Every city gets the Real World it deserves. The show finally settles in the nation's capital and like its host city, everything is especially earnest. But it's the eight strangers who really show us what this town is like.
I lived in D.C. for the better part of a decade (second Clinton and first G.W. Bush administrations) and not only know the sights and sounds of the town, but also all the types of people who live and work in this overblown suburb. D.C. is an intensely segregated town, not only in terms of race (it is almost 60% black) but also in terms of political beliefs, interest, style, sexual orientation, and just about any other special interest group you can imagine. What happens when you bring all the tribes together in one house? The same thing that happens when you place them all in a soggy swamp next to the Potomac. Here are the people that populate this world:
The Sincere Politico: The town must be rotten with these people right now, who flocked in after Obama won the election. They want to make a change and honestly believe in the political process and that they can make the world a better place. They never get the joke, in fact, they discourage all forms of humor, especially irony. After five years as a Congressional aide they will marry a lawyer and join a lobbying firm and forget all their ideals for a cozy apartment in Cleveland Park. Meet Ashley.
The Confused Homosexual: All the gays in D.C. wear polo shirts, unless they wear a military uniform or are Barney Frank, who wears a suit. Somehow being openly gay is seen as a weakness, because there are people who still think being gay is bad. Closet cases abound, and people are worried that if someone finds out that the second assistant to the under secretary of agriculture is gay that it might bring down the entire administration. They all hang out at Jr.'s and sleep with each other and feel bad about it in the morning, when they scurry off to the Hill to make sure the GOP machine runs smoothly. Actually, D.C. has a pretty decent alterna queer scene too, but of course, that is way too edgy for the mainstream and frowned upon by the HRC types. Meet Mike.
The Wonk: D.C. politics is rife with these characters, who want people to think they're so brilliant they're crazy, but they are really just quirky for quirk's sake. They are the center of a Venn diagram between strange, nerdy, and desperate that is the political flamboyant. They are usually virgins and often former Mormons. They are great at lying and will do anything to get their way, which makes them especially good at politics, however they are usually relegated to the background while someone more photogenic actually gets elected. Meet Andrew.
Sluts: They're everywhere, but from Monica Lewinsky to Washingtonienne, there is a special breed of them in the District of Corruption. They are usually from conservative backgrounds (or cults) and are rebelling against something. They think they are smarter than they really are, but they wield a lot of power because they're willing to sleep with ugly men who have good jobs and not a lot of money, which is nearly everyone in the White House. Bonus points if they are bisexual. Meet Emily.
The Conservative Transplant: They come from small Texas towns that only have a prison and a university and they think that D.C. is just southern enough that it won't be cesspool of liberalism. They are wrong. The Bush years were a boon for this type, that loves to get wasted at The Front Page. After two drinks the mere mention of Ronald Regan will have them trickling down their panties. They work for all the associations and Senators that you hate. Eventually they will get married to some rich boy with a stupid name like Chet and move back to wherever they're from and spawn in their native land. Either that or they will befriend a liberal who will open their eyes. This isn't common, but well documented. Meet Callie.
Blacks: All the cool things that are native to D.C. come from the African American population, whether it's Duke Ellington, go-go music, or half smokes (which is like a hot dog on steroids) at Ben's Chili Bowl. They are the majority here and are definitely in control of day to day operations of the city, but they are not the mainstream face of the town, which has been taken over by all the wrinkly white people who only spend eight months of the year in the legislature. While the white people of the Northwest portion of the city would like to forget they exist, you can't get anything done in town without them, which makes them vocal and powerful. Meet Ty.
Rockers: Believe it or not, some good rock 'n' roll has come out of D.C. whether it's Fugazi, Dave Grohl, Trans Am, or Dead Meadow. They talk about how cool the Black Cat used to be while going to each others' shows at the Rock and Roll Hotel and hope that one day they will land a recording contract with an indie lable. Suddenly they realize that anything having to do with entertainment in town is imported from other cultural centers like New York, Chicago, or Philly and they are forced to move to make it big. They will then return to town to try to make a scene happen, but it never does. Sorry, D.C., you will never be cool. Meet Erika.
Philly Transplants: They're boring, kind of stanky, and think that moving two hours south is going to make a world of difference in their lives. They come to town, fall in love with a rocker, forget all about life back home until they realize that their adopted home is full of itinerant white collar workers and has no soul other than the one provided by the vibrant black community. Then they move back to Philly to keep it real. Meet Josh.
Just like all the tribes of the city interact, so do the members of the house. Mike and Ashley are friends because they are both religious and uptight. They clash with Ty, who is too loud and "disrespectful" for them. Also, Ashley is afraid of conflict because she is afraid she might be proven wrong. Callie is scared of Ty, because she is not used to black men, but she is also strangely attracted to him. Emily loves Ty because he's hot and she's slutty. Though you wouldn't think it Ty and Andrew respect that they have to share the same space for a period of time. It is a begrudging friendship because Andrew is really a racist and Ty thinks he is the man trying to keep him down. Erika and Josh might as well go ahead and fuck because it if it doesn't happen in the house it will happen in the bathroom at Wonderland. Of course Andrew loves Emily because a slut is his surest way of getting laid and eventually she will relent, panda hat be damned!
In politics, nothing ever really happens, and it is the same on this show. It is more important that people see you talking about things and trying to make things happen than for any real change to be made. Such is the case when all the tribes gather round at Buca di Beppo—because if you want to go out to eat (or shop or anything, really) in town then it's going to have to be at a chain restaurant. There they fight about religion, and they're not even seated in the Pope Room.
No one is going to change anyone else's minds, but it's important that they argue and try to persuade each other. It's the discussion that matters, not the result. It's sort of like a limp penis slamming repeatedly into a vagina. No real penetration will be made, but the proximity makes it seem like there is actual intercourse, even though what is really taking place is just assault veiled as romance.
After that, the tribes mend their wounds and solidify their allegiances to one another. It's going to be a long few months while they are forced to share the space. Eventually there will be a huge, long-seething altercation, or they will all just move out.