Degrassi is something either you “get” or you don’t; I fall into the former category, having fallen down the rabbit hole roughly seventeen years ago, and even now (at age twenty-eight) have still not managed to emerge.
For the uninitiated (though I find it hard to believe that, due to the mere existence of Drake, there are too many people who will need an explanation), Degrassi is a long-running Canadian television series franchise that began its legacy with The Kids of Degrassi Street back in 1979. Since then, four more series have been added to the mix, including Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Degrassi: Next Class. Despite straddling several decades, the series all share one thing in common: they all focus on the fact that, apparently, Canadian teenagers are the leading source of drama on Earth.
The series I grew up on was Degrassi: The Next Generation in all its Jimmy (played by Drake), Ashley, Craig, Paige, Terri, Rick (UGH), Spinner, Sean, Marco, Emma, Manny, Toby, JT, Liberty, etc. glory. These were children who were (on a fairly regular basis) faced with problems like: sexual assault, eating disorders, pregnancy, STDs, abusive parents, internet stalkers, bullying, gun violence…you name it, there’s an episode dedicated to exactly that. And the crazy thing is that no matter how many episodes there were, the plots barely ever got stale; maybe they’d revisit certain issues, but always with a new twist. And that has continued on to the series of today, aka Degrassi: Next Class.
I’ll admit, I dropped off the Degrassi map for a few years (THANKS, DENISON UNIVERSITY, FOR BEING TOO CHEAP TO SPLURGE ON THE CABLE OPTION WITH NOGGIN…), but semi-recently I got sucked back in when I realized the episodes were streamable on Teen Nick’s website. (Do I realize how pathetic that sounds? YOU BET!) Most of the characters I knew had presumably moved on with their lives, but a few familiar faces still bridged the gap; Spinner was still hanging around, Darcy’s younger sister Claire was as annoying as ever, etc., but apart from that, it was, in fact, a “new class”. It wasn’t hard to become reinvested, however, and here I am today, about to talk to you about the latest season which (I think?) fairly recently just dropped on Netflix.
The faces of yesteryear have now all but disappeared in Degrassi: Next Class apart from Snake, who has (I’m pretty sure) been involved in every single one of the series since day one, and who has overcome his own teenage dramas (like finding suicidal Claude’s body in the boys’ bathroom that one time, for example) to become the school principal. (HOW VERY FULL CIRCLE!) The main characters now include a rich family with three children, the eldest being Miles, a bisexual, anxiety-ridden, drug-prone, semi-dickish but usually well-dressed guy, his younger sister Frankie, who is pretty but just kind of blah, and her twin Hunter, who is a gamer and social outcast because obviously. There’s also Maya, who is very annoying and in a band, and her boyfriend Zig, who used to be in a gang and homeless and also likes to wear shirts that display his muscles, plus Tristan, who is gay and very dramatic and got into an inappropriate relationship with a teacher one time, his BFF Zoe, who is a washed up TV actress or something, this girl named Grace who is like a goth hacker or whatever, etc. (You know, your standard melange of youths.)
Now, when Degrassi was on Noggin, or “The N”, the slogan was always “IT GOES THERE”. I guess that continued on into the Teen Nick days, but did this season (which I housed in under twenty-four hours) do that? I mean, yeah, I think it did…issues that were tackled included (but were not limited to): chlamydia scares, anxiety pill addictions, fake suicides, MRA’s vs. feminists, sex tapes, butt pads, unrequited same sex crushes, masturbation, internet trolling and SO MUCH GENERAL ANGST. If, as a presumably adult human reading this, you are still intrigued about what “the kids” are up to these days, you will probably enjoy this as a mindless watch. It’s allegedly going to snow forever this weekend, so I’m putting it at the top of my recommended Netflix ‘n Chill picks. (And you know what? Even if you don’t end up having a great time watching, you can at least walk away from the experience feeling proud to be an American!)