Combating Media Stereotypes
by Janine Grover
(Gamma Mu, Ball State University)
I was eleven years old when Animal House hit the theatres in 1978. I was seventeen when Revenge of the Nerds made the big screen in 1984. Later, there were movies like Legally Blonde, Old School and House Bunny. And, when Sorority Row recently opened in theatres across the country, I was…well, you do the math!
Throughout the years, fraternities and sororities have been featured by mainstream media, often in a not-so-flattering light. Is it damaging to the image of the Greek community? I’m not sure. Is it just entertainment? Maybe.
As Julie Cain Burkhard, Alpha Chi Omega Past National President and current NPC Chair, stated in a recent interview with Newsweek, “I don’t know that anybody would run and pay $8 to see a movie about a sorority experience that talks about the leadership aspect, the academic aspect, the community service aspect, the friendship aspect, the health aspect.”
I know I wouldn’t have when I was seventeen.
But, I don’t remember ever thinking that the movies or television shows I watched were based on reality. And, I would like to think that young people today, and their parents, realize that the media must exaggerate circumstances, adding a lot of drama, comedy or terror, in order to generate the revenue they seek.
I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy. But, when I recently delivered a baby via c-section, I didn’t think for one second that my anesthesiologist and doctor were thinking about the lovers’ spat they just had in the hallway five minutes before. They weren’t. They didn’t.
I’ve watched Glee, but I don’t think that all cheerleaders want to see the choir fail.
Remember Spin City starring Michael J. Fox? Does anyone think it displayed an accurate portrayal of the office of the Mayor of New York? Somehow, I doubt it. The list could go on and on.
Stereotypes exist all around us, and as long as there is media those stereotypes equal entertainment. So, what can we do as an industry to get the media to stop portraying Greeks as binge-drinking, sex-crazed party animals? Probably not much.
So instead, I think we should focus our energies on living the truth. Being real. When we talk to one person or a hundred about how Alpha Chi Omega has shaped our lives, our beliefs, or maybe just our reaction to one situation, we are changing the conversation. If we act with purpose and courage, and are not afraid of being transparent, then what we show the world is that Alpha Chi Omega is a collective group of confident women who face real issues. A group of women who will not only lend a hand, but sometimes need a hand.
The National Panhellenic Conference has made great strides to promote the positive aspects of sorority life. As Alpha Chi Omegas, we owe it to the other 25 member groups of NPC, to do our part in promoting that experience within our organization. We all know that Alpha Chi Omega is made up of real, strong women. We need to share it with the world. And, as one voice that is consistent with our values, we can and will change the conversation.