Issues Degrassi Has Never Dealt With

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I promise this'll be my last Degrassi post for awhile, other than to review their season premiere that's happening on October 8th. I'm just about finished up with rewatching the first six seasons (having watched seasons 7-10 in the last year) and I just read a fantastic article with the show's current Exec Producer, Stephen Stohn, that had a ton of insight for fans of the original series, the next generation, and the current generation (just titled 'Degrassi' these days). Check it out here:

Anyway in the article Stohn mentions they've done 236 episodes, in contrast to the original 65 episodes Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood produced thinking they had told every story there was to tell. You may drop your jaw at that number and think, has Degrassi REALLY covered 236 issues? The short answer is no. While the first few seasons of TNG had a much more issue of the week format, as the series has progressed many issues are told across multi-part A-plot episodes, while others branch out across dozens of A-Plot and B-Plot storylines that could last a season or longer (see: Marco's sexuality). So realistically if I sat down and counted, they've probably covered countless issues, plus a good number of the shows plots, particularly in the later seasons, dealt with 'event' issues - like who to cast in a play, the stress of year-end finals, reactions to the shooting or JT's death, etc.

That being said, there is still a fair bit of ground for Degrassi to cover, shockingly enough. Some of these ideas are borrowed from the original series, some are things that just haven't been done, and some are modifications of existing plotlines. Without further ado, I bring you: Issues Degrassi Hasn't Dealt With:

ADOPTION - Other than Liberty giving up her baby for adoption and Derek briefly telling Liberty he was adopted, this plot hasn't ever really been fully explored. It could be a piecemeal development, spurred on by the likes of 'multicultural day' to find out one's heritage, only to realize something isn't quite adding up. Someone I know found out their dad wasn't their real dad via a letter delivered to their high school...needless to say it made for a pretty emotional showdown between kid and parent(s), and has space for future development i.e. trying to hunt down the birth parent with no luck, meeting the birth parent, considering leaving their adoptive parents for the birth parent only to find it's a bad idea, or living with the birth parent and loving them, getting angry and rebelling against the adoptive parents, etc. So many possibilities Degrassi! This was a big plot for Wheels on the original series, but it could definitely be reinvented for the next next generation.

SUICIDE - The show always has to tread a fine line between storylines that will seriously screw their characters' storylines up and storylines they can conceivably come back from. This is why you don't see them getting DUI's, even though drinking and driving IS a teen issue. Anyway, it's shocking Degrassi has never done a suicide storyline as it was the major death plot point in the original series, and it's the only teenage type death they haven't done yet (and would make for a huge plot point on par with the series' two other deaths), other than a tragic car accident or something (ahem, drinking & driving). Rick did not commit suicide (unlike his school shooting compatriot on One Tree Hill, Jimmy, ironically enough), and JT certainly didn't, other than his half-hearted attempt with the pills...there's definitely a few characters that could be potential suicide victims. Perhaps Eli's tortured artist will catch up with him, Fiona's mental instability, Riley being bullied for being gay (see: the recent rash of suicides in the USA), or Adam's identity challenges will make him do the deed. A suicide pact might also be an interesting tip-off for one character, it's just a question of whether the series will save the hero before they die. Obviously it's way more powerful when a character does leave, they just have to make sure they're okay with them leaving. Hence, don't kill Eli!

HE SAID SHE SAID - Can I just say this was one of the most frequent plot points in my actual high school? A couple would break up and rumours would run rampant about who did what as the couple basically divided everyone between who was friends with who. By the time we graduated things got a little fragmented. There was obviously an opportunity to do this with the KC/Jenna/Claire triangle, although Jenna & Alli seem to have patched things up and Claire was even around them at the S10's mid-season finale dance prep. Perhaps if Eli and Claire breakup this could be an interesting storyline.

DUELLING EXES - In theory this has been done, but primarily between the ladies and not strongly enough (again see: missed opportunity for Clare/Jenna drama). I think with Declan's return this season there is room for some interesting developments for Declan to try and win back Holly J from Sav's grimy clutches.

INTERRACIAL DATING TENSION - I give credit to Degrassi for being 100% realistic about this, that interracial dating isn't an issue for 99.9% of the population these days. That being said, this was a choice storyline from the original series between Michelle and BLT, and I'm surprised not a single one of these oh-so-traditional, uptight 'cultural' parents (Marco and Riley's in particular) haven't been inserted into an oblique "You're dating HIM/HER"? plot line.

ABORIGINAL ISSUES - This is a minefield, and one that isn't particularly relevant to the show's huge US fan base, so I don't blame them for not tackling it. If anything it's something they would have done in the earlier seasons. Regardless, I can't believe Degrassi has never had an Aboriginal character, as there is a rich amount of opportunity for them to be a good role model for the Aboriginal community and also tackle some of the issues facing Aboriginal people in Canada. If they came from a disadvantaged family, wanting to break the mould would make for an interesting storyline.

SCHOOL CHEATING - This is such a basic issue that has barely been touched by Degrassi. Toby tried to hack the system for Jimmy and Paige handed in a bought essay in University, but the show has never done the classic 'steal the test answers' plot line that is used on so many other shows, which would make perfect sense for a character that is struggling with their studies. Or there's ye ol' chestnut from the original series where Yick handed in a paper that Arthur's older sister Stephanie Kaye (ah she was so cool hah) wrote the previous year - Yick received a better mark on the paper than Stephanie did, proving Raditch's bias.

DEPRESSION - I wish they had done more to explain Paige's S6 breakdown. I know someone who has been prescribed as having actual panic attacks, and that is another specific plot device they could have used (while also visiting the checks and balances of taking your meds vs. being overmedicated). Anyway, the show hasn't ever really tackled depression. Craig had a mental disorder and Emma's extreme mood swings post-shooting and during Spike & Snake's split were tied to other issues (safe sex & eating disorders), so the show hasn't ever really had a character that is suffering from clinical depression. Might be a good lead-up to a suicide storyline!

STALKING - We had Darcy's creepy internet 'pal' and Rick was debatably interfering with Terri's life, but no character has ever been continually stalked for longer than one episode. Perhaps it might be a way to write off one of the two villainous duds introduced this past season - Fitz or the antagonistic football player, Owen - as they stalk Bianca or something.

UPPERS & DOWNERS - Have there seriously been no caffeine pills consumed on this show?

I could go on...all one has to do is look at episode lists for the likes of Dawson's Creek, The OC, One Tree Hