Sex, Lies and Videotape

This is the true story of 1000 strangers... arriving in Durham... with the hopes to be picked for a show... and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop wanting anonymity--and start getting "real."

9:45am--The line stretched around the block, hundreds of kids eager to get inside. All college-age, they waited with painted faces and spirited clothing. No, this group was not lining up for Cameron, but rather the chance to be on MTV. The Real World/Road Rules Open Casting Call was in town, and everyone was looking to be the next pop-culture clichZ.

Hopefuls had started lining up outside of Yancey's Blues and Jazz Cafe (the old Tobacco Roadhouse) on Main Streets as early as 4am, a full six hours before the day began. (When we arrived at 9:45, we were numbers #333 and #334). People had traveled hours to attend the casting, from Wilmington to Asheville, Virginia Tech to Appalachian State. Carille, a Howard University student, drove in from D.C., because she missed the open auditions there. There had been car wrecks, traffic tickets, even hotel rooms purchased. These hopefuls had already invested quite a lot into the process: time, money, even busted fenders. Some were there to be the next Puck. Others were seeking internships with MTV or a platform for exposure (poets, singers, and future architects). It seemed that everyone present had a hidden agenda--including MTV (how real).

The line crept along for about two hours until we finally made it inside. Then, in some evil twist only reserved for queues at amusement parks, we sat in groups of six. The restaurant was filled with a cacophony of people practicing the art of "individual promotion"--crazy stories told at a decibel level calculated to drown out all the other Chatty Cathys. Some started ordering beer and nachos; others ran back and forth from the bathroom, adjusting hair and makeup and assessing if their butt looked good in the tight club pants. (One girl went to the bathroom for this "final" check seven times.)

After another 90 minutes (and two Bud Lights), we were called to the stairs, where yet another line beckoned. A grand total of four hours of down-time--for 10 minutes. We sat in groups of 10, and Jason, our 24-year-old "casting director," facilitated a discussion. Sample questions: "Who here's a virgin?" "Does anyone disapprove of interracial dating?" "Ever practice S&M?"

I wish I were kidding. I guess in the world of MTV, talking superficially about sex is considered "getting real." Especially when nine other people are shamelessly attempting to separate themselves from the crowd.

We were thanked and asked to leave. Carille drove the five hours back to D.C. Clarence drove to the mechanic to get his car fixed.

But for what? Is MTV such a barometer of cool? Is our generation so desperate to seek pop-culture validation that we will stand for hours for the minutest chance to have our privacy violated? Why are people so hungry to have their personal struggles exploited and edited to the latest Verve Pipe song?

Isn't reality TV dead already?

But in the words of Chris Rock, you never, never know.

Ah, the continuing seduction of The Real World concept/contest: It could be YOU. You, the chosen one, deemed by MTV as worthy of airtime. Hypnotic isn't it?


Share and discuss “Sex, Lies and Videotape” on social media.