Who Will Be the Katniss of ‘The Real World: Catching Fire’?


Perhaps you watched the trailer for The Real World‘s 29th season, which debuted online today. And perhaps your response was, “Oh no. Oh no. It wasn’t enough to drop the average IQ of the housemates by five points with each new cast? They had to throw these intoxicated clowns’ deranged exes into the mix, too?” That’s entirely understandable! But something quite different occurred to me as I previewed The Real World: Ex-Plosion. I think there’s a radical producer at MTV — one who may be taking her cues from a certain obscure showrunner named Plutarch Heavensbee.

Oh, sure, the trailer offers all your classic Real World ingredients: crying, screaming, hooking up, fighting, a pregnancy scare. But look harder and you’ll find cast members taking a break from antagonizing each other to attack the premise of the show itself. “It’s seven strangers picked to live in a house, not seven strangers plus their exes!” one young woman reminds us. “The whole game’s changed now!” crows a bro-ish gentleman. As in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire‘s Quarter Quell, the rules have not only been switched up, but perverted in the cruelest possible way, and the tributes — er, cast members — are shocked and wounded by the injustice. And what’s with that fire motif in the trailer? Come to think of it, why was this season titled Ex-Plosion, which recalls what happens when you shoot an arrow at a giant, electrified Hunger Games arena dome? After all, there are plenty of seemingly appropriate words that allow one to make the “ex” pun: “Ex-Treme”! (Too much confusion with the great HBO show no one’s watching?) “Ex-Citement”! “Ex Machina”! (“Ex Ex Machina”?)

Yes, all the subtle hints are there for those of us who are tuned in to their revolutionary frequency. The Real World created reality TV as we know it over two decades ago, and the radical who’s infiltrated its producers — perhaps groomed for MTV by AMC or even PBS — understands the symbolic power of making it the show that incites the rebellion that ends this tyranny once and for all. Observing the senseless violence Ex-Plosion inflicts on its cast, even the most complacent Snooki & JWoww viewer will be moved to overthrow our reality television overlords. In a matter of months, they’ll be telling you that Downton Abbey is pure trash compared with The Paradise. This will, of course, result in a tyranny of a different kind — the tyranny of good taste. Which is bound to become a problem of its own.

And yet, I think you will agree, those of us in the Districts still need some great cultural shift on which to pin our hopes. We can only pray the upcoming Real World cast yields a Katniss, or at least a humble Peeta, to show us that the two sides of the revolution aren’t quite as different as we think. And so, comrades, the dialect of history dictates that we all must watch Ex-Plosion.