After 29 seasons and counting, The Real World (which was eliminated from the Reality Rumble in today’s semifinals), is one of the most influential reality shows ever. And with its valiant exit, we celebrate its most defining legacy: the Annoying Cast Member. Like scripted shows, reality needs drama, and shrewd casting can make sure that every show or competition has at least one explosive, irrational force around to make sure complacency and boredom can never set root. To make the list of The Real World’s most annoying housemates ever, the candidate had to have first appeared on that iconic show, even if his or her worst behavior didn’t flower until a Challenge. And note that I am not a monster: In rewatching past seasons as an older, more compassionate Real World expert, I understand that some of these oft-scorned villains (a) were just drunk, young, and dumb, and likely have grown out of it, or (b) may well have legitimate psychological issues stemming from childhood or past traumas, and needed therapy more than a slap in the head. That said, many of the others just are what they are, and are likely still out there, driving people nuts off-camera. But whether they had excuses or not, the following 18 MVP former housemates distinguished themselves by creating chaos, agony, or just teeth-grinding irritation in the most spectacular way.
The lazy version of Miami’s Flora, she sulks when she’s not made manager of the cast’s Mystic Tan outpost ( … I know), snitting that she’s a successful businessperson (at 19, having worked at her parents’$2 3-D imaging center), and literally stomps her feet during an argument. Looking back, it feels like she got picked on excessively by snobby house besties Tyler and Janelle, but Svet’s pouting and “embellishing” of her experience(s) had an exhausting cumulative effect that makes the “burn book” Tyler made about her more understandable, if not exactly sympathetic.
Jessica is a Real World type: the sheltered but otherwise inoffensive princess who’s used to being the center of the group back home, where her opinions are never challenged. So she can’t cope when, having moved to a new home filled with super-strong personalities, she’s demoted to the middle of the pack by those who think she’s full of crap (or just don’t care what she’s up to). Dismissed as a crying-prone creampuff by some of her roomies, she blew up her budding romance with Tyler by getting way too serious way too fast (keeping bazillions of pictures of him next to her bed), then very pointedly went to a mall to shop for a virginity ring after they split up; all pretty much what you’d expect from the kind of girl who printed out her poetry and handed it around to roommates. You can’t really call her a drama queen, because she’s not quite interesting enough, but she’s easily offended, somewhat socially maladroit, in possession of a painful whine, and she Pucked the peanut butter, sticking her fingers in it before putting it away.
Frankie, a 23-year-old goth who suffered from cystic fibrosis, died of complications of her disease a couple of years after her RW season aired, and her passing makes calling her annoying feel heartless. But we can’t deny the facts: She was a disruptive force from the season premiere, which you can say about any number of people who are no longer with us — many of them blood relatives of mine. So, with the understanding that Frankie would no doubt have matured given time she was tragically denied, let us also remember that she: was deathly afraid of boats (the housemates’ mandatory job that season? Crew members on a boat); messed around on her boyfriend; cockblocked Robin as she avidly pursued roommate Randy; and brought a python into the house as a pet. (Pythons: In the list of “Look at me, I’m interesting!” pets, they’re No. 1, just edging out giant lizards who sit on your shoulder.) Frankie eventually quit (after multiple threats) with the parting line, “I’m too punk rock for this,” a statement that would be eye-rolling even if it weren’t demonstrably untrue. Living with a life-threatening disease certainly could explain her behavior, but to keep her off this list would be to apply the soft bigotry of grief.
I initially remembered Ayiiia as the most chafing of the RW: Cancun bunch, with her intoxicated fight-picking (which irritated even the super-mellow CJ), and the “seeking” bisexuality that came off juuuust a bit calculated to maximize her screen time. But upon rewatching, the real dick of the group proved to be lip-ringed “musician” Joey, who got kicked off the show for repeated screw-ups at the house job (working as camp counselors for spring-break groups — and he would have quit minutes later anyway, given his apparent resentment of the fact that jobs tend to require work). His attempts to get Ayiiia to leave the house by harassing her about her self-harm problem, drawing daggers on the communal chalkboard and asking her to borrow a knife, are what really locks down his title of Head Asshole in Charge of Season 22.
She vaulted onto this list for one main reason. No, not her lockjaw way of speaking. Or her look-at-me toplessness. Or her hypocritical and childish refusal to speak to Amaya because Amaya talked about housemates behind their backs. (On a show with a confessional booth for exactly that purpose. Lord, these people.) No, what sends her into the upper echelon is “Blue,” the poem she recited to condescending busybody Matt in one of the most intensely uncomfortable viewing experiences in Real World history: The poem is terrible even if you don’t know the players involved, but when you realize that it’s about that clown, and includes a loving reference to his ubiquitous green shirt, it’s really unbearable. (“I never imagined not to look but to find / The ever expanding lust for your touch. / A bright green terry cloth shirt / Brightening the room again and again and again.” She ain’t kidding with “again and again and again.” He has it on in every episode. Dreadful.) Kaia’s breed of post-hippie self-regard usually dies off by age 30, and I can’t imagine she doesn’t cringe at that “verse” nowadays, but between thinking that that full-of-himself prat is beguiling and treating Amaya like a lax employee, she’s got to go on the list.
