Dying to Belong: What do you get when Zach Morris, Becky Connor, The Next Karate Kid and Six go to college together?

Answer: awesomeness. And guest blogger Jennifer is kind enough to tell the story. And be sure to check her blog.

Oooooh, look! the "n" is wanky! Scary fonts!

I don’t know if I have a special bias toward this movie because I actually saw it when it first aired, or what, but seriously, this one is a must-see. It owes a lot, I think, to performances by Hilary Swank, who was, at the time, The Next Karate Kid, Sarah Chalke, and Six from Blossom. There’s nothing quite like talented actors cast in bad movies, adding weight and sincerity to all that beautiful cheese.

Anyway, the premise is simple. Hilary Swank starts her freshman year at Anders University, hoping to join the newspaper, but her fast-talking career gal mom has other ideas, and urges her to pledge a sorority. Mom is a legacy in some house – I forget the fake configuration of letters they came up with, but the women refer to themselves as “Pi Gams.” Which I kept hearing as “Pie Gams.” Disgusting.

Our heroine, because she is our heroine, is totally unqualified to join the paper but talks her way on anyway, capturing the attention of one Steven Tyler, (not to be confused with the guy from Aerosmith) played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He and H-Swank pretty much have normal, unromantic conversations throughout the movie, but we know he’s her love interest because almost every time he’s on screen, “Damn, I Wish I was Your Lover” is playing in the background. At least, it is in the TV version I saw.

Zack Morris wears glasses and asks HS out to a Carl Bernstein lecture. As much as like for these things to turn trashy, for a TV movie boyfriend, Steven Tyler is kind of hot and awesome. I think the thing that I found really gross about their relationship was when they went for ice cream after the Carl Bernstein lecture, and Hilary Swank orders something called “chocolate ritz.” Is there any way not to imagine that being chocolate ice cream with crackers crumbled throughout? I think not. And it seems like they have sex on a couch at some point, but I’m no prude, so whatever.

Also in the first five minutes of the movie: A flashback of some coeds kidnapping a pledge and almost running her over when the bitch is too dumb to realize it’s all a prank. Lots of robed figures prick their fingers and drip blood on white roses. H-Swank shares a sandwich with Six, and they become BFFs on the spot. Six moves into H-Swank’s dorm room, kicking out her original rommate who has been found guilty of the crime of having blue hair. Now that we have established what warm, wholesome, nonjudgemental young women H. and Six are, it’s time for sorority rush!

Sorority rush is a total snoozefest, but, even though it sucks, Hilary is a legacy, and Six really, really wants to be liked, so they try REAL HARD. To gain acceptance, they have to do a bunch of stupid crap like race through the snow, which apparently makes its first appearance on the Anders campus by the second week of classes. Not surprisingly, both HS and Six get a bid, and the Pi Gams dress up like that guy who tormented Mozart in Amadeus to invite them to hell week activities.

The crazy hazing that follows is really the best part of the movie. The pledge class (a whopping 3 people!) have to sign a guestbook, complete with bloody fingerprint, eat broken eggshells they *think* are broken glass, and parade around in two pieces while their drunken big sisters write mean stuff on their bodies with magic markers and give them awesome nicknames like “Baby Breasts” and “Thunder Thighs.” Thunder Thighs… is that like Pie Gams? Of course, Hilary Swank, who is lean as a gazelle in her two-piece, refuses to subject herself to this humiliation, and hides behind a tree somewhere. Which causes her to miss the crown jewel of all sorority tragedies – the Pi Gams climb up a scary, ominous-looking clock tower and peer pressure Six into hanging a banner over a railing. Which causes her to fall to her death. Possibly aided by the weight of her thunderous thighs.

The story kind of goes downhill from there, as Hilary Swank decides she hates the Pi Gams, and is going to get to the bottom of Six’s death. The Pi Gams claim over and over that the whole thing was an accident, which only makes it seems more as if something hinky went on. With the help of Zack Morris, Ace Reporter, Hilary tracks down the aforementioned mousy chick from the flashback, who didn’t die, but did have a nervous breakdown from all the sorority hazing, and accepted a large settlement from Anders to keep quiet about the whole thing.

All of which leads Hilary Swank to somehow have a miraculous vision of Six’s death – in which she is peer pressured into hanging a sign, and accidentally falls from the tower. Much like we’ve already established.

This kind of bugged me, because I had hoped for a really twisted, you know, twist, involving somebody pushing Six over the railing. Or even, like, dangling a sorority pin over the railing, causing her to fall. But the explanation for her death is that Six was afraid of heights, which makes no sense to me. I have a slight fear of heights, too, but that has never caused me to fall a great distance to my death. I promise.

But like I said, the main reason for seeing this movie is all the crazy, cultish, sorority ritual. Pi-Gamma-whatever makes Skull and Bones look like the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and all that adds up to some first-class trash. Another good reason to see it is because you can. I may have caught it on Lifetime Movie Network, but some evil genius released Dying to Belong on DVD, which means it’s on Netflix. It also appears to have been posted, in its entirety, on YouTube. Here’s a clip, to give you a taste of its trashtasticness.

And, here we have a future Oscar-winning actress:

23 thoughts on “Dying to Belong: What do you get when Zach Morris, Becky Connor, The Next Karate Kid and Six go to college together?

