A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this landmark MTV series first aired in 1992 (making it one of the first reality shows) and has remained popular among teens and young adults over the years. Each season follows seven new roommates who bring a wide range of social, behavioral, physical, and sexual issues and experiences to the table, including (but not limited to) alcoholism, smoking, bar brawls, girls kissing for shock value, hot tubbing, drunken parties, lewd sex talk, one-night hook-ups, eating disorders, stereotypes, group showers, concerns about body image and self-worth, excessive drinking, homosexuality, and racism. The housemates' ages range from 18-24, so it's no surprise that the show's topics are really for a mature audience.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
No matter which city is home to each new season of MTV's iconic reality series THE REAL WORLD -- be it San Francisco, New York, Austin, London, Seattle, Key West, or Denver -- the setup is always the same: Seven strangers are picked to live in a lavish house for six months and be filmed for viewers' enjoyment. Their close quarters always create the kind of drama that reality TV thrives on. Each season's cast is assigned to a specific job and works with a local organization, although considering how hard they party in the evenings, they often treat the responsibility of a job like a nuisance. In early seasons, jobs were community driven -- like helping build a playground for at-risk youths or serving as mentors -- but later seasons have featured the cast doing things like building, running, and marketing a MysticTan salon.
Is it any good?
In this very formulaic show, each housemate seems expected to conform to one of the following broad personality traits/backgrounds: naïve, small town/small minded, homosexual, bisexual, sexually confused, angry/bitter, drunken frat boy/sorority girl, loose, heavy drinker, or racist. In fact, so carefully are these boxes checked off every season that if you don't fit the bill, you probably won't make it to The Real World.
For the most part, conversations among the roommates are sexual in nature or center on their self-doubt. Occasionally, someone declares their sexual preference or their need to get some action. Housemates can often be found in the indoor Jacuzzi (a staple of every season) and drinking runs rampant. There are no televisions in the houses, but the Internet and phone are readily available. (Drunken phone calls back home to a loved one have become commonplace in the series.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the housemates. Which ones do you relate to? Why? What appeals to teens about the show and its stars? Is this something they might aspire to be part of? Why? What are the redeeming qualities (if any) of this fishbowl environment? Which issues in a particular season made a specific housemate stand out? Are there any positive role models here, or is everyone a stereotype? Do you think the housemates are chosen to fit a particular "type"? Why would producers want to do that? Why do you think they edit the show's content to emphasize sex, partying, and conflict?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love reality TV
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch