In Praise of Greek’s Katherine Parker

Entertainment, Personal Blog

Katherine Parker doesn’t arrive until the 47th episode of Greek, but she makes up for it quickly. She glides into her Panhellenic Council meeting, instantly causing everyone to sit down and pay attention. She wastes no time on roll call or pleasantries, getting right down to business.

“I as president note that everyone is here, could you please note that in the book? Moving on.” As Katherine, Nora Kirkpatrick isn’t wasting anyone’s time. She’s got a sing-song quality to her voice that never feels girlish or weak, but simply a pleasant couch on which her sometimes harsh words sit.

“Tara! It’s your birthday!” Katherine says to one delegate. Before series protagonist and Panhellenic newbie Casey Cartwright (Spencer Grammer) can barely get a “happy birthday” out, Katherine sours. “And where was the reminder email? Maybe next year. Moving on.”

Katherine Parker is always moving on, and she has no time for bullshit. She’s a strong contrast to the other characters in Greek – available and highly recommended for binge-watch on Netflix; I just finished watching for the first time and loved it. The other Greeks are either always going in circles (Casey, ex-boyfriend Evan), or don’t know where they’re going at all (Cappie, Calvin, Rusty). Katherine has always known where she was going – which makes her character all the more fascinating when she finally gets there.

There’s a lot about Katherine that could seem cartoonish. She’s a tall, stern, 22-year-old virgin with little regard for anything that won’t help her attain her goals. She fears being played by a mannish actress in a Lifetime movie. She’s awkward and nervous out of her element, leading to plenty of odd – yet highly quotable – lines.

Yet Katherine feels real. It’s a credit to the show’s writers for sure, but also to Kirkpatrick, who takes every oddity and quirk and sells it without breaking a sweat. She first enters the series by questioning Casey’s judgment in supporting the Undie Run – a frivolity that makes Greeks look bad, she argues. But when Casey flips the narrative and turns the event into a charitable one, she can’t help but be impressed.

katherine2Katherine could easily have been an antagonist for Greek‘s third season, but thankfully, she’s far more complex than that. She’s more like a mentor/friend hybrid for Casey, presenting the often listless Zeta Beta Zeta sister with some direction. This is what sorority life can do for you, she seems to be saying.

Unlike all the other Greeks we see on the show, Katherine has no interest in parties at first. She barely enjoys drinking. She joined Gamma Psi to network, and by god, she’s made the most of it.

But in the second half of Greek‘s third season, we see a different side of Katherine. What starts as an attempt to set Katherine up with her brother Rusty (Jacob Zachar) as an apology for burning down the Gamma Psi house – long story – ends in Katherine falling for her would-be paramour. Hard.

Because Katherine got into her dream law school early, she’s suddenly left rudderless. All of a sudden, the woman who’s spent her entire life aimed at her next goal has, in essence, time to kill. She uses this time to explore – parties, dating, all of what she never gave herself a chance to have before. (In a great moment, she confesses her greatest previous crush was Al Gore, who was “very hunky.”) Kirkpatrick never once makes the bridge between these two sides of Katherine feel unstable. The dizzy, lovestruck Katherine dating Rusty is the exact same person as the driven, tough Katherine.

In the third season’s 17th episode, Katherine decides she wants to lose her virginity to Rusty. It sounds very businesslike and professional – very Katherine, indeed. But when Katherine, shy and nervous, presents herself in a white button-up shirt (“I watched 9 1/2 Weeks, and apparently men find it very erotic when women wear dress shirts”), only to be rejected. It’s a heartbreaking scene, even though it’s clear it’s in Katherine’s best interest. Katherine was only trying to approach her goal – losing her virginity – the same way she did all her others. She did her homework, prepared well and was determined to make it happen. But unlike with law school and Panhellenic, romance isn’t something Katherine can push through – and that allows her to grow.

katherine

Though Katherine’s story ended at the end of the third season, she was brought back for its fourth season, basically just because they wanted her back on the show. But the thin reasoning doesn’t matter as soon as she comes back onto the screen: Even though she’s only been gone for three episodes, it’s like seeing an old friend again. In the fourth season, she loses her virginity (hilariously describing it as having “taken a lover”), helps Casey through law school and generally continues to charm us all.

I could easily write odes to every single one of Greek‘s main cast members. This is a show that can make even the most hard-edged young woman (Dilshad Vadsaria’s Rebecca) sympathetic and lovable. It’s a show that can craft a coming out scene filled with impressive details, yet remains genuinely relatable. It’s really a marvelous ensemble – and one that makes a big ol’ Greek geek like Katherine seem not only realistic, but specific to this world.

The Walter Whites and Don Drapers of our TV world deserve their praise, but unique, interesting characters can be found beyond those high-profile antiheroes. They can even be found on an ABC Family show about Greek life. I don’t know any other character on television quite like Katherine Parker. And that’s remarkable.

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