As the latest season of The Real World rolls out in Key West, Odessa-born Svetlana (“We’re not Russian, we’re Jewish,” she tells the camera) is the babe to watch. Sure, she’s got a boyfriend back home, but he’s several thousand miles away now and comes off as a meathead; the teasers for Tuesday’s episode suggest he’ll be out of the picture imminently. If that’s true, two of the roommates would be happy to replace him: John, the less-than-subtle frat boy who arrived with an inflatable woman under his arm, and Zack, the “Jew from Seattle,” who couldn’t be more of a mensch—that is, from a parent’s perspective: he doesn’t drink or smoke, his mother and father are his best friends, and he can count the number of times he’s had sex on the fingers of one hand. That might win him points on JDate, but this is MTV.
Once unencumbered, Svetlana may leap directly into bed (or the inevitable Jacuzzi) with John, but even so, it’s easy to imagine Zack picking up the pieces once the bad boy loses interest. Last week, two roommates made fun of Svetlana for whining and driving a BMW X5—for having become, more or less, a Jewish-American Princess. When she burst into tears at the end of the episode, it was Zack, not John, there with a shoulder to cry on.
Months of melodrama remain, and Real Worlders aren’t known for making commitments. Is it foolish to root for Zach and Svetlana to end up together? What with its entitled suburbanites and handpicked minorities, ages 18-24, binge-drinking, bed-hopping, and very occasionally self-reflecting, the show that begat reality TV resembles nothing more than life on campus. And what do parents ask of their children these days, after all, but that they truck off to Ann Arbor or Palo Alto for four years, mingle enthusiastically with a vast, nubile swath of American multiculturalism, and yet somehow still end up in love with someone they can bring home for Passover?
Josh Lambert (@joshnlambert), a Tablet Magazine contributing editor and comedy columnist, is the academic director of the Yiddish Book Center, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author most recently of Unclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture.
Josh Lambert (@joshnlambert), a Tablet Magazine contributing editor and comedy columnist, is the academic director of the Yiddish Book Center, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author most recently ofUnclean Lips: Obscenity, Jews, and American Culture.