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Leaving Reality

John Jeremiah Sullivan on The Real World image

They’re all there, all the old American grotesques, the test-tube babies of Whitman and Poe, a great gauntlet of doubtless eyes, big mouths spewing fantastic catchphrase fountains of impenetrable self-justification, muttering dark prayers, calling on God to strike down those who would fuck with their money, their cash, and always knowing, always preaching. Using weird phrases that nobody uses, except everybody uses them now. Constantly talking about our “goals.” Throwing carbonic acid on our castmates because they used our special cup and then calling our mom to say, in a baby voice, “People don’t get me here.” Walking around half-naked with a butcher knife behind our backs. Telling it like it is, y’all. (What-what!) And never passive-aggressive, no. Saying it straight to your face. That’s right. But crying, crying, crying. My God, there have been more tears shed on reality TV than by all the war widows of the world. Are we so raw? It must be so. There are too many of them—too many shows and too many people on the shows. And I just get so exhausted with my countrypeople—you know the ones, the ones you run into who are all like, “Oh gosh, reality TV? I’ve never even seen it. Is it really that interesting?” I mean, I’m sorry, but go starve. To me that’s about as noble as being like, “Oh, Nagasaki? I’ve never even heard of that!” This is us, bros. This is our nation. A people of savage sentimentality, weeping and lifting weights.

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