Beth’s bad personality stemmed primarily from her fraught relationship with her mother, who was too busy with her Voice of Polish Radio career in Cleveland to care much about Beth’s goings-on. And so it’s somewhat pitiable, but only somewhat, that while she created plenty of drama herself (bringing her unauthorized pet cat to the house; quite possibly hurling herself off a scooter in Mexico to get attention), she flung herself at the dust-ups she didn’t create like a grappling hook: During David’s infamous yanking the blanket off of the near-naked Tami, it was Beth who, seemingly moments after laughing and egging on the proceedings, started mentioning rape and that if it were her, she would press charges. David got the boot after the incident, while Beth stuck around long after the season ended: She’s appeared on seven iterations of The Challenge (winning a piddling total of $2,206), and has been loathed (sometimes to the point of quitting) on every one. Her combination of lecturing, climbing, and disingenuous Jimmy McNulty–esque “What did I do?” face-pulling would be impressive if they weren’t so damn irritating.
Erika had some tough D.C. competition in the drama-queen department (Ashley started 90 percent of their arguments) as well as the attention-whore department (Andrew’s panda hat: Spare me from Real Worlders who come into the house with a thing). But Erika elevated herself by claiming an allergy to ants; ignoring her own triggering of Ashley’s anxiety by continuing to talk about her own depression; whining that nobody wanted to go shopping with her; and being a tone-deaf, passive-aggressive crybaby until mercifully leaving the show in episode twelve, taking her goofy headbands with her. How negative was Erika’s energy? Mike advised her to visit the Holocaust memorial to get some perspective. Even the boyfriend she left the show for looked exhausted by her constant sniveling.
Much like another famous Tonya who never quite figured out how she was perceived, Tonya was usually at the center of dramas of her own making, disapproving of Chris’s sexuality (calling the gay “lifestyle” “full of drugs and a lot of sin”), hogging the phone, throwing glasses during arguments, and calling in sick to work to have sex with her boyfriend. Her unceasing complaints about being broke seemed at odds with her expensive breast implants, irritating her housemates further. But this was only a trial run for the full-blown bizarro behavior she’d later flaunt in various Challenges. She refused to participate in a challenge involving nudity (note: she later posed for Playboy), hurled Beth S.’s belongings into the pool (can’t really blame her, but don’t fan Beth’s drama flames, lady), and was generally a mess whose insecure paranoia was only fueled by the free-flowing alcohol for which Challenges are known. Tonya’s unhealthy relationship with the Challenge ended in 2009 when she was kicked off the show’s “Ruins” season for slapping Veronica (hard to count that against her: if Veronica were a Real World alum, she’d easily make this list). However, two years later, Tonya sued Bunim/Murray and two male contestants from that season, charging that producers looked the other way when she was sexually assaulted by those players while passed out drunk the day before the slap. (The suit was settled a year later.) While she desperately needed to break her unhealthy addiction to this show, it was sad that that’s the unhealthy way it finally ended.
More fratty than jerky on his Real World season, Wes didn’t reach his full irritating potential until The Duel season of the Challenge, which showcased his arrogance to its fullest. Nothing makes for a riper Real World ass than self-seriously blathering on and on about honor and loyalty to the alliance you’re so proud of building and enforcing — on one of the most contrived reality competitions in existence. This while being verbally abusive to underperforming teammates (like Fresh Meat 2’s Mandi) and bragging that he owns a Beemer, a monster truck, and “30 companies.”
I understand that some might be confused by the aforementioned Matt (see: Kaia) making this list, let alone ranking this high; however, if you are one of the discerning few, like me, whose visceral reaction to his name is something along the lines of “arrrrrghhhh,” then you are likely applauding this placement. He wasn’t violent or loud, didn’t do anything “get kicked out of the house”–worthy, and in fact probably sincerely believed he was helping his roommates by, say: always speaking in withering tones to the hapless Amaya so she would grow a backbone; or comforting Ruthie’s twin sister about her sibling’s alcoholism, and hitting on her at the same time. Smug and self-righteous, he loved to insert himself into intra-house beefs and then report back to each side, thus blowing it up into a BFD so he could then give advice on the matter. (And that revolting green, omnipresent terrycloth shirt! I hate a world in which the only person on the show who commented on it did so not to suggest he burn it, but to honor it in poetry! Damn you, Kaia; you ruin everything that Matt doesn’t!) For Matt to stand head and shoulders above not just Kaia but the rest of Hawaii’s hell house (including shit-stirrer and eventual quitter Justin; cheesy Tek “Money,” who greeted Justin with a bellowed “Are ya gay? Are ya gay?”; clingy Amaya and the object of her Velcro, the oft-shirtless Colin) is really something. I considered nominating the Hawaii season en masse for Biggest Jerk Collective. Why didn’t I? (1) In spite of the drunk-driving while on The Real World, Ruthie turned out to be reasonably cool on Challenges, and (2) Matt is the worst.