  1. sunstreakedblonde says:

    Oh man, movies like this are my crack. Sadly, I think it’s been taken down from YT, but since it’s on DVD finding it shouldn’t be hard. I especially love how that DVD cover brags about Hilary Swank’s academy awards.

  2. girltalkread says:

    I love this movie- and so many others like it- trashy movies are also my crack,sunstreaked blonde! Others that should be recapped are- someone to love me about the girl who hoes around and then gets raped but no one believes her because she was being a ho before- Fifteen and Pregnant, and of course Friends till the End!

  3. nikki says:

    Holy Crap! I totally forgot about this! But then again, I watched it with some of my dorm-mates while we finished off two jugs of white zinfandel. I probably forgot it the next day, given that I had a $5 white zinfandel hangover.

  4. maybeimamazed02 says:

    Great guest blog!

    I saw part of this movie when I was in law school, where I watched a TON of crap TV to dilute the horrible experience I was having. Don’t they put on masks at one point and make the girls clean in the middle of the night? Awesome.

    Mark-Paul Gosselaar has aged quite nicely through the years. He’s still pretty adorable even now.

    Oh, Six. You know, Mayim Bialik showed up on What Not to Wear not too long ago…wonder what Six is up to now?

  5. Cassie says:

    Oh, this movie is made of awesome. I happened upon it on TV last year while I was testing my new TV and got sucked into watching all of it!

  6. Melanie says:

    We watched this every year during our pre-initiation sleepover in my sorority to show the girls everything we would NOT be doing to them. I have such fond memories of this!

  7. RollingStone says:

    Sarah Chalke sure looks thrilled about being stuck in the background with her name half as big as Hilary’s.

  8. Merrie says:

    The best title from this movie genre was Tori Spelling’s “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” Then there’s the movie where Kelly Martin kills Tori Spelling — awesome. But the best would have to be Shannon Doherty’s “Friends ‘Till The End.” It had a music video!

  9. Roger Patman says:

    *Sign*…this also makes me long for the days of those truly addictive Sunday night adult versions of the ‘Afterschool Specials’ that were aired on NBC back in the 90’s. I believe Lifetime was created just to carry on the tradition..

  10. Anne says:

    This totally reminds me of another Made for TV Movie. Couldn’t tell you the title, but it had Jenna Von Oy, Mark Paul Gosselar and Candice Cameron. I just know that someone from MPG’s Frat house date rapes Six and she drops out of school and becomes a bitter waitress. I think the main girl character is also a victim of date rape, and takes them to court.

    Moral of the story: Date rape never pays (Are you listening John Pfeifer?)

    • seejanesew says:

      the IMDB calls it Freshman Fall: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117626/

      I had to watch it in sociology class in college. There was one pretty overly dramatic moment which made many people in the class chuckle. The teacher got really angry at us for laughing. I don’t think she saw the cheese factor with Zach Morris and DJ Tanner being the stars

      • Anne says:

        I had the joy of watching it both on my own when it was on tv, and then in my Grade 12 Religion class (which wasn’t really about Religion, but about “Moral Decision Making”… date rape was on the immoral side of the spectrum). And we all cracked up too, because really, Zach and DJ?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Oh my days, I thought I was the only person who had evr watched this film! TrueMovies on Sky is a ridiciulously under rated channel in the UK! Anne, I remember the film you’re talking about but can’t recall the name…there’s so many of these that I have seen and filed away TO be recalled for moments just like this…the one with Keira Knightley as a heroin addicted prostitute and another with a random actress whose mother puts her into Juvey for her own good….Loved those Sunday afternoon trashfests!

    • Maybe I'll Catch Fire says:

      True Movie is an awesome channel! I think I saw this film when I was in Botswana. I got all excited because my childhood crush (MPG) was in it. The scene where the girls are in their bathing suits and being attacked by marker pens seems to have ingrained itself on my memory.

      Excellent post Jennifer!

  12. Vanessa Saxton says:

    How did I miss this gem? Or the others with DJ and Zack you all referenced? I have lived too sheltered of a life.

  13. Courtney says:

    Oh my goodness – I totally remember this movie and I LOVED it. I think I’m going to have to break it out next weekend, which has been officially deemed my do-nothing but indulge weekend…

  14. 1979semifinalist says:

    Man. Right after I read this post yesterday, I turned on the tv and THIS MOVIE WAS ON. It was very twilight zone-y. Fortunately for me, it was only the last twenty minutes or so, so I was mostly spared.

    I did enjoy the “statement” made at the end by the college dean (?) in which she was surrounded by reporters, but only Zach Morris got to ask a question…and a follow up question. Good times.

  15. Neek1981 says:

    This kinda reminds me of the hazing Winston Egbert went through during the Sweet Valley University series. They made him eat sawdust and carry a heavy brick around his neck, and some other stuff I can’t remember. It was also around the same time Liz gained 20 lbs and was no longer a size six, and that psycho guy William White was obsessed with her. And Jessica married some guy she barely knew and Steven shot the guy and almost killed him….Anyone else read those books?

  16. Jenny says:

    we watch this movie for my sorority every semester, when we’re bonding with new pledges. a drinking game to Sophie B. Hawkins. anuhway, the scene when Zach’s swimming and he gets out of the pool (and tries to cover himself quickly with a towel), he’s sporting some major uhh sailing mast/crow’s nest. if you catch my drift. can’t miss it … that Zach is a talented man.

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