Friday, January 9, 2009

The Stars of Real World: Brooklyn

Ryan Conklin Real WorldIn the 21st incarnation of The Real World, the first episode showed that eight, not seven, roommates would be moving into the "house" in the host borough of Brooklyn. However, even from the very first minutes, it was was clear that the season would actually be about the two leads, Ryan Conklin and Katelynn Cusanelli, and one supporting character, Chet Cannon. Then there are five extras that appear in order to support the understanding of the main characters and to provide various meaningless subplots.

Between the two leads, the top billing would have to go to Ryan. He says, when we are first introduced to him, that "I like to think I can figure anyone out in the first five minutes of knowing them. Guaranteed." Well, what makes him the lead, and the most interesting character (of this season and maybe any other), is that you can't figure him out in five minutes. There's clearly a lot to him and it's going to take a full season to get a grasp on who this engaging person really is.

Ryan Conklin Real World BrooklynRyan is humorous and lighthearted, but also bright and very articulate. He likes to analyze his roommates and from that he is able to make accurate discoveries of who they are before the others do. (Analyzing personalities makes him a man of my own heart so I got to love that.)

Some of the things he figures out is that Katelynn is transgendered and that roommate J.D. Ordonez is gay. Ryan is not aware of any gay or transgendered people in his hometown of Gettysburg, so he is deeply interested in learning more about LGBT people. (Note to the gay people of Gettysburg: your assignment is to go introduce yourself to Ryan. Maybe not all at once but perhaps a dozen or so at a time.)

What the other roommates didn't discover about Ryan until he told them was that he spent over three years in the Army, including a year in Iraq. He didn't divulge it right away because he didn't want the other cast members to prejudge him as a "military goon" or a veteran that "has problems." But after awhile he let them know that he had joined the Army when he was 17, having been inspired by the events of 9/11. So from this the viewer can see that in addition to the other traits mentioned, he is also idealistic and patriotic, although he tempers it with rationality and realism as he didn't always agree with the conduct of the war.

Ryan Conklin Real World BrooklynDespite the maturity needed to go off and fight, it's clear that Ryan is still a kid at heart. One wonders, how does a kid handle that kind of experience, that kind of responsibility? You would think it would have to have some kind of lingering effect. Ryan stated he is able to transition from Iraq to being home like turning off a light switch and that his miracle cure is to push the thoughts out of his mind and onto paper in a 300 page manuscript that he has written about his time in Iraq. Hopefully things are as smooth as he says they are, but if not, it will be compelling to find out what more Ryan has to relate about his time in the military.

For his goal on what he what's to accomplish during his time in Brooklyn, Ryan decided he wants to pursue recording songs that he has written. At Chet's prompting, Ryan sang a song about Iraq, which actually was pretty nice, although the vocals were rough enough to warrant a vocal coach. The lyrics were good in that song, but maybe not so good in some other songs he has written. He should probably consider a good lyricist partner.

Ryan's best trait: the expressiveness in his face. You can tell exactly what he's feeling in a given situation without waiting for a later confessional to explain it.

Chet CannonRyan's roommate in the "Grand Army" bedroom is Chet, who Ryan sang the Iraq song to while sitting together in a decorative boat. Chet appreciates Ryan and his talents and tells Ryan in typical straight boy banter, "I could sail away with you any day." (Ryan, ditto!!)

There was a little confusion about Chet's orientation at first. There were several unusual things about Chet that made people, including Ryan, think that he was gay, but come to find out he was just Mormon.

Chet himself can't tell who actually is gay. He didn't realize JD Ordonez was gay (maybe because compared to Chet's own flamboyancy, everyone else appears straight as an arrow.) Speaking of appearances, seeing J.D. wearing a deep V-neck shirt made me realize that he and I are getting off on the wrong foot. J.D. is one of the gay men in this country that still hasn't gotten the memo on how retarded it looks. Men do not look good with a plunging neckline and unless you have moobs, there is nothing to reveal with it, not that you would want to.

J.D. OrdonezWhat J.D. should stick with is a wetsuit like he uses as a dolphin and whale trainer. I get a little wet in my suit when I see a muscular little guy in such a tight fitting body outfit.

J.D. takes a special interest in Katelynn because he realizes that she is transgendered and so he sees them both as being different than the other members of the cast. Actually the commonality is how bad they dress, but that wasn't how J.D. saw it.

Ryan was the first to say aloud that he believed Katelynn was transgendered. I don't think I would have known. I only look for the adam's apple and since she had hers fixed, I think I would be thinking she was always female. Maybe once in a certain light and with a certain facial expression I could see a hint of boyishness. Ryan was looking much harder, looking for Katelynn's genitals, but Chet called him out for it. As mentioned before, Ryan's an inquisitive fellow.

Ryan conklinJ.D. decided that he wanted to take Katelynn to dinner to get her to come out to him. This displeased Ryan as he was very interested in knowing Katelynn and JD better and he really would have liked to have gone to dinner with them. In telling J.D. that he wasn't happy that the two of them were going by themselves, Ryan at least got J.D. to acknowledge that J.D. is gay. In the dailies, Ryan also asks JD if JD is attracted to him. JD says no, although you don't know if he was just saying that because he thought that would be best. I thought about what I would say if I had been asked such a thing by Ryan. I think I would say, "If you mean, do I want to have your love child, yes, but since I obviously can't, we should both just forget about trying."

Ryan counseled J.D. not to talk to Katelynn about the transgender issue until she was ready, but J.D. felt he knew best. I agree with Ryan that people shouldn't pry into other people's business. Here I quote from's article by Japhy Grant ("Gayest. Real World. Ever."), which expressed very well my own view. "You can tell J.D.'s spent a lot of time in therapy, as he has the lingo down pat and, frankly, in the first episode he comes off as kind of a prick. From the get-go he realizes Katelynn is transgendered (because he you know, has eyes) and decides that what he needs to do is take her out to dinner and make her come out to him. We can see why the Coop no longer dates a guy whose first impulse when he meets someone is to get them to divulge their personal secrets, but whatever."