for him to get lost in the parties and whatnot. After spending most of the episode disliking Ashley and Zach for being so close-minded, the editors decided to show us them being decent, nice people. Mike lives in LA so he has to go home after Pride weekend. As he’s leaving, Zach tells him to drive safe. Frank thinks that Mike’s presence has made Zach a better person (is there anything Mike can’t do?!). This scene and a later one where Frank takes Zach and Ashley to “the gayborhood” where they talk about Mike and the boys try on clothes together point to the complexity of the issues brought up in this and the previous episode. As I said above, I really don’t think that Ashley and Zach are bad people. I think they live unexamined lives which is a shame and dislike things that go against the norm they are used to, but I don’t think they are hateful people. Zach even tells Frank to do what he wants with Mike in his presence, that he’ll deal with it. That might not seem like a big deal, but it probably is. I’m sure he has friends that would not tolerate such things. Zach seems to have a stone wall up around himself that’s reinforced by Ashley’s presence, but I think he might be further along than he seems. Maybe they’ll both finally realize that their problems about homosexuality are more about actions that people and that people are what’s important.
I really wish I hadn’t watched the post-show last week because it showed that Zach clearly hadn’t learned anything or even wanted to learn anything while on the show. I’m not sure why he decided to go on or what made the producers choose him (he’s pretty uninteresting overall), but everyone involved seems to have missed the point of the show. It’s the worst kind of spoiler for a show like this because I’m always hoping for Miz-like moments when someone who’s ignorant to the ways of another person or group actively tries to learn about them first hand. I don’t know if we’ll get big, obvious moments like that with Zach and Ashley, but I hope they start changing some of their thinking. On a related note, what is with the casting on Real World lately? It seems to be overly cartoonish. I know every person is much more complex internally than they might let on externally, but this group seems very what-you-see-is-what-you-get. With the exception of Nate who seems like the party boy, but is actually a genius with a lot of trauma in his past, the rest can be described in central casting-like terms. Alexandra’s the eternal optimist (except when it comes to her boyfriend), Priscilla’s the ditzy party girl, Ashley’s the blonde belle, Zach’s the redneck, Sam’s the lesbian and Frank’s the obsessive gay guy. The last two have gotten a lot more of the spotlight lately and have thus become more interesting and well-rounded. I know this is the problem of reality television, peoples lives are being presented to you through a camera and then truncated and edited to fit into episodes and overarching storylines with the worst bits accentuated, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of depth here that isn’t clearly evident on the surface. Compare those descriptions to the people on, say, Real World Boston and I think you’ll see a huge difference.