I never got the sex talk… never even learned about the birds and the bees, or puberty, or real issues that plague the adolescence in a traditional sense. Instead, I received my comprehensive education on life through Canadian television, transmitted to American cable thanks to a channel formerly known as The N (now, after many incarnations, recognized as Teen Nick).
Suddenly, through the lives of various characters on the not-so-hit TV show Degrassi, my life became very real: girl drama, boy drama, puberty (and all the urges and baggage that came with it), and all around teen adversity were suddenly unfolding before my very eyes, albeit bombastically and with thickly accented conversation (insert many “Sow-rry”s).
I grew up not only watching Degrassi, but also because of Degrassi, a popular drama/soap now renown for jumpstarting Aubrey Graham/Drake’s career (forever may he be Wheelchair Jimmy, who cannot get it up). Degrassi allowed me to relate to the world around me, to access it, and to understand that, well, shit happens, and I am not the only adolescent going through it all.
But, it’s no longer 2007, and many of my friends still find it… bizarre… when I tell them that I still watch Degrassi. The drama, which used to air weekly episodes, now releases seasons exclusively on Netflix, and just released its third season last week, of which I binged in a single night with my BFF (AEAEAE…). So, in honor of Degrassi (and never growing up), I wanted to compile an educated list informing everyone of reasons why they should not only start, but continue watching this life-changing, identity-defining show.
And face it, you’re Koo-Koo Bananas if you don’t, sweetie. It’s Relevant AF…
Degrassi always has crazy drama, but you can’t deny that it’s relevant. From the early 2000s seasons where it addressed domestic violence and women bristling against body image negativity, or the fateful school bullying and shooting scene (RIP Jimmy’s legs), to this season, where it takes on the Syrian refugee crisis — Degrassi never shied away from tackling issues relevant to its demographic audience at the time: adolescents.
Not only does Degrassi depict these situations, but it also engages in healthy, informative discourse about these issues that are huge to their teen audience, thus enlightening them about how they can break the boundaries of stereotypes of race, sexuality, creed, and gender — how they can be more informed in interacting with others from different backgrounds, and how they can make better decisions and be better people (think before you bully, think before you text and drive, think before you sext, think before you oomph chat).
Degrassi has always been particularly important as a proponent in enlightening viewers about the LGBTQ community, which wasn’t always an easy conversation for network television.
They even had milestone conversations about abortion, when many shows were unwilling to do so, showing viewers that they weren’t alone (and this conversation has evolved so much this season). Last season, Degrassi took on a Black Lives Matter conversation, which was incredibly informative, especially for younger viewers. But this season, it is important to look out for the particularly relevant discourse on the Syrian refugee crisis, a current event that affects viewers everywhere, as well as religious misconceptions pertaining to the Islamic faith (and the pressures and consequences associated with such).
It Never Fails to Teach Me a Lesson, Even in my Old(er) Age…
Again, I didn’t grow up in the most “open” household. What I learned about life was learned from Degrassi. Among some of the best and most important lessons (or just some that the show really loves), are the following:
- Don’t ever rock a “whale’s tail” (it’s tacky AF).
- Don’t do coke. Your nose will bleed (which is especially inconvenient if you are about to get on stage with Taking Back Sunday).
- Don’t accept a drink from a guy you barely know. Especially if he has a lot of hair gel. Or if he’s in a frat. Or if he doesn’t go to Degrassi.
- If he drives a hearse, he’s probably damaged.
- Bipolar disorder is nothing to fear.
- Gonorrhea is not just an STD, but also a “social disease.”
- ALWAYS WEAR/USE PROTECTION…ALWAYS (but, like, don’t use King Condoms).
- Never use a penis pump.
- Always be nice to everyone.
- Never judge anybody. Instead, ask them about themselves first.
It Goes There…
Degrassi has always been controversial and ahead of its time in its willingness to make the viewing experience as real as possible. I mean, its catch phrase was, at one point, “It goes there…” for a reason. In its time, even televised on network television, Degrassi has shown or addressed school shootings, abortion, LGBTQ couples, teen pregnancy, teen suicide, self mutilation, depression, violence, bipolar disorder, racism, bulimia, anorexia, bullying, slut shaming, rape, sexual assault, stalking, sexting, stereotyping, gang violence, untimely death(s), and more.
This season, in particular, Degrassi really went there, putting its characters in positions of intense, yet very real and relatable situational stress. We, as viewers, actually see characters struggle with their consciences and the pressures of adolescence, be it in relation to love, their faith, their family, or their bodies. At one point, we even see a scene that is the closest I’ve ever seen any drama show come to actually showing an abortion (tastefully and impactfully, of course).
As someone past her adolescent years, I found myself simultaneously impressed, moved, and enlightened by this past season of Degrassi; living up to its catchphrase, it really went there, exposing me to levels of empathy toward relevant, current issues that I never would’ve engaged with, had it not been for such a show.
If we want to understand ourselves, our world, and our youth (and, quite frankly, be thoroughly entertained while also being updated on how to be c~0~o~L), I highly recommend giving Degrassi a watch on Netflix.