When seven strangers agree to live in a house together and "start getting real," what exactly are they signing up for? The Village Voice obtained a copy of the 30-page Real World contract that participants must sign before they can appear on MTV's long-running reality series. Here, a sampling of the contract's "insane" stipulations:
1. You may die, and it's not MTV's fault
First things first: Participants must acknowledge that they "may die, lose limbs, and suffer nervous breakdowns" from their involvement in the show. While that clause "may seem outlandish," says Tracie Egan Morrissey at Jezebel, it's included for "good reason." One contestant did almost die in 2010, when his roommate pushed him off a Washington, D.C., balcony and he landed on a concrete slab. And, as any fan knows, violent meltdowns are par for the course with this show.
2. Enter at your own risk
MTV does not conduct background checks on any roommates. In other words, says Morrissey, you could be "living with a violent criminal." The network claims no responsibility for "non-consensual physical contact," so if a cast member is raped or assaulted while living in the house, "it's really on you."
3. The numerous STD clauses
MTV's list of policies when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases is "hilarious in its specificity," says Sean O'Neal at The A.V. Club. To begin with, cast members must pledge to be free of all STDs — but acknowledge that any of their roommates may be carrying one. The contract then goes on to list all of the possible communicable diseases — including AIDS, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, and scabies — that a roommate may contract in the house. To which Annie Barrett at Entertainment Weekly says, "Why don't you just test them?"
4. You can't get pregnant
Casual sex is a Real World mainstay, something that MTV promotes heavily in its advertising. But pregnancy as a result of that casual sex? Not allowed. The contract states that if a cast member becomes pregnant, producers have the right to terminate her from the program. "Unless you are 16 and pregnant," jokes Barrett, "MTV will be unable to market you."
5. MTV controls your "life story"
Producers of the show have access to your email, phone calls, school records, credit history, and personal homes, things the contract admits would normally be considered a "serious" invasion of privacy, says Camille Dodero at The Village Voice. There's also a clause that basically states, says Barrett, "we're gonna make up stuff about you." The contract says that MTV is allowed to portray cast members with any "liberties and modification" to their life stories that producers deem "necessary or desirable" to the narrative of the show — including "fictionalization" and "dramatization." Participants also grant producers the right to use actors to re-create or stage parts of a roommate's narrative on the show.
6. MTV owns you
After filming is complete, cast members must obtain written permission to grant any interviews or engage with any other media, including blogs and chat rooms. Former roommates are required to participate in Real World reunion specials for up to five years following the conclusion of their season on the show, and must also participate in "book and home video projects." Failure to oblige could result in a $1 million fine.