Chicago Indymedia :
Chicago Indymedia

News :: [none]

account of real world action

"...The Real World's presence was an unwelcome escalation of gentrification problem. So an underground cabal of artists pulled off a little prank..."
About a week ago the Real World cast and crew arrived in Wicker Park, which displeased some current and former residents.

In the 90's Wicker Park became the most well known hip neighborhood in Chicago. Greed and popularity soon started driving out the people and places that made it interesting.

The gentrification problem is annoying for the artist and hipster class. They may come from middle class backgrounds, but they aren't wealthy now. They are, however, viewed as a sign an area is safe for real estate speculation. They have become the unwilling shock troops of expensive development, dooming any area with cheap rent.

The Real World's presence was an unwelcome escalation of gentrification problem. So an underground cabal of artists pulled off a little prank.

On Saturday someone distributed a fake flyer from Mtv, inviting everyone to a party and casting of extras for the show at 11pm. By 11:30 between 200 and 300 people filled the sidewalks and street around the building.

Half the gathering was curious or clueless, and they provided cover for the activist half. The crowd blocked traffic, and more people got into the spirit of fucking with the Real World. Drums were pounded, slogans shouted, and cast members were jeered as they came and left. At one point a huge number were chanting "WE'RE REAL, YOU'RE NOT." A few cans and bottles were thrown at the building. One cast member was pelted with paper, and a red paint bomb splattered on the entrance.

In between outbursts people milled around, confused or amused by the excitement. This was, after all, a TV show. The crowd exhibited a joyful shared animosity towards the show, though the level varied.

What was surprising was the discussion about the validity of the protest. Considering how many tipsy clubbers joined in, the quality of comments was remarkable. More interesting was people eventually expressed support.

Some called it disgusting, saying we should respect Mtv. Why? They couldn't explain. These people were cell phone toting, expensive but not particularly bright types, who drive and tip badly, disapproving of anything unusual as if they were tourists in an alien land.

The protest seemed to surprise the producers. In a way, the stupidity of their location choice is amazing. In Chicago, Wicker Park is known as the hangout of surly art types, even if rents have pushed them south and west. The Autonomous Zone, the longest lived anarchist/punk collective in Chicago, started in Wicker Park.

In addition, North Avenue is central to the area's business district. The building is less than a block from North/Milwaukee/Damen, the busiest intersection in the neighborhood. It was almost obscenely conspicuous.

Plus, the Real World building has a symbolic past. It was home to Urbis Orbis, a legendary coffee house and theater - a vast friendly space, a crossroads for art communities around the city. After helping to popularize the hood it was one of the first places to fall. It turned a profit, but landlord chased it out, dreaming of wealthier leases like the Real World.

Across the street is the Flat Iron building, which has its own bizarre controversy. Despite gentrification it is still home to many artist studios. Recently landlord Bob Berger announced he is installing cameras in the hallways, storefronts and one aimed at the building from across the street. He plans to broadcast the images 24-7 on the internet and, I'm not joking, a giant TV mounted overlooking the intersection. It sounds like an insane violation of privacy, but the laws are murky. The one person to openly protest the idea, a tenant of 11 years, was immediately evicted.

Berger claims the cameras are part of a larger scheme to fund a comedy/drama. He told the Chicago Reader, "It will actually be filmed on location with local actors. It's based on people I've met in the art world and composite characters of people at the Flat Iron." Some suspect he plans to turn his building into a permanent Real World.

Needless to say, Wicker Park already had a heightened sense of symbolic issues when the Real World turned up.

Days after the cast arrived, things took an unexpected turn. Two suspected drug dealers were shot gangland-style in the parking lot of the Burger King one street over. The driver went for help, and found the off duty cops working security at the Real World building. One guy died while car was parked out front (not unusual; Wicker Park, like any rapidly changing 'hood, has a higher crime rate than poorer, more stable, areas).

When the Sun-Times contacted Mtv for comment, the producers made a mistake. They tried to intimidate the paper into keeping story and the location quiet, threatening to cut off access to the show. It worked wonders. The story made the front page; page two gave the address and a photo of the building, plus a snide column about Mtv's behavior. It was a classic Chicago "No, Fuck YOU."

