The downside of idolizing television shows and movies from your youth is that you run the risk realizing that the only reason you thought the show was good was that you were 12 years old. At that age, you wouldn’t know good content if it beat you up and took your lunch money.
Degrassi: The Next Generation first debuted in Canada in 2001 and in the United States in 2002. The show was a spinoff of an old 1980s teen drama series Degrassi High. The series was big in Canada in the 80s and after a 10-year hiatus, the show’s next-generation made it’s way to television.
During the early days of digital cable, the idea of having hundreds of channels to watch felt like a dream come true. One of those channels was Noggin, an entertainment channel aimed towards pre-teens until it was rebranded as The N in the early 2000s. The N became Degrassi’s bridge to American audiences and within a couple of years became the mainstay of the channel.
Now the show is described as a teen drama that shows the various challenges of teenage life, including sexual identity, peer pressure, bullying, teen pregnancy, and school shootings. What Degrassi is, in reality, is a prequel of today’s millennial Bernie Bros featuring all of the warning signs we ignored for the last 20 years.
For the record, I’m only going to review the first six seasons of this show because if I go any further, we’ll be talking about countless characters no one cares about. It was eye-opening to sit down and reflect on how unlikeable almost every character on this show was. Six seasons that I watched and most of the characters were irredeemable by season three.
Let’s do a quick rundown:
Sean: The best character on the show (More on that later).
Emma: The original social justice warrior. If Emma was a person today, she would be yelling at President Trump on Twitter even though she is Canadian. She also would be complaining about how sexism and the patriarchy ruined the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.
Manny: The girl who had twice as many boyfriends as she had abortions but somehow never got an STD. If she was a real person, she would be a Twitch Thot simping guys out of thousands of dollars while failing to maintain a real relationship.
Jimmy: The star athlete who gets shot, paralyzed, and somehow manages to become an even bigger dick after the fact. Once he ends up in a wheelchair, the show had no idea what to do with his character and it shows.
Terri: The fat girl who the show gave up on. She was borderline killed off and was never heard from again.
Ashley: The girl who nobody likes who went through a goth phase because nobody liked her. Her insufferable attitude is only second to her ability to burn the bridge of every relationship she’s ever had in her life.
Spinner: The habitual screw up who got his best friend shot and probably slept with more girls than anyone else. At one point, the show suggests that a clown was a compatible job for him because he already was one.
Paige: Paige was a typical ‘4’ who thinks she is a ’10’. Paige goes from Queen Bee, to a rape victim, to part-time lesbian only to sleep with a guy who nearly gave her AIDS and becomes a girl who shows her beaver to the paparazzi.
Craig: A complete bag of douche who eventually loses his mind. By season three, you completely understand why his father spent years kicking the crap outta him. Craig is known for spending seven seasons bouncing around the same three girls and that’s about it.
Ellie: The goth ginger who spent eight seasons fishing for attention and trying to sleep with her best friend’s ex-boyfriend.
Liberty: The nerd who nobody liked
Marco: A character that only exists to showcase almost all of the shows gay storylines.
Toby: The nerd who was on the show forever and did fuck all.
J.T.: His infamous moment was being stabbed to death by a ginger.
Degrassi: The Next Generation is a murderers row in decadence and debauchery. Everyone is a self-obsessed narcissist that gets no better with age and in many aspects gets worse. This show is a case study of people who are all on the libertarian left sector of the political compass.
The show starts off innocent enough, a bunch of middle schoolers being dumb while the show still tries to live off the legacy of the adult characters. Don’t do drugs, don’t meet strangers from the internet, pretty tame stuff.
Season 2 is where the cracks begin to show as the content tries to tackle darker issues such as rape, domestic violence, suicide, mental health. In a strange twist of fate, the deeper the show tried to get, the more hollow the characters became because unlike most sitcoms, when a character deals with trauma, it changes them and becomes a part of their character for later episodes. In the Degrassi world, the conflict ends in 20 minutes and if you are lucky, it may be brought up again 30 episodes later.
Season 3 is where the tire flew off of the car whiling driving on the highway. After the writers ran out of “tough topics” to cover for the show, the format shifted into relationship drama and this is where you began to wish that Rick managed to kill more people outside of himself. By this point, the kids just start sleeping with each other to the point that by the end of the series run, everyone had been in a relationship with each other at least three separate times during the series.
Characters become more hateable than that bitch Carole Baskin. This is also where social justice undertones become way more apparent. As much as we like to think the era of modern-day SJWs began in the last few years, as teenagers they were laying down the groundwork all the way back in the early 2000s.
Case in point, in the episodes named “Accidents Will Happen”, a two-part series that was banned in the US for many years as it was excused of promoting abortion (boy, did times change), Craig and Manny deal with the fallout of a sudden pregnancy. Short backstory, Craig cheated on Ashley with Manny and proceeded to date both of them at the same time (and now you know why Craig’s father beat the crap outta him). Manny, who was quickly on the rise as the town slag, gets pregnant and debates on what to do with the kid.
Surprisingly, Craig is ecstatic about the idea of being a dad and starting a family, and Manny has a strong support system with her mom, her best friend, and her best friend’s family. However, Manny decides to abort the child anyway because it’s her body and her choice. Craig not only takes this decision on the chin like Ben Askren took Jorge Masvidal’s knee but continues to simp for her throughout the remainder of the series and they even get back together on three separate occasions.
This is where I tuned out. After forwarding through episodes revolving around Joey and Caitlin’s romance and whatever boy Marco was sleeping with at the time, we made it to Season 4…and it doesn’t get much better from here.
This season was known for the infamous scene where Rick, a woman beater who was mercifully bullied, shoots Jimmy in the back. Sean stopped him and inadvertently killed Rick and leaves the show for the next season and a half. Sean’s disappearance left a huge hole in the show because he was by far the only likable character.
While Sean was presented as a “bad boy” in reality, he was just a screw-up. Sean was the only character who spent the majority of his time trying to better himself as a person. He hung out with the wrong crowd because they were the only people he related to. Compared to other characters, Sean never cheated on his girlfriend, he never got anyone pregnant, he didn’t beat women, he was the only person who displayed true remorse for the bad things he did and was the only one who put out a true effort to atone for his actions. At the end of the day, while most of the characters ran out to Hollywood to become an actress who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get an Oscar, Sean joined the military and fought for his country. Sean was so head and shoulders above the rest of the cast it wasn’t even funny.
By season 5 and 6, the show had suffered the same fate as many others, the network did not want the show to end due to its popularity but they had run out of ideas. New characters emerged who dealt with the same problems others had already dealt with four-seasons prior, more gay characters, more relationship drama, more recycled relationships, and to top it off, Jay and Silent Bob were added as Canon characters.
Degrassi had a solid idea but my God did this go on WAY too long. If you made it past season 6, God Bless you, if you made it to Degrassi: New Class, someone should 5150 you.