I’m not really sure what to think about tonight’s episode of Real World Portland. We finally get to really meet the latest roommate Nia. Thanks to a series of clips shown off since the very first episode and the fact that she weirdly lied to her soon-to-be-roommates on the phone by telling them she was Southern and part Cherokee, I find myself not particularly interested in her as a person. From what we’d been shown of her in the episodes leading up to this one, she likes stirring up crap with people and that becomes perfectly evident throughout this episode.
While watching I thought about how crappy it must be coming into a situation like this one later on down the line. When you show up with six other strangers you’re all on the same footing, exploring who they are and how you react to them. When you come in late in the game, though, you’re not only dealing with a somewhat united front (or at least an existing ecosystem of personalities) and you don’t really get to discover on your own. Day one, you’re being told by everyone what everyone else’s real deal is and that seems unfortunate to me.
It wasn’t until partway through the episode that I realized I was being unfair to Nia, but also that I was doing so because MTV and the producers clearly wanted me to. The truth is that, from what we see in this episode, Nia is a strong, independent woman who likes to keep an open mind about things. You can also tell that she’s a very hard person, possibly cold, but she also seems to have some goodness to her. At the same time, she gets really excited when she hears about Jordan’s regular run-ins with the women of the house, specifically Jessica. She assumes they’re not strong enough to deal with it and decides to take it upon herself to deal with him.
During various conversations, Jordan admits that he goes about trying to explain himself to others poorly, but that he’s like that because of how he was raised. He basically wants to treat everyone like his parents treated him which involved pushing him so he could find his true limits. That doesn’t sound so terrible, but he doesn’t want people to ask him for help, he basically wants to push all of his roommates to be like him even if they’re not even remotely interested in the process. Anyway, Nia’s theory is that his insecurity stems from him having a small penis. To test this she asks him if she can perform a sexual act on him in front of the roommates, which he’s a-okay with. She runs around the house and he wants this to go down, but we don’t see what happens because the episode ends.
This is all a little gross to me. From the wildly public showing to the intense, forceful reaction Jordan has to the whole thing. It seems like it’s one big joke to us — which MTV made clear in a commercial between segments — but I felt really bad for Marlon who was completely vibing on Nia and she does this thing right out of nowhere in front of him.
My wife who’s not a fan of the series was in the room but working on something else while I watched. Even though she was only half paying attention she said that it felt like almost everything Nia said to her roommates was a lie. I felt very similarly, but I was also more steeped in the MTV stuff that had been shown before. It doesn’t help that the very first thing she said or did with her roommates on the phone was a lie. And yet we learn some really deep, intense things about Nia’s past that explain why she is who she is to some extent. And that’s really the reason I watch this show. It’s not enough to love or hate the characters, I want to learn what makes them tick, even if they’re not the kind of people I’d want to spend time with it.