Chicago is very Midwestern, with the stereotypical middle class banality and media worship of the Real World demographic. It's also a vast urban area, more diverse and strange than most Chicagoans comprehend. It's home to Operation Push and The Nation of Islam and huge ethnic populations of all sorts. Its history is full of anarchists, labor activists and mobsters, and some famous riots. It's home to such quixotic rock icons as Steve Albini, who denounces the record industry while recording million dollar acts. The 2nd city reputation makes us pretentious about being unpretentious.

In short, Chicago may not be sophisticated, but it's smart and will mess with you. Cops never taped in Chicago, and it's clear why.

Saturday was the cast's first big night at out the clubs around the intersection. At least two cast members and camera crews milled uncertainly around the Borderline. Though the crowd was not interested in not hunting down the cast, the boys looked anxious and trapped. One, the token black guy went around the corner to a dance club. Another, a clean-cut, handsomely chisled dude, stared pensively as the crew discussed what to do. The sleek production types were exasperated. They talked about the residents as if we were yokels trespassing on a closed set.

"Welcome to Chicago." I said to the clean-cut kid.

He turned. "Thanks," he said, "you're one of the few to say that since I got here," he frowned, "if you meant it sincerely, that is."

"No," I replied, "I didn't."

He sighed, looking aged, weary and resigned to being surrounded by people who despised him just for existing.

Among the typical Saturday night throngs were Wicker Park's panhandlers. Many of them spend the summer in the park, and gather where the money is. Some of them had worked the protest. One friendly guy with all his possessions in a shopping cart received a great deal of change. The crowd was aware they couldn't ignore the homeless and protest an excess of money at the same time.

In contrast, the Real World crew was as snide and rude as the upscale bar patrons. Every time an indigent came into shot, the camera went off.

"Do you think they'll show any of the area homeless?" I asked the kid.

"I don't know. I hope so." He said.

I almost felt sorry for him. He'd sign on for a celebrity urban vacation with a corporate expense account. He didn't anticipate unwanted attention.

Perhaps this is a new Real World premise. Chicago is not the first city to hassle the show. I've heard stories of violence and threats in New Orleans. If I had been making the show for ten years, Saturday night might seem like the most interesting part.

Reality tv promises thrills of authenticity and voyeurism, but real dramatic situations are difficult to predict and capture. Outside of Cops, the shows start contrived, and get more so as cast and crew become more self-conscious. The unspoken plot is always the same: people do weird shit for the unnatural position of being on-camera.

I'd like to see the Real World, which tries hardest to appear truthful, change focus to the artifice. Instead of stories created by editing, why not show real reactions to the artificial intruders, and how the cast felt about the unreal setup.

If this is their goal, Real World Chicago is off to a rousing start. Eventually 15 police cars gathered around the building, sealing off the street.

Both sides were peaceful, except for one cop who tried to knock a girl off her bike with his car (a disgraceful display). The cops saw it was not a crisis but an oddity.

Having made their point, people began to disperse. Had the pranksters wanted a riot, they would have spread invites through nearby black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Then the cops would have come out swinging. But the Real World is not an issue worth provoking tragedy.

The protest came at exactly the right time. A prolonged anti-Real World movement seems pointless, but the initial massive display of contempt was needed. I hope it might inspire serious activism on related topics, but the Real World becomes boring as a write about it. Perhaps there will be more pranks. It was worthwhile to see how many are weary of such things. If nothing else, people will feel free to be cold to our video tourists.

I could be wrong. Chicago may be the first to chase the World out of town. That would be cool.

Before I bicycled back to the more joyful Empty Bottle, I saw a perfect moment. One cast member returned to the building. He stared at the door splattered with red and then hung his head, genuinely upset. Then, as the crowd jeered, he held the pose as the camera caught his reaction from several angles. He went inside, we played our role as the angry mob, and I left. I got to the Bottle in time to see a Hebrew rap/funk band play Policy of Truth.

"i didnt even know the show was still going because i choose not to turn on the television. lead by example you peons."

"a complete waste of time. who the fuck cares about the Real World and whether it's on prime time? just dont watch it. "

"i didnt even know the show was still going because i choose not to turn on the television. lead by example you peons."

"choose to do something positive and fun and others might become interested. if some saps want to watch the Real World, let em. "

"i didnt even know the show was still going because i choose not to turn on the television. lead by example you peons."

"but not a serious action against anything. fighting gentrification, smashing starbucks, burning suvs -- these bourgeois actions will not be remembered."

"consumer choice is freedom. invent something, set a trend and maybe you will have an impact. "

"i didnt even know the show was still going because i choose not to turn on the television. lead by example you peons." -Reacting Post, Responding to MTV's Real World Upset


Pronunciation: 'pE-"än, -&n also pA-'On for 2, British also 'pyün for 1

1 : any of various workers in India, Sri Lanka, or Malaysia: as a : INFANTRYMAN b : ORDERLY

2 [Spanish peón, from Latin pedon-, pedo] : a member of the landless laboring class in Spanish America

3 plural peons a : a person held in compulsory servitude to a master for the working out of an indebtedness b : DRUDGE, MENIAL

Peons-Chippn' Down-MTV

Who the fuck careZ atoLL when your watching DaPeel,Swirled up like a sour grape kinda like our ReaL WorLd of today, wouldchasay. Consumer Choice is freedom when the cops in Sweden are firN' weaponz sending bullets through our vitaLz, Unbridled Oakland Cops, droppn' one kid with 20 shots makn' bloody swiss cheeZ, cause Consumer choice is freedom.

Watch the Realworld & forget about DaPeeLSwirLd, cause ya:LL got all the consumer freedom of choice, called advertiZing-SuckerZ!!!!!! Ya ever wonder why ya never see a RoLLzRoyse rolln' across your TV screen. CAUZEyaCANT afford it-----SuckerZ!!!!!!

CauZe yaA11 are"sAPS" when Yer Mindz on the MTV, Its a MotivationaL Time Vaccuum, brought to you by what WaZ a complete waste of time, cauze we all rise above the tyranny called the MTV, and Destroy its RATINGz by staging Liberating Freak Fests in our Strategic Maneuverz that wiLL wreaK havoc on MTV, cauZe its all about consumer freedom of choice, when we as humanity have destroyed the MTVNetworkWrath,

cause we all eat, drink, and breath as mammeLz, its how we exist, ya see MTV are the consumn' destroyerz suckn' out our life energy, consumn' our souls, cause we breath oxygen like the dolphen, or the Seal. Its the troLLz at MTV

And the Capitalistic Fibberz, turned Humanity into ConumerzAnd the Capitalistic Fibberz, makn' a MOckery. Cause we've just "set a trend" and we're makn' an impact, sackn' the EIC, the Entertainment Industrial Complex, just so happens MTV is gettn' a whippn' with more to come so stayed tuned all you humbled peons glued to your MotivationaL Time Vaccuum. Cauze you're all being lied to when YOU WANT YOUR MTV, YOU WANT CONSUMER FREEDOM, howz that one advertising wizards in diguise. Cauze we all despise you, ya don't like us cauze we're like havn' the flu

CauZe we like leadn' by example, settn' trendz with our dog blue, like the risin' moon and seaZ of change. We can see right through ya MTV GuruZ, Cauze ya might be slick, but ya can't stop us, cauZe we're the NewKidzofZion. NKOF. Its time to shut the NetworkOff and Free us all from Mental Slavery, thanks to Bob Marley, ya may have Killed his voice, but ya cannot Kill his Spirit, cauze he Lives on. Ya'll thought this was PR Disaster, hahaha, go check out a flickWith ChrisFarley, ya ain't seen nothN' yet, cause MTV we're your worst Nitemarez. Nite-E-Nite, sleep tight dream your RatingZ game, cause the'LL be in the morn' Journal better not piss in your gurdle when ya'll get displaced, better save your face, cause ya'll

be down with us displaced peons. Take that to bank, before they get swiped.

M.C. FuZion Copyright, July 2001

You may reproduce for non-profit,

or awareness. Please contact me if you

would like to do so:

FuZion (at)




Account Login

Media Centers


This site made manifest by dadaIMC software