Humiliation, STDs and death – the dangers of reality TV

Revelations from an alleged MTV contract given to stars of The Real World

Participants on America’s original reality TV show could be signing away their lives – literally.


New York’s free weekly newspaper The Village Voice has obtained a copy of what it claims is an unsigned participant’s contract, according to which, not only are the cast of The Real World required to grant producers blanket rights to their entire life stories, they also formally accept the risk of mishaps ranging from STDs to death.

Asked whether the contract was genuine, MTV declined to comment but, if it is, its content could come as a shock to even the most cynical observer.

As well as claiming that producers are granted the rights to participants’ life stories, school records, government forms and credit histories, the contract suggests MTV are allowed to “humiliate” cast members and portray them “in a false light”.

According to the contract, privacy is practically non-existent. Emails may be monitored during the show and the production crew can visit participants’ homes at any time to conduct filming or remove belongings, as long as they return the objects once production has ended.

Meanwhile, personal safety seems to have been placed very much in the stars’ own hands. Producers are apparently under no obligation to conduct background checks on other cast members, and participants are warned they could be put through “strenuous and/or dangerous and/or mental activity” which could result in “serious physical injury, extreme emotional stress” and even death.

They’d be well advised to think twice before embarking on trysts with fellow cast members, too. According to the contract, participants are told to accept that others might have STDs but warned that MTV is not responsible should they contract AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases during filming (including “gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, pelvic inflammatory disease, chlamydia, scabies, hepatitis, genital warts”).


First broadcast in 1992, The Real World is MTV’s longest-running TV series and is widely credited with having launched the reality TV genre.