Where we discuss MTV's Beloved "Real-Life" Soap Opera

Mrs Filthy's Real World Report


September 29, 1998

This week: Bitch Slap! The Musical!

At last week's conclusion, Irene was hysterically tittering with a big red palm-mark on her face, Stephen was fuming, and a forlorn toy dog was floating in the grimy waters under Pier 70. Who knew that by the end of all this brouhaha, the plush toy would be the one garnering the most sympathy? As soon as the vicious blow resounds through the neighborhood, the roommates gape with surprise. Janet tells Stephen that his violent reaction was "out of line". Stephen cavalierly replies, "It's not like I assaulted her. I hit her like your mom slaps you!" Well, maybe his mom does that, my dears, but I have yet to see my Ma chase me down in my car, swing open the door, and knock me silly.

Stephen also boldly asserts, "I slapped the hell out of her, because she deserved it." You know, mes petites amis, Stephen could've avoided a lot of trouble if he just claimed to be knocking a disease-ridden tick off of Irene's face, instead of getting into this whole anger thing. But, he just didn't think!

Nathan and Janet retrieve Irene's gooey stuffed animal, because they just knew that she would want it back. Even when it smells like rotten fish heads and boat fuel? Perhaps the odor itself could be a souvenir for Irene, a reminder of all the crazy fun she had in Seattle! After all, psychologists say that smell is the sense most closely connected to memory.

The news of the slapping spreads as fast as you can say "Dish!" In a slumber party-like atmosphere, Janet and Lindsay recount the event to Dave, showing more pity for the tossed plush puppy than for the shattered psyches all around them. Initially, one gets the feeling that they're considering this story as a humorous anecdote appropriate for Reader's Digest . As soon as the girls get to the slapping part, however, Dave grows serious. It brings back all those memories of his dad beating his mom, and he storms off. "You just never hit a woman," he mutters. We don't see him pummel Stephen, though, so his anger is rather ineffectual, isn't it, luvs?

Then, in an interesting turn for "The Real World", the producer and director appear from behind the cameras. The producer and director have a Very Special Meeting with the kids and show them the tape of the offending interaction. A rare moment of meta-television worthy of Calvino, gang! As soon as the tape gets to the actual slapping, their eyebrows shoot straight up out of their youthful foreheads. Call me jaded, folks, but after seeing all sorts of shootings and beatings and so forth on teevee, how impressive can a slap in the face be? The roomies are appalled, however, much more appalled than when they were merely gossiping about the event. Dave says that Stephen is "(bleep) for doing it", and Lindsay calls Stephen an idiot. Not to his face, however.

Stephen, as soon as he sees the grave visage of the director, knows he's in deep doo-doo. He has a choice; he can either go into therapy to restrain his violent impulses, or he can receive a dishonorable discharge and go home. Oh well, it's not much of a choice, but sometimes too many choices can be just as oppressive, right?

So, now the house has to decide whether Stephen, or "the kid" as everyone suddenly calls him, will stay or go. The shock of Stephen's slap doesn't last all that long, and everyone agrees "the kid" can stay, as long as he attends anger management classes. No one wants any more slapping sprees. Dave takes it upon himself to offer an understanding shoulder, or rather an understanding chest, to the stigmatized Stephen. Stephen repeatedly jabs Dave in his understanding chest, as he blabbers an explanation of his behavior. Even with all of this rather violent body language from Stephen, Dave claims that he "has been very diplomatic lately. He doesn't want to be the enemy. He wants to make friends."

Stephen chooses some unique ways of "making friends", it turns out. He awakes one morning with a platinum pageboy wig on his head. He's "The Real World's Own Little Dutch Boy!" A girl friend had given it to him, to teach him how to laugh at himself and to teach others to laugh at him. "It's like Sir Lancelot gone African-American!" Rebecca opines. "RuPaul on Prozac!" exclaims Dave. No one can be mad at the wig, and that sentiment extends to the wearer. "The kid" almost seems out of the woods, questions of Stephen "flipping his (blond-bewigged) lid" aside.

However, those radio-industry types at "The End" just looooove dirt, so the slapping incident hasn't completely died away. Frannie and Aubbie try to contain their scandalized glee as they discuss the incident in hushed tones, but Stephen eavesdrops and hears every word. He confronts them, wigless, and asks them to stay out of his business, but Aubbie claims that his actions affect the work environment, implying that gossip is important to company morale. "No one wants to deal with you!" she says. All the pale, weakling djs are afraid of getting whupped by this angry Carol Channing lookalike!

So, Stephen is once again upset- big surprise! He crawls underneath the nearest desk and weeps. "Everything I planned for myself...It's gone now." Perhaps he should exchange his perky blonde coiffure for a Goth hairdo, eh? He mewls that he was always "the little jerk that everyone slapped around". So now, he's the big jerk that slaps everyone else and then cries about it! Congrats, Stephen! You've come a long way, baby!

Rebecca seems to be the only one in the house who misses Irene. She calls her, only to learn that The Slap "messed up all her plans in life". After hearing Irene's take on the whole situation, Rebecca doesn't look too happy that she called.

The gang belatedly consult Karen, their local Lyme Disease expert, to see whether they should've been nicer to their diseased colleague. Karen tells them that the Lyme disease bacteria can colonize the brain, causing confusion, misunderstandings, and uncharacteristically flaky behavior. Lyme Disease is rather like that earwig parasite thingy in "The Wrath of Khan", it seems. The kids respond to this news by unloading all of their dirty Irene laundry; poor Karen looks overwhelmed.

So, there's some sense of closure here. Yet, when Stephen tells his pal Jigmy that he's going through anger management therapy, and Jigmy tells him it "can't hurt", he says with astonishment, "Why does everyone say that?" Jigmy tries to backpedal and say that "anyone could use it". Not quite convincing enough, Jigmy!

To the demanding camera Stephen utters the obligatory phrases about "dealing with his actions" and "learning about himself". Is our little miserable one growing up, dears? Or, will The Mad Slapper strike again?

Number of times Dave appears shirtless: Zip.

The most annoying character? The cowering-under-the-desk scene alone was enough to indict Stephen this week. I hate to sound like a broken record,though. Hopefully, next week will bring me a fresh new irritant.

Next time: The Real World Makes People Sick!


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