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Countdown to Halloween: How Scream Queens Made Me Look Up My Old Sorority Sisters

The Chanels (Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd, Ariana Grande) during a sorority ritual (Image via FOX)

My favorite new show this fall has been Fox’s Scream Queens. Its mix of camp, gory horror, a kick-ass soundtrack, and comedy make it the perfect show for me. When I saw the promos I knew I had to check it out, and though I had some apprehension at the beginning, I’m so glad I did. Executive Producer Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) has done a fantastic job of making this a show I can’t miss.

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here’s the ten-cent synopsis: Twenty years after a sorority girl dies, murders on the same campus start piling up. Grace (Skyler Samuels), along with a few other girls, attend rush at the Kappa house and become pledges. As the episodes go along, the murders get more over the top, and everyone is searching for the mysterious killer in the red devil costume. Supporting cast includes Niecy Nash, Jamie Lee Curtis (as the scenery-chewing-in-the-best-possible-way Dean Munsch), Nasim Pedrad, Oliver Hudson, and Nick Jonas.

I was in a sorority for a hot minute when I was in college. In my defense, I went through rush because my orientation leader said it would be a good way to meet people, and I was awkward enough to think I wouldn’t get in, but maybe I’d make some friends along the way. Luckily(?), I actually got chosen, and I pledged my loyalty to a bunch of girls I barely knew. For the most part it was a positive experience, even if I felt out of place most of the time, but events occurred after about a year and a half that led to my decision to walk into an executive meeting, give a speech about how my sisters wouldn’t know sisterhood if it bit them on the ass, set my membership pin on the table and storm out of the room. (Hey, I was 19 at the time. I didn’t realize grand gestures only happened in movies.) I didn’t really look back while I was in college, but after running into some of my former sisters at a homecoming game right after college, I wondered if I had made the right decision. (Obviously, I did. Many women have very rewarding experiences in sororities, but it wasn’t my path.)

Emma Roberts’ Chanel is perhaps one of the best examples of a character I love to hate. She reminds me of my villain in my own sorority. No, she didn’t murder anyone or have a two-story closet, but she was the antithesis of everything I was. She was popular and beautiful and had a frat bro boyfriend very much like Chad Radwell (Glen Powell). I was awkward and had no idea how to dress, and I barely dated until after I left the sorority. (I was definitely more like the “rejects” in the pledge class.) It’s oddly satisfying to see someone on screen as awful as my arch-nemesis was in my head. (She wasn’t really that bad, probably. She did some things I didn’t like, but she wasn’t evil incarnate.)

Watching the show, especially when Chanel #1 gives her nicknames for the pledge class, I wondered if the tenured sisters in my sorority had names for my pledge class, especially since, according to someone during the next year’s rush planning, some people “slipped through the cracks” when I went through rush. (I don’t know to whom they were referring, but it was enough to make everyone in my pledge class think it was about her.) Chanel’s nicknames are wickedly funny, and I have to admit that I loved “Deaf Taylor Swift,” even if her saga made me face just how much this show appeals to the darkest side of my dark sense of humor.

So why, you may ask, does the show make me curious about my former sorority sisters, most of whom I haven’t seen or heard from since 1998? I don’t know, honestly, other than morbid curiosity. Perhaps it appeals to my sense of what could have been, thinking about how things would have progressed had I stayed. I think about the girl I was back then and how little of a backbone I had. Leaving the sorority was the bravest thing I had done up to that point, and I think it was the reason I found my group of friends and morphed from a shrinking violet into the sass-master I am today. I look back from time to time, but not out of regret so much as to figure out how the hell I got here.

Now, that said, I did look up a few of my sisters (at least the ones whose names I could remember, anyway). Most of them are married, some to the guys they were dating way back then. Most have kids and traditional lives, at least if Facebook is any indication. I chose a different path than that, and if anything, my quick dalliance with looking up random sorority sisters from my past on Facebook reinforced to me that the decision I made years ago was the right one, even if it was a knee-jerk reaction to something I disagreed with.

So sometimes when I watch campy horror comedies, it makes me think about how I wound up where I am. Most of the time, though, I’m watching to see who’s behind that red devil mask and to see how much crazier Jamie Lee Curtis’ portrayal of Dean Munsch will get.

What about you, gentle readers? Are you watching Scream Queens? Were you in a Greek organization in college? Did you know a girl like Chanel or a guy like Chad Radwell? Are you digging Billie Lourd’s homage to her mom?

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