“This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”
Those words have forever ushered in MTV’s “real” drama-filled saga, The Real World. The Real World has long been known for its token cast members: in an all-white, heterosexual cast, MTV would often cast one or two people of color and/or from the LGBTQ community, ostensibly to heighten tensions and increase ratings.
Season 19 of the Real World saga, set in Sydney, Australia, offered viewers a new entrée to salivate over: “the Muslim woman.” Parisa, an American-Iranian woman, was the first Muslim to appear on The Real World. She was the only person of color that season, and replaced both the token gay and black cast members. I guess they thought one Muslim woman was enough to conjure up the drama the other two token characters promised.
“Maybe they felt like throwing a brown Muslim girl into the vanilla pot would liven it up a little, but honestly, I feel like this is MTV’s as-per-usual approach to diversity: do something controversial, put the people (or person, in this case) of color in an awkward position that makes them react in an outrageous, albeit usually justified, way, then sit back and watch the ratings go up.”
The show had not aired at this point, but Wendi’s predictions were right. The season’s most memorable moment was when fellow cast member Trisha pushed Parisa in a fit of rage. Drama had been brewing between the two cast members since the first episode, and eventually led to Trisha’s horrifying outburst.