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MEDIA UPDATE: Watching

Aymar Jean Christian June 8, 2008 uncategorized No Comments on MEDIA UPDATE: Watching

“Greek” – I’m writing about a TV show this time and not a movie because I’ve just watched a completely-unplanned 5-hour marathon of “Greek.” And I have to say, even though I hated fraternities and sororities in undergrad, I love this show! What drew me in was obviously the black gay character, Calvin Owens, who I’ll talk about in a minute. But it also happens to be a fairly well-written show (frequent references to literature and history, easy references but smart ones).

What I like:

-Calvin Owens: I like this character in part because I kind of hate him. He’s a cute, black, all-star athlete and openly gay legacy at the campuses most prestigious fraternity. ABC Family clearly had some fun with him. The twist in his story is not that he’s uncomfortable with his sexuality, but that he wants people to “get to know him” before knowing he’s gay (because then he’s in a box). It’s a semi-believable excuse for staying “in the closet,” but at least it’s new! Also, his dad is totally cool with his sexuality, (weird!), but will only pay for tuition if his son pledges. Owens seems to like being in the snotty, deeply heterosexual fraternity (as opposed to the more loose, lowdown, gay-friendly one), which makes me kind of hate him. Radical queer politics would have him exiled, but the fact that he feels comfortable there and comfortable with his sexuality (not 100%, it’s clear) is both disconcerting and refreshing. It challenges me. Sometimes I yell at the screen: “leave those assholes and be fabulous on your own!” But brotherhood means something to him — and to a lot of people on the show. I don’t get it, but he’s such a strange character and unusual representation for TV I have to applaud both him and ABC.

-Utopia: You can subtle and not-so-subtle hints that this is the utopia in which young people live today. The show boldly proclaims that young people can bridge all divides. Black gay Calvin makes nice with a Southern Baptist with a Confederate flag. Rusty, a freshman pledge, also makes nice with his Moral Majority roommate who hates frats. Many characters date interracially. The main conflict in the show — a Montague/Capulet type battle between the presidents of two frats, the slacker one and the preppy one — has a subtle class overtone, the only real macro-political battle that seems unbridgeable.

-Plot: The show keeps it interesting by giving every character their own plot line and weaving the stories together.

-Empathy: Greek is really good at taking the frat/sorority worlds on their own terms. Most of the rituals I could care less about, and the things they obsess over would normally bore me, but the script helps you understand why the little things matter. While I would have never, ever, ever pledged a frat, I could actually imagine hanging out with the messy, beer-guzzling, babe-hounding boys of Kappa Tau (the gay-friendly scrappy frat). Making me like the greek system? Now THAT’s an accomplishment.

I recommend you catch Greek on Sidereel or iTunes! It’s a fun show!

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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