At the beginning of every new season of The Real World I watch at least part of the first episode to see if there are any people of interest that might give me a reason to keep watching. Unfortunately, in the previous five seasons I haven’t seen anything that would make me want to waste a minute watching that tripe. Needless to say, this made watching subsequent seasons of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge a challenge as I wondered who all of the new extra people were.
I should point out that I had been an avid viewer of the show beginning with episode one of season one, all the way through Philadelphia, with the notable exceptions of the Las Vegas sleaze-fest and the irrelevant San Diego. So I’m open to finding a cast or even a cast member that I care enough about to give me a reason to watch again.
The problem has been that the production company as been too intent on creating immediate hook-ups and excessive drama by casting mainly very loose and shallow men and women plus a couple of scary psychotics. Production lost sight of the key to Real World‘s success, which is not the inane activities of the cast, but rather the gradual exploration and unveiling of the cast’s personalities. With cast members that are only a plastic veneer on an inner core of plastic, this type of character development hasn’t been possible.
Having seen the opening installments of the latest season, Real World Brooklyn, I can happily report that there is again someone in the cast who makes it worthwhile to select “record this showing” on my Tivo. That castmember is Ryan Conklin, the aspiring musician/film maker who is a former infantryman in the U.S. Army. Not only is he entertaining to watch, but he leaves you wanting to know more about him.
On of the most intriguing aspects of Ryan Conklin is his experience in the military. While he is a stereotypical soldier who doesn’t mind shooting at things and likes to blow stuff up, he’s also a creative type, who writes and sings songs and who authored a 300 page manuscript about his time in Iraq. He joined the Army because of the effect of 9/11 on him, but he leans Democrat and supported Obama. He’s rightfully proud of his service, but he doesn’t tell the Brooklyn cast about it right away because he wants make sure that others don’t prejudge him and that they have a chance to see and appreciate the full scope of his well-rounded character. These are some of the things that make Ryan a person who is compelling to be understood.
While Ryan Conklin has received cheers for his lighthearted jokes, songs and conversation, he has also attracted some jeers for his comments about transgendered roommate Katelynn Cusanelli, his initial interactions with gay roommate JD Ordornez, and his theatrics after being kissed by drag queen Peppermint. Some dullards have mistakenly and far too simplistically labeled Ryan as some kind of homophobe, but I’m not buying it. Reality TV editing makes easy conclusions for people who don’t like to think at all and in this case it gives something to glance and boo at to those kind of people who want a one-dimensional anti-gay person that they can criticize. On the other other hand, to those willing to fire a few neurons and look at the outtakes and some of the interviews, it can be seen that Ryan is pretty cool for a straight guy. It takes time for straights to unlearn prejudice and Ryan has shown he is on his way and willing to be more open in the future. Being friends with a gay man, realizing that being admired is a compliment, and even visiting a gay bar are good steps. He’s going to be fine. People shouldn’t expect a 23 year old only recently out of the army to be more than this yet.
Ryan A. Conklin has a good head on his shoulders but he also has his less intellectual side, as seen by his singing “The Tampon Song”. For this reason, I don’t mind stating that I can appreciate him for more shallow reasons as well. He didn’t have me at “hello”, but he certainly had my attention when he was lounging in his shorts, showing those hairy legs. Sustenance for the mind as well as the eyes.