“Growing Up Greek”: A Greek-American’s Opinion

(I’m sorry about all the culture related posts lately! I have some some great fashion content planned, I promise!)

As some of you may know (or have watched), MTV released a new reality show called “Growing Up Greek,” which follows a group of young adults in Tarpon Springs, Florida, one of the most heavily congested Greek places in the country.When the trailer went viral around the Greek community last week, there was outrage that the show didn’t do the Greek culture any justice, but merely depicting it as “Jersey Shore, but with Greeks.” To be honest, when I saw this trailer, I was a little bit skeptical myself, but after seeing the show, I now can write an honest review from the perspective of a Greek-American who has grown up immersed in the Greek heritage.

Growing Up Greek (shedmedia.com)
Growing Up Greek (shedmedia.com)

The episode opened focusing on Lex and Angelique, god siblings who were moving to Tarpon Springs from Ohio. Lex knew the others in the show from frequently visiting Tarpon Springs growing up. The focus then shifts to brothers Mike and Pete’s house, where they are hosting a welcome barbecue for Lex and Angelique. It introduces Mike, Pete, Ioanna and Ava. They talk about characteristics Greeks have such as the tendency to entertain, and gossip (Ioanna and Ava immediately bash Angelique the moment she enters the room). Mike and Pete welcome Lex with open arms, and the boys pitifully attempt to skewer a lamb on a spit before giving up and going out to Zorba’s, a local bar/restaurant. It is depicted as a local watering hole for the Greek community, where everyone convenes, from young adults to their parents. We are then introduced to Demi, another Greek girl who is vying for Lex’s attention. At Zorba’s Ava’s father finds her and tells her she is dressing too immodestly and if it were up to him, she would be at home, learning how to cook and clean (definitely typical Greek mentality towards females!).

The second half of the episode is focused on Demi’s birthday party, where the gang is all there, drinking and hooking up. Lex was spotted hanging out with both Demi and Ioanna, acting flirty with both of them, making each other jealous. Ioanna has too much to drink and is then kicked out of the party and then calls the cops on the party claiming “they were serving alcohol to underaged kids,” so she really called the cops on herself. Demi and Ioanna get into a verbal fight, since Ioanna shut down Demi’s party. Seeds of drama are planted, since by the end of the party, Lex had kissed both Ioanna and Demi. Meanwhile. Pete and Ava start hooking up, even though they have known each other for practically their entire lives. The episode ends with the gang at the beach, Ava, Demi and Angelique wading in the water, with Pete, Mike and Lex sitting on the beach, talking about the last night’s events. They all go to Mama’s, another Greek restaurant for family dinner, ending by saying how being Greek is great because of the tight knit community that is created.

Oh, and did I mention they are all aged from 18-22 years old?

If you are part of the Greek community or maybe have a friend that is, you have probably heard of the various efforts to take the TV show off the air. There have been petitions going around via Facebook, as well as the “Boycott Growing Up Greek” Facebook group, which posts articles about how the show “has all the drama, but none of the reality.” Even the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association (AHEPA) had their president call MTV to get them to cancel the show. AHEPA’s main mission is to teach about the faith and religion in a positive way.

That part is true. Greeks can be rather dramatic, and with the tendency to meddle in each other’s lives and businesses, the level of drama is unbelievable. That being said, the drama depicted in last week’s episode was not surprising, yet at the same time, a little melodramatic.

Not only that, they hardly touch on any part of the Greek heritage, other than flaunting their Greek flag towels and huge stavros (crosses). I was appalled at just how trashy the show depicted Greek culture. They showed them attempting (and failing) at putting the lamb on the spit, making the people out to be idiots. At least they had the decency to put out the fire of the barbecue underneath it. When they got to Zorba’s the restaurant, there was hardly any Greek dancing, and when there was, there was emphasis on them getting showered with money. While it may be good luck to do so, it shouldn’t be the primary focus.

My absolute favorite part of the show was when Ava’s father followed her to Zorba’s and told her that she needed to cover up more (she was wearing a crop top) and Ava said she was covered up enough, seeing as her breasts weren’t showing. The father then tells the cameras that he wishes she was at home, cooking or cleaning instead of out partying. That part of the Greek reality is true – most traditional mothers and fathers teach their daughters how to be a nikokira (housewife), taking care of a household and cooking.

This show is responsible for depicting only negative Greek stereotypes in a Jersey Shore-esque style. I, along with many other Greeks, are offended by this TV show because it doesn’t even depict the best parts of our culture. There is so much more to being Greek than just roasting a lamb on a spit, going out to Zorba’s and having a dramatic love triangle. The faith has shaped the Greek culture, and it is still one of the last very traditional and conventional religions and cultures out there. If you have ever met a Greek person, you know they feel strongly about their culture and will find any way to express it.

The one positive take away from the show was how at the end, they said that no matter how much drama happens, they are part of this tight knit community. Greeks are in tight knit communities and not only have close bonds with their families, but with their friends too, forming their own parea (kinship).

I don’t know if I want to continue to watch it, yet at the same time, I’m curious as to how the season is going to unfold and how else they are going to depict the Greek culture. If the pilot episode was any indication as to how the rest of the season, we are in for a nice, controversial treat.


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