“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is one of the greatest exports from Canada, other than maple syrup lollipops and Justin Trudeau. But, in all honesty, “Degrassi” was one of the most progressive shows out there, complete with heroin addiction, sexting, abuse and Holly J getting a new kidney. Some might say that this show was over the top, but in the grand scheme of things, this show aptly represented literally everyone and everyone’s problems. It taught me a lot of critical lessons at a time I had a lot to learn. Television shows can impact us in more ways than we naturally give them credit for, and Degrassi is a perfect example of that.
First, let’s talk about how this show had absolutely no limits. Life doesn’t have limits either, especially in high school. Sitcoms like, “Full House,” or any other show that glorifies the glorious time of high school and puberty aren’t at all realistic. Everyone is awkward in high school and everyone gets into situations that we really didn’t want to be in.
The three most important episodes of “Degrassi” involve Manny drinking, Jimmy getting shot and Peter’s meth addiction.
Manny is one of the best characters on “Degrassi” because she is one of the most feminist characters. She is proud of her body, even after people body shame her for being too large. However, she also represents the constant fear that women face when they drink. In an episode Manny becomes incredibly drunk, and instead of being helped, her male counterparts take pictures of her and her nude body. This episode put an emphasis on rape culture that no other show of it’s time was doing. This episode was awareness that showed the problems that women and young girls face every single time they attend a party, no matter how innocent they are.
Now, everyone knows the episode where Jimmy, played by Drake, gets shot. However, you might not understand the extremely deep meaning behind the shooting. The episode sheds light on depression and adolescent bullying. The show proves that depression and isolation can lead to terrible circumstances, but also sheds light on how banning guns could help prevent mass school shootings and murder. Another reason that this topic was incredibly profound is that Jimmy was a disabled character, another unique representation of human life. He also went through all of the phases of a teenager as a disabled boy. This demonstrated the perspective that disabled or paralyzed teenagers were going through the same problems, such as dating or sex, as Jimmy.
The final episode that proves “Degrassi” should be shown in every high school in America is when Peter becomes addicted to meth. In the United States the war on drugs has failed as more and more teenagers are becoming addicted and overdosing on heavy drugs such as meth and heroin. The subject of hard drugs should not be taboo and should be discussed regularly and openly like the show demonstrates. American television is actually doing a disservice to young adults by sheltering them and hiding the truth behind these harsh topics. This is why parental controls and censorship is actually hurting, instead of saving a lot of young youth.
“Degrassi” is a must for young female women and men. They had episodes that included girls getting syphilis, topics that normalized abortion, drug use, sexually abuse, mental illness, and also LGBTQ rights. The show also was extremely diverse in casting and represented many different cultures and fluid genders. What this show proves is that television can accurately represent what modern culture is like, without taking away all of the grit and grime. Life can be less than perfect, and having perfect television is not healthy for young girls or boys expectations. Having relatability in all forms of media is the best thing for a teenager.