Greek, the series

 Shows Greek Images Assets CupApparently there is a new soap opera running on ABC Family called Greek, which “focuses on the social minefield that is the Greek system. Viewers will see this unique cast of characters navigate their way through this treacherous terrain as they try to find their place at Cyprus-Rhodes University”. Evidently this heart-warming tale of personal exploration is best illustrated by the signature photo (seen at left) used on the show’s web site, which shows five cast members — two of whom seem to be wearing little or no clothes — immersed in a giant glass of beer.
Here’s the synopsis for Episode 3:

It’s mating season and no one seems to be having a good time. Rusty has to come up with a date for a Kappa Tau party but since just talking to a girl turns him into a blithering idiot, it’s going to be hard to convince someone he’s appealing. So he turns to Casey for help.

But Casey has problems of her own. Unable to forgive Evan for his fling with Rebecca, she sidesteps his advances at every turn. Frannie tells Casey she’s got to get it on with Evan for the good of the sorority while Ashleigh warns Evan to keep his hands off Casey and give her some space. Suddenly, world are colliding.

Meanwhile, Casey tries to help Rusty find a date by turning him into a mini-Evan. That’s when Cappie steps in. He takes Rusty to the Cappie School of Charm, where Rusty flunks every class. Desperate, Cappie fixes Rusty up with the easiest girl on campus—Lisa Lawson—also known as the girl Rusty spit up on.

She’s the forgiving type and finds Rusty kind of cute. Or she’s desperate too. Either way, when Casey finds out, she goes ballistic and runs out on Evan to save her baby brother. Who has had no trouble saving himself…for love, for honor, for another day? Or maybe Dale’s prayers on have worked.
In the end, Rusty goes to bed alone and Casey and Evan go to bed…to cuddle, make-up and become the perfect couple once more.

This is on ABC Family?

Rusty, by the way, is an engineering student who “after wasting his formative years playing it safe, is choosing to make college all about fun by pledging a fraternity. But as much as he hopes to fit in, Athens wasn’t built in a day. A geek to his core, the inexperienced Rusty will always be handicapped by his naiveté. That’s good when it comes to moral choices, bad when it comes to just about anything else.” His engineering classmate Dale is the miserable-looking geek sitting to the lower-left of the giant beer glass — the only one not physically connected to the beer and hence to the fun.

Just so we’re clear on this: Intelligence and academic skill — especially in science or math — and the ability to make good moral choices are DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED TO FUN AND SOCIAL INCLUSION. Got it?

Look, I realize this is a soap opera (or “dramedy”) and such shows aren’t known for how well they conform to reality. But just for the sake of argument, and to test the notion that our country’s looming crisis with education in general and math/science/engineering in particular is primarily cultural, I propose a 10-year moratorium on TV shows, commercials, songs, movies, and other cultural items that:

  • Portray college as a place primarily in existence for partying (“all about fun”);
  • Portray students who are good at math and science as loser outcasts who must work their way in to enjoyment of life, usually by sacrificing their academics and/or their morality; or
  • Equate “fun” itself with self-indulgence.

If, after this moratorium is over, we’re in no better shape with regard to our kids’ performance in and attitudes toward math and science (and education in general), then I’ll stop beating the drum about our problems in these areas being more cultural than curricular. But I have a feeling that things just might get better.

Let’s start our moratorium with “Greek”, although the show itself isn’t getting great reviews.

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Filed under Greek system, Higher ed, Life in academia, Student culture

6 responses to “Greek, the series

  1. virusdoc

    Hmm. I both understand your position and disagree with it. TV, particularly sitcoms, are about entertainment. And try as you might, I think it is hard to make 30 minutes of any slice of reality entertaining week to week. So writers portray a reality that is an intentional hyperbolic caricature. The relevant question is: does such a caricature form young individuals’ perceptions of what to expect in college? If it does, then we have a far greater problem than such shows to deal with: we have young people who can’t think critically about the media they ingest and treat the genre appropriately. Banning such shows won’t solve that problem.

    (I can say from experience with medical students that a great many of them are influenced by shows like Gray’s Anatomy and ER, and build expectations about what medical school and medicine will be like based on those shows, whether they want to admit it or not. The good news is that those people either grow up quickly or flunk during the first year. Perhaps the problem isn’t the shows, but the fact that there isn’t a stronger selective pressure during year one of undergrad.)

  2. I’m not saying we should ban shows like this. I’m anti-banning in general. I’m saying that if TV shows like this (and commercials, movies, etc.) which cast education in general and math/science education in particular in such a negative light would simply stop being made, my guess is that you’d see a marked improvement in young people’s attitudes toward, and achievement in, school in general and math/science in particular. Just because that incessant negativity in popular culture isn’t there any more. This will happen at roughly the same time that pigs fly. But it’s an ideal worth dreaming about.

    And yes, I heartily agree that fictional, comedic caricatures in the popular culture go a very long way towards shaping kids’ attitudes. And I agree with your conclusion that we have a big problem on our hands in this regards. (And as a side note, again I insist that most of the problems we attribute to our educational system have nothing to do with “the system” but result from the culture in which the kids live. Fix the culture and you fix the problem. But everybody instead focuses on testing, getting more money to the schools, School 2.0, or whatever flavor it is this week.)

  3. virusdoc

    Ultimately, both the “system” and the “culture” are the products of people, their ideas, and their choices. So the real problem lies in the hearts and minds of people–all people. Which of course sounds very much like the foundational tenet of a famous world religion to which I used to be belong…

  4. I started as a math major many (many) years ago but ended up in Theatre (yes, we spelled it that way at William and Mary) and Medieval Lit. I was anti-fraternity, as most of us artsy and Sensitive people were, and subscribed to the stereotype of Greeks, which was then much as it is in this advert

    Having disdain for others who you believe are unthinking, uncool, and unsophisticated is a lot of fun. You can ride that for just about an entire social career at college, and if you choose your career from the same tribe – arts, social sciences, journalism, literature – you can be an Oscar Wilde wannabee forever.

    In answer to the obvious question of why I left math – much of it was aspiration to coolness, but an aptitude issue arose as well. I found that what I really liked was mental computation and the type of problem-solving that math often provided. I didn’t actually enjoy math anywhere near as much as I’d thought. I could have, in retrospect, found one of the many niches of mathematics that use those things, but I wasn’t clear-thinking enough at the time. I was used to being the boy genius and having things come to me easily, and bailed quickly once there was tedious work involved.

  5. Jami

    After a 2 year hiatus from any sort of cable and watching just the 4 or 5 channels we got on rabbit ears, we finally decided to try out dish (since on the SBC bundle it really didnt cost us more than $10 extra a month!)

    Anyways, after having the full channel list back, we are remembering why we got rid of it in the first place. I really like having the documentary, history, discovery, and comedy channels back, and I think the cable is worth it just for those channels. However, I did not miss the constant barage of completely useless commericals. It really is ridiculous. Especially for my generation… the message needs to be save, save, save… not spend, spend, spend, go in debt, get a car on bad credit, spend, rent, spend. Or just make the ads a little more realistic and intelligent. 🙂
    Your “stupid dads” posts are exactly the type I’m talking about.

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