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In Praise of Greek

Especially at a large school such as Cornell, the issues facing the Greek system can be tough to put in perspective. The people involved think that these issues are the end-all of everything, while independents can't seem to grasp why anyone cares about sorority rush week dress codes or the required number of sober monitors for fraternity parties.

ABC Family's Greek, which ended its run this spring after four seasons, was valuable because of its ability to keep everything in perspective. Through a large cast of interesting, nuanced characters, the show demonstrated why these issues matter to the people involved, yet was careful never to take itself too seriously. (Watch the whole series on Hulu.)

Particularly, the show touched on Greek-related issues that haven't been addressed in other mediums. There was Calvin, who came out to his brothers. Rusty struggled to emerge from the shadow of his popular older sister, a sorority president, and to balance an engineering courseload with the demands of fraternity pledging. The ongoing rivalry between Cappie and Evan exposed differences in fraternity leadership styles, and differences in maturity. Rivalries between houses tore apart friendships and created unexpected new ones.

What was most refreshing about Greek was its refusal to adhere to the traditional stereotypes that often plague these kinds of programs. Rusty, a nerd, joins and matures as a brother in the biggest party house on campus. Evan, heir to a fortune, gives it all up and turns out to be the most mature character on the show. Cappie, seemingly the most immature character, possesses the maturity to know that each crisis will eventually pass.

Greek won't win many awards for writing, or acting, or scenery, or anything else. It aired on ABC Family, for God's sake. But as a fraternity president who would join some of the other brothers in our bar room every Monday night to watch the weekly drama, I was always surprised by the show's uncanny ability to illuminate some of the same controversies facing Cornell's Greek system.

Now, as an alumnus, I'm not sure whether these issues mattered as much as I thought they did at the time. Looking back, I think Greek knew this all along.

Elie Bilmes | Posted on June 11, 2011 (#)

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