Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Greek Life (and Ewoks)

Guest essay by Patrick Ryan

When my sister joined Greek life a year after I did, I told her, “Welcome to the best headache you’ll ever have.” It was hard to articulate what I meant by that, but I’ve found an analogous argument that explains it better than I ever could. This is a 2005 essay written by Andrey Summers and originally published in an e-magazine called Jive:
“My girlfriend doesn’t understand what I see in Star Wars. We’ve had several soul-crushing arguments about what exactly makes this series so important to me, and every time I have found it more and more difficult to argue my case.
There is a diabolical twist to Star Wars fandom, you see, that defies comprehension, and yet is the life-blood of all Star Wars fans. It is this:
 

Star Wars fans hate Star Wars.
 

If you run into somebody who tells you they thought the franchise was quite enjoyable, and they very-much liked the originals as well as the prequels, and even own everything on DVD, and a few of the books, these imposters are not Star Wars Fans.
 

Star Wars fans hate Star Wars.
 

The primary fulcrum for the Star Wars fan’s hate (including my own) is George Lucas, creator of Star Wars. Unlike Trekkies/Trekkers who adore Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Star Wars fans hate the father of their obsession. We hate the fact that George Lucas got it wrong from the beginning, creating incest between Luke and Leia. We hate the fact that he wrenched Return of the Jedi off of Kashyyyk and set it on Endor with those tiny, furry Hobbit bitches he called “Ewoks”, which is a syllabic anagram of Wookiee if you’re obsessed enough. We despise the entire existence of literally half of the Star Wars movies, blaming George Lucas’ greed and flawed ‘vision’ for everything.
 

Star Wars fans also hate the original Star Wars trilogy. We think Mark Hamill’s acting was whiny, the pacing was flawed, and Empire was better than Jedi, making the end of the series a let-down. We hate the way Boba Fett died, and we hate the cantankerous, arthritic duel between Vader and Obi-wan. We don’t understand why the storm-troopers can’t shoot worth a damn, and we don’t get why “an entire legion of [the Emperor’s] best troops”(ROTJ, Palpatine) can be overpowered by a tribal society of midget teddy-bears armed largely with rocks and twigs. Star Wars fans hate omnipotent war-machines that get their legs tangled in strings, or slip on logs. They hate Darth Vader’s face and that stupid harmonica thing he was playing. Star Wars fans hate the original Star Wars trilogy.
 

There is also, as you probably know, a series of Special Editions that have replaced the original Star Wars trilogy, and these are also hated by Star Wars fans with an even more scorching fervor. Star Wars fans hate the glaring CG changes made to scenes we already hated to begin with. We hate that Han Solo now killed Greedo in self-defense, and then stepped on Jabba the Hutt’s tail (which we liken to Carrot Top stepping on Fidel Castro’s tail). We hate the fact that the ghost of Alec Guinness (whose name is an anagram of Genuine Class, by the way) now stands next to Hayden Christensen (whose name I tried to re-arrange into a flattering anagram myself, but only came up with “Nn…Dense Chest Hair”). Star Wars fans are unsure if Fidel Castro has a tail or not, but we hate the Special Editions of the trilogy just the same.
 

There is of course also a prequel trilogy to Star Wars. It is newer, more epic, more expensive, and more visually stunning than the original trilogy. Star Wars fans know this, and so we hate it even more. We hate it with the burning passion of a setting pair of twin suns. Jar Jar Binks, Midichlorians, technology that is blatantly more sophisticated than the “later” original trilogy…we despise all of it. There’s nothing a Star Wars fan hates more than a Star Wars prequel. They demystified Boba Fett, contradicted countless lines in the original trilogy (Obi-Wan: “He was our only hope.” Yoda: “No…there is another.” Obi-Wan (not in script): “Oh, right, I f*cking held both of these kids as they were born in Episode 3. Sorry Yoda, I just plumb forgot!”)
 

Star Wars fans think Mark Ha…uh…Hayden Christensen’s acting was whiny. And the pacing was flawed.
 

Now that I have covered all of this, you can finally begin to compute why I can never prove to Emily that Star Wars is a monumental event worth devoting one’s life to. The very nature of the argument means I have to defend Star Wars, and since I am a Star Wars fan, I don’t actually understand how to do that.
 

Maybe I’ll put it like this. To be a Star Wars fan, one must possess the ability to see a million different failures and downfalls, and then somehow assemble them into a greater picture of perfection. Every true Star Wars fan is a Luke Skywalker, looking at his twisted, evil father, and somehow seeing good.
 

My earlier statement needs slight revision. We hate everything about Star Wars.
 

But the idea of Star Wars…the idea we love.” 

***
 

Much like Star Wars fans hate Star Wars, Greek undergrads hate Greek life. We hate trying to convince other people to join, and dread formal recruitment at the beginning of each semester. When the recruitment chairman tasks us to go out and recruit each week at chapter meeting, we look the other direction.
 

We hate all the bullshit that happens during chapter meeting. We hate having to argue with other brothers every Monday, and be steaming mad as a result every Tuesday.
 

We hate going to four meetings a week and feeling like nothing’s been accomplished, only to have officers barking at you to do more stuff that you don’t want to.
 

We hate doing philanthropy and service activities, but are really glad that going to Raising Cane’s on Wednesday to “support cancer research” counts as an hour of service.
 

We hate getting 10 emails a day, with each one telling you that you have more shit to scoop up before Sunday.
 

We hate getting dressed up for meeting, and choking on our ties for three consecutive hours.
 

We love drinking during the weekend, but hate that everyone outside of Greek life says that all we like to do is drink.
 

We hate how happy and optimistic the freshmen are every Fall, and can’t wait until they realize they’ll start to hate it in Greek life eventually, too.
 

We love meeting other Greeks at conferences, and we always tell them that we love our chapter, even though we hate it.
 

We can’t wait until the upperclassmen graduate, because we hate them too.
 

***
 

It’s hard to explain to people outside of Greek life why we like it at all. It’s all a big headache, and when confronted, it’s hard to understand why anyone would like it.
 

I’d like to end this with the same sentence as the Star Wars bit, but I don’t think that would do it justice. We love the idea that we have a house to ourselves, and we get to make the rules. We love the idea that we can get better grades than everyone else on campus. We love the idea that we can make a difference in our community. We love the idea that we are self-governing. We love the idea of being independent and responsible for ourselves.
 

But we hate all the work that’s involved in actualizing these ideas.
 

The idea, though…. the idea we love.
 

And when you realize this, you realize why retention rates are so low, and why we hate Greek life much more than we anticipated hating it from when we joined. When we talk to potential new members, we don’t talk about all the work that goes into our final product. We don’t talk about all the arguments that happen every week. We don’t talk about the tension between members. We don’t talk about getting kicked out if you don’t make the required GPA, or getting fined hundreds of dollars because you didn’t do enough service. We don’t tell them that some of your closest friends won’t be allowed on the property you live on just because they chose not to follow the standards we all swore to uphold.
 

In a strange way, when we join Greek life, we have become our own parents, coaches, and teachers. We push, push, push ourselves to be the best that we can be, and if you don’t do your best, you are surrounded by disappointment. It’s an easy trek to start, though a tough trek to finish, but at the end of your four years, you’ll know that you are a better person because of it.



Patrick Ryan is a 2015 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University and a member of Theta Chi Fraternity (Gamma Phi Chapter). He is currently attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law, eagerly anticipating graduation in 2018.