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Dying to Belong

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William A. Graham

Initial DVD release
August 2, 2005





Music director
Michael Tavera

Ron McGee


Dying to Belong movie poster

Release date
February 24, 1997

Hilary Swank
(Lisa Connors),
Sarah Chalke
(Drea Davenport),
Jenna von Oy
(Shelby Blake),
Laurel Holloman
Jennifer Warren
(Dean Curtis),
Gregory Alan Williams
(Carl Ridgeley (as GregAlan Williams))

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Dying to Belong is a 1997 American television film directed by William A. Graham.



Lisa Connors, an Anders University freshman, has big hopes of a job at the university newspaper. Her ambitious mother, Gwen, suggests Lisa should join a sorority, Pi Gamma Beta (πγβ,ΠΓΒ,PGB), as she herself had great fun during her days in the sorority. Lisa applies to Pi Gamma Beta, the most prestigious sorority on campus.

Lisa also talks her way into joining the school newspaper. At the paper, she meets Steven Tyler, a fellow student with whom she becomes involved romantically. In order to join the sorority, mainly consisting of snobs who enjoy others' suffering, candidates must endure the cruel humiliation of hazing. Shelby Blake, another freshman desperate for sorority acceptance, immediately befriends Lisa.

When Steven discovers Lisa and Shelby's experiences in connection with PGB, including, apparently, having to eat broken glass, he is appalled. He publishes an article critical of hazing. This leads to his being beaten up.

Lisa refuses to cooperate when the sorority require the two applicants to strip and strut back and forth across a table while the sorority call out degrading and hurtful names and draw on the candidates' skin. In consequence, Lisa is absent when the girls take Shelby up a clock tower to hang a banner. Shelby falls to her death when sorority sister, Drea Davenport, orders her to go over the railing. The next day, the sorority sisters claim that Shelby went up to the tower to hang the banner by herself when she was drunk as a surprise.

At Shelby's funeral, it is revealed that she was afraid of heights and that she had not been drinking on the night of her death, raising Lisa and Steven's suspicions as to the real cause of her death. Reluctantly Lisa, with Steven's prompting, decides to investigate even though the hostile sorority claim it was an accident. Through this she risks her reputation and academic future.

With Steven's help, Lisa contacts a student who was involved in a cruel hazing by the same sorority a year earlier. This student reveals that she almost died and received a settlement from the university to keep quiet. Lisa realizes that Shelby was pressured by her peers into doing something really dangerous that resulted in death. When Lisa uncovers the truth, the school authorities and the other Greeks do their best to silence her, but Lisa is determined to end the hazing.

One night while she is walking with Steven, she is kidnapped by several Fraternity boys and dropped off in the snowy woods into a small, icy stream. Steven finds her in the morning and returns her safely to the school, where her mother is waiting for her.

Lisa tricks the sorority leader and another sister into going to the Bell Tower where Lisa plays a tape recording of the other girl's account of her near death from Pi Gamma Beta's hazing.

As Lisa and her mother walk past Greek Row, the Pi Gamma Betas are all removing their belongings, possibly because Pi Gamma Beta's charter has been terminated. Lisa's mother admits that she enjoyed being in Pi Gamma Beta because of the people, not the actual sorority. Lisa's relationship with Steven survives.


  • Hilary Swank as Lisa Connors
  • Sarah Chalke as Drea Davenport
  • Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Steven Tyler
  • Jenna von Oÿ as Shelby Blake
  • Laurel Holloman as Shannon
  • Jennifer Warren as Dean Curtis
  • Gregory Alan Williams as Carl Ridgeley
  • Tracy Middendorf as Kim Lessing
  • Isabella Hofmann as Gwen Connors
  • Reception

    The film was generally negatively received. Variety called it unconvincing and spoke negatively about the cast and crew as well: 'No one's doing much acting, and director Graham seems hung up on the premise that the telepic's serious. Swank's appealing, but the character's a blank; Gosselaar gives his role the old college try, but nothing's there. Von Oy, suggesting there could be more to her part than is apparent, doesn't find it'. It continued: 'Camerawork and editing are perfunctory, and Roger S. Crandal's production design's conventional. Michael Tavera's score is monotonous'.

    The New York Times was more praiseful about Swank's acting, saying that she 'gives an excellent account of herself in this made-for-TV movie'.


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