The Sorority Life Renunionby Jen Shrader -- 02/18/2003
All those mildly amusing Greek-inspired commercials on MTV can only mean one thing. The first season of Sorority Life was so popular that the network is bringing it back, this time even with a companion show, Fraternity Life.
But before that happens, MTV decided to reunite the six pledges and four sisters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi for what I'm sure they were hoping was high drama.
Oh, it had all the makings of a reunion show filled with conflict a-la Real World Puck Rainey style in that cast's first reunion. What happened during the pledging process was enough to inspire at least some hurt feelings. Here's a quick recap of the series:
The sisters at the University of California-Davis signed up to allow MTV to film their pledge process last year, obviously having no idea what they were getting themselves into. From what I've read on the topic, the Jewish-faith sorority was the new kid on the block on campus and hadn't even had their own house that long before MTV came knocking. The girls were hoping to publicize their group and give people an idea of what sororities are really like.
Then the filming started.
Because it was MTV, the sorority had waaaay more girls go through the rush process than they do normally and some were there to be on television rather than experience "sincere sisterhood." That was a recurring theme of the show.
The pledge house - nicer digs than most regular fraternity and sorority houses - was created by MTV and the producers of the show and the girls who lived in it also were hand-picked by MTV. This also became a recurring theme of the show.
Immediately, there were rifts between the sisters, the regular pledges and the pledge house pledges. To make matters worse, four of the house pledges - Jordan, Candace, Amanda and Mara - were the partying type, creating more problems for the sisters, who were at times more concerned with their image than anything else.
The irony was, because they felt so shunned by the sorority sisters, the pledge house sisters bonded together and became, dare I say it, almost sisterly to each other. In the end they even got along with house pledge Jessica, the token fat girl, whom they believed at the beginning was a spy sent by the sisters.
Well, everyone got along except for Jordan and Amanda. The two, who had been friends for two years before the show, grew apart during the process. Amanda started hanging out with Candace, partying more, and Jordan started partying less and less as she realized she didn't want to be part of the sorority.
The big controversy came when Mara and Jordan not only stayed in a different hotel during formal but then left the event in the middle of it.
The season ended with a bang as both Mara and Jordan decided to "de-pledge" at the sorority's Blue and Gold dinner, where all the pledges are initiated.
Candace, Amanda, Jessica, and Dede, the little-seen pledge, all made it in.
Which brings us to the reunion.
The sisters, Leah, Pauli, Leslie, and Becca, are seated on one couch, in front of the studio audience. Dede and Jessica are on the next couch and Candace, Amanda, Mara, and Jordan are on the last couch. Ironically, Jordan and Amanda are seated farthest from the sisters. I just noticed that.
The host, whose name I don't remember, but who is stuck on terminal perk and probably at one time contemplated being in a sorority herself, asks Leah, who was president during the process, what she was expecting to get out of the deal.
Leah says she was hoping to show the positive aspects of sorority life but not everything was shown as she'd hoped. The group has learned a lot.
Becca, pledge mom during the show and current president, says the group is stronger now than when it started.
Then in a moment of true irony, the group is shown a tape of Becca the "Sigma Lush," partying it up like she gave the pledges so much hell for during the show. Surprisingly, no one has anything to say about this.
Someone asks if the sisters were concerned about some of the pledges not being Jewish. Mara says the fact that some pledges were living in the house was a bigger issue.
The pledges also admit they did study during their pledge process. Then we see a tape of all the sisters "concerns" during the show - basically a montage of sisters bitching about pledges.
It's obvious that time has done a lot of good for these girls to get over anything that may have happened on television. Pauli, who was at times the pledge's biggest critic, admits that most of the time she was just venting and the camera caught the first thing to fly out of her mouth. Jordan says she would have acted the same way with or without cameras.
Then the famous "de-pledging" is discussed.
Mara says she didn't want to go through the ceremony and learn all the rituals if she wasn't going to stay in. She says it may not have seemed so, but she de-pledged out of respect to the sisters and the speech was just a drama queen move.
Jordan says she was planning on de-pledging and didn't have a speech planned, but it just happened that way.
Candace says she was most surprised by Mara's depledging, since Mara was their big cheerleader and cheered them along throughout the pledge process.
So, Candace, Amanda, and Jessica still are active in the sorority. Dede is not but even that isn't for dramatic reasons. She's graduating in June and doesn't have the time. Someone asks her where she was for half the season. She says it took her time to adjust to the cameras and living with five other women, but she was there at the end.
The next question is for Jessica, who was slapped at a bar by her best friend Sylvia during the show. Jessica says Sylvia has moved out.
And Amanda and Jordan's friendship? Both are pretty relaxed about it and say they just grew apart.
Mara's going to grad school at George Washington University. Jordan's taking a year off and applying to grad school. Both just want to move on.
Someone asks which was worse for Jordan, losing her friendship with Amanda or how the Sigma girls treated her. She says it's Amanda, but admits it's a hard question.
Things are working out for the sorority. Fifteen schools have contacted the group about starting chapters. And the fall rush was without incident. Leah and Leslie are starting a national board.
Still, a few people have regrets. Pauli wishes she'd been more open to the pledge house pledges. Mara wishes she hadn't thrown up on television. Jessica wishes she'd been more assertive at the beginning.
Candace says she saw a lot about herself she liked and a lot she didn't and it took her parents' friends to calm her parents down after every episode. "They did call during every commercial break," she says. "I'm a good girl, I promise."
Tune in for the next batch of good girls at 10 p.m. EST Feb. 26 as MTV follows the Delta Xi Omega girls at the University of New York at Buffalo. Fraternity Life premieres at 10:30.
Jennifer Shrader is a fan of most reality television shows and is a newspaper reporter in the Deep South.
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