Hot Tubs, Hook-Ups, Reality TV: 'Real World' Legacies

The On-Screen Hook-Up

Along with hot tubs, "The Real World" ushered in what's become a staple of any reality show: the on-screen hook-up. Every season, it's a requisite step of settling down in the "Real World" house -- put down bag, choose bed, pick cast mate to roll around in said bed with.

"There are so many hook-ups on that show," Nordyke said. "They pick handsome or pretty people who are going to be attracted to each other. Steven and Trishelle in Vegas, making out every five minutes. … It's fun to watch that stuff as a viewer."

Murray denied that he casts people specifically to create sexual tension. He did say that he has noticed a shift in what cast members are willing to do on camera.

"We have seen that young people have changed. Young people are much more comfortable being sexual in front of the camera than they were in 1992," he said.

Moving Gays Into Mainstream TV

During Season 3, nearly everyone, including President Clinton, was talking about Pedro Zamora, the openly gay San Francisco housemate battling AIDS who died just after the final episode aired.

The thoughtful, well-liked AIDS educator, who championed safe sex and married his partner, showed American audiences a ground-breaking positive image of a gay man.

"I mean in 1993, a Cuban-American HIV-positive person having a commitment ceremony to a black HIV-positive person -- that was revolutionary," said Murray.

Moreover, he broke open the closet for gays on television and ushered them into the mainstream.

"He paved the way for openly gay reality stars," Village Voice columnist and critic Michael Musto told Think Reichen Lehmkuhl, winner of the "Amazing Race" and former boyfriend of N' Synch's Lance Bass, or Richard Hatch, winner of the first "Survivor."

Zamora also primed prime-time for gay characters. Three years after his appearance on "Real World," Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and her character on "Ellen" followed suit. The year after that, "Will & Grace," about a gay lawyer and his straight best friend, became a hit.

Said Musto: "The whole trajectory dates back to Pedro and his bravery."

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