Secrets of “The Real World” Cast Contracts

When I was in high school, I remember watching MTV’s “The Real World”, and wondering how long MTV had the cast under contract. Since they all seemed to appear with regularity on various MTV reality shows, I assumed it was because it was a requirement, and not because they truly loved being on MTV. As it turns out, the Village Voice managed to get an actual “Real World” contract, and the terms are, to say the least, eyebrow-raising.

A few choice excerpts [note that the BOLD is from the Village Voice, and the italics are my interpretation]:

  •  Producers are under no obligation to conduct background checks on your fellow cast members. (7)
So don’t be mad or surprised when we cast a few sociopaths to lighten the mood.
  • If you contract AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases while filming [“gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Chlamydia, scabies (crabs),’hepatitis, genital warts, and other communicable and sexually transmitted diseases or Pregnancy; etc”], MTV is not responsible. (7)
Good luck paying for that Valtrex by yourself! Hope you’re still on your parents’ health insurance!
  • You authorize the Producer to have total access to your school records, government forms, your credit history. (19)
We won’t check up on anyone else, but we’ll definitely dig up dirt on you!
  • You’re obligated to participate in a Reunion Special for up to five years after the show ends, you’ll be paid $2500 for your involvement, and the Producer only has to give you 14 days notice. (50c)
We own you. Don’t make any long-term plans, we might need you as filler in between episodes of “Teen Mom”.
And the kicker, the one thing that if I saw it in a contract I’d probably run screaming from any negotiations:
  •  Interacting with other cast members carries the risk of “non-consensual physical contact” and should you contract AIDS, etc. during such an interaction, MTV is not responsible. (7)
We have no regard for your well-being unless it brings us ratings. Ratings trump safety! Don’t like it? We’ve got plenty of warm bodies to fill your spot.
Seriously…go back and read that last bullet point again. Cast members on “The Real World” sign away their right to their own bodies. At first I read “risk of non-consensual physical contact” to mean “Your roommate might smack you for drama”. But being slapped doesn’t give you AIDS. MTV has people signing an agreement that says if there is non-consensual assault that ends in an exchange of bodily fluids, it’s your own fault for going on the show. That’s horrifying. And I know it’s not the policy for all reality shows, since a contestant was famously thrown off Top Chef for assaulting another cast member. So this is something special MTV inserted.
Just knowing this was in the contracts signed by “The Real World” cast members makes me regret that I watched it, and while I haven’t turned on MTV willingly in years, I’m certainly not going to do so after learning about that clause. No one, no matter how desperate for fame and fortune, should ever be put in a position to sign away the rights to their own body and safety.
Did anything strike you as shocking or crazy in the Real World contracts? Were you as shocked as I was by the non-consensual clause? Sound off below!

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