Exploring Siesta Key, on MTV and in real life
For the under-34-year-old demographic in Sarasota, where one in three residents are over the age of 65, the city may not seem like much of a party spot. In the area around New College, young people are often struck with noise ordinances and 8 p.m. closing times. However, as MTV’s new reality show Siesta Key demonstrates, things might be a little bit different in the barrier island neighborhood about 15 minutes south.
Night clubs, bar hopping, boat parties – MTV captures it all right here in Sarasota in its hour long series about Siesta Key’s attractive 20-somethings having the summer of their lives. Though the city depicted on the show appears much different than the one New College students might know, a few trips to Siesta Key prove that the island is just as alluring as the show makes it out to be. There is indeed a nightclub, aptly named The Beach Club, as well as multiple bars and restaurants with a party vibe such as Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Daiquiri Deck and The Old Salty Dog. All of these places are featured on the show, as well as a few locations around Lido Key and St. Armands.
Overall, Siesta Key seems to market itself as the more laid-back, beach town neighborhood of the city. There aren’t any signs on the streets advertising it as the location of MTV’s latest show, but “Beach, please!” is written across the exterior patio of the Siesta Key location of Daiquiri Deck. The beach itself, oft-considered the best in the country, is often packed compared to those on Lido Key. You can also buy alcoholic frozen pina coladas at the beach’s facilities.
Yet, the commercial area of Siesta Key feels relatively tame, much like the rest of the city. Most of the patrons on a weekend afternoon at the establishments mentioned on the show were not millennials like on MTV, but older generations of both locals and tourists. The median age for residents of Siesta Key–63–specifically, is even higher than that of the rest of Sarasota, at 45. Only 6.8 percent of Siesta Key’s full-time residents are between the ages of 18 and 34, compared to 17.3 percent in Sarasota as a whole. Unsurprisingly, however, the median property value is much higher while the poverty rate is much lower.
This perhaps hints at what the appeal might be for MTV to film a reality show there. A significant reason for Siesta Key’s existence is the fact that the father of one of its stars, Alex Kompothecras, paid a TV production company to film a pilot episode to be sent to MTV. Alex’s father, Gary, has his own claim to fame with his legal and medical referral service, 1-800-ASK-GARY. Much of the drama of the show happens at Alex’s waterfront mansion or on one of his many boats. Class struggles are lightly mentioned, with Alex’s wealth identified as a factor for why girls might like him while some guys feel insecure around him.
The show harkens back to some of MTV’s older, overwhelmingly popular reality shows like Laguna Beach. At its crux, the show is simply about love triangles and manufactured drama. There’s no mention of politics or other serious subjects, though legal issues have plagued some of its cast members, including Alex Kompothecras, who has allegedly been seen on video dragging sharks to death behind his boat and posing in photographs with protected dead marine life while wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat. As mentioned on the show, taking a girl fishing is Alex’s repeated romantic first-move.
His romantic escapades provide ample storyline to Siesta Key, as they ultimately always end up embedded within someone else’s relationships or interests. It’s a classic case of a “He wants her, but she wants him, and he’s dating her” type of situation, made as heteroromantic as possible. Other than Alex, the show centers around a rotation of other attractive young people, such as Maddison, Chloe, or Kelsey, the narratives of whom become all but indistinguishable.
While the show is much like the glossy Laguna Beach, it’s quite unlike Jersey Shore. There’s no confessionals, and though physical fights happen, they aren’t captured on screen. Siesta Key could get away with being so out of touch were it able to maintain a compelling narrative or create a sense of likeability for its cast. Instead, the show appears as polished as possible, and about as far from reality it could be while maintaining its status as a reality show. In this way, it’s much like Sarasota as a whole–completely manicured, staged and beautiful, with any tensions of poverty, homelessness, race, or other sociopolitical issues cloistered away behind the scenes.
Information for this article was gathered at MTV.com,heraldtribune.com, and datausa.io