I have moderately liked the television show GRΣΣK since it premiered last year on the ABC Family channel, but I sort of watched it on and off and never really paid much attention to the overall message of the show. The other day I realized I could download the pilot (which I’d never seen) on iTunes for free, so I did, because I like free stuff, and I think Scott Foster is very cute.
It sort of surprises me how much I like the show given that I find most of the characters pretty annoying. I like Cappie (Scott Foster) and Calvin (Paul James)–although he doesn’t get a whole helluva lot to do besides be gay, which is not a story line, but now that his brothers know maybe he’ll get a new arc or something–and Rusty (Jacob Zachar)–I especially love how his character is supposed to be from Chicago and actually has a hardcore Chicago accent, although his sister Casey (Spencer Grammer) doesn’t, but that seems to fit with her personality, as you can drop those flat “A”s in a nanosecond if you want to. And, um, that’s it. I can tolerate Evan (Jack McDorman) on occasion, but usually only in his capacity as Omega Chi Delta’s president, not as Casey’s cheating boyfriend. And the Kappa Tau Gamma brothers are pretty funny on the whole.
So…basically, I dislike all the female characters, with the exception of Jen K. (Jessica Rose, also known as Lonelygirl15), who probs won’t be on the show anymore now that she’s no longer a Zeta Beta Zeta and Rusty dumped her. I find Casey difficult because I want to like her but she’s just too bland. Also, I wish she believed in Zeta Beta a little bit more. I think we’re supposed to think she cares about her sorority, but (a) she treats her service to Zeta Beta like a prestigious job that she doesn’t much like and (b) she never hangs out with anybody else in the sorority besides Ashleigh (Amber Stevens). She treats the Zeta Betas more like her stepchildren than her sisters, and is this any better than evil ex-pres Frannie (Tiffany Dupont), who used her sorority prestige to her advantage but was at least incredibly invested in keeping the chapter afloat, if not honestly? Don’t even get me started on boringly supportive Ashleigh or boringly bitchy Rebecca (Dilshad Vadsaria).
One of the biggest problems with the show is that it doesn’t seem very committed to dispelling Greek stereotypes, or setting up an at least quasi-realistic situation to explore. In the pilot alone, there was a complete faux-dressing down of Ashleigh in front of the whole sorority during recruitment practice to illustrate how to judge a girl simply by her appearance (a small stain on her theory shirt “means she’s sloppy”, her Prada shoes are this season and fabulous but a size too big which means they were borrowed which means she’s probably poor or has terrible taste, etc.) and Casey gave Ashleigh shit about eating chips before recruitment and Ashleigh immediately excused herself to go to the restroom (to purge, I don’t think I need to point out). Actually, the show’s big problem is the way it portrays Greek women–they’re either uptight shrews (Casey), complete doormats (Ashleigh), or bitchy sluts (Rebecca and Frannie). Only Jen K. had any semblance of agency, and she’s not even Greek anymore! Or on the show. And she was always secretly a newspaper spy bent on infiltrating the Greek system anyway, so she doesn’t exactly count. I miss Jen K.
Also, some small, niggling points–it’s recruitment, NOT rush. Yes, we often called it “rush” within the sorority informally, but our officers would never call it “rush” when addressing the entire sorority formally, or when addressing anyone outside the sorority, especially PNMs. All the show’s depiction of recruitment is off, actually. They’re not “rushies”, they’re “potential new members” (PNMs for short)–we never said rushies, not even to each other outside the context of recruitment–and they’re not “pledges”, they’re “new members”. And there are usually about a million alums scattered around throughout recruitment making sure you don’t call them anything else. People really don’t get how structured Greek life is. There is a ritual for everything, and about a million rules. Recruitment is HARDCORE. Practices are brutally boring and go really late into the night. They’re repetitive and orchestrated and usually outside, which if your school does delayed recruitment (winter recruitment, which my school did while I was attending but doesn’t anymore, as opposed to fall recruitment) can be pretty horrible. It’s not glamorous. We always used to show up in our pajamas or jeans and sweatshirts. If you’re going to be in a house that’s not yours practicing cheers and ABBA songs some of your sisters rewrote to brag about your chapter for six hours at a go, you’ve got to be comfortable. I would really like to see someone on GRΣΣK write a Zeta Beta Zeta song out of, like, “Thriller” or something. That’d be funny.
There are some ways that GRΣΣK is spot-on, though. There was an episode last season where the Zeta Betas ended up having to beef up their philanthropy hours, so Casey approached Dale (Clark Duke), Rusty’s conservative Christian roommate, about possibly working at his…Bible camp? Church? I’m not quite sure I remember. Anyway, Dale’s like, “Well, we could really use people to volunteer to help clean up/mop the floors/play with the kids” or something and Casey was like “…um, we were thinking more like a talent show? To raise money.” Which is SO TRUE! I almost died. Sororities do a LOT for their chosen philanthropies, but when it comes down to actual philanthropy events they’d rather raise money doing some kind of show, competition, etc. than actually volunteer. My friend Kim is a Greek adviser at a university in Southern California and I pointed this out to her and she agreed, which is how you know it’s true because Kim holds no truck with Greek stereotypes/misinformation. And how, after Jen K.’s blistering expose of the Cyprus-Rhodes Greek system ran, Zeta Beta’s national organization sent a consultant…well, that happens, too, especially when it comes to the bigger national organizations. It’s also true that women’s fraternities and sororities have a lot more oversight than men’s fraternities, which is why you never have any consultants just showing up on Kappa Tau’s doorstep (even though they could probably use some reigning in) and nobody’s threatening to pull their charter, but Lizzie (Senta Moses), the Zeta Beta chapter consultant, is around all the friggin’ time, ruining their funs.
Other things I love about GRΣΣK: The fact that it’s on the ABC Family channel but they still say things like “douchebag” and there’s a lot of sex and sex talk and underage drinking. You’d think that a channel that has the word “family” in its name would scrub a lot of this stuff out, but they don’t, and that’s fantastic. Because otherwise it would just be the stupidest show ever, in the “college kids don’t behave this way” sort of way. Although I do find it hard to believe that Rusty can just walk into a bar and order a beer. He looks twelve. Even a college-area bar (or maybe especially, depending on where you go to school) wouldn’t serve him without seeing some very convincing ID.
But here’s the thing: I wish Cappie and Casey had more chemistry. I like him a lot and I want his character to be happy because I’m a sucker like that, but it’s not super ferocia coutura up in that piece, you know? I would be on-board with him having another legitimate love interest, as long as they had a lot of chemistry and she wasn’t freakin’ Rebecca Logan who I despise. Maybe she could be in another sorority! Because right now it’s like Zeta Beta against the world, torn between two rival fraternities, and that’s…stupid. Very Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive Oyl, you know? And it’s not Kappa Tao. It’s Kappa Tau. Pronounced sort of like “tah”, or more like “taw”. This is very annoying, since they say it about a frillion times in every episode.
Great quote from last night’s episode:
Rusty [talking about how everybody in his pledge class (we do say “pledge class” more than “new member class”, I must admit) hates him]: “I feel like we’re in a boy band…and I’m the fat one.”
Casey: “That’s Fatone.”
Also, great quote from Cambria on last night’s episode, after I blathered on about how the show gets some things about Greek like wrong:
“Hm, yes, it is shocking that there are some inconsistencies in this television show. But not that girl [Lizzie]. There’s one of those in every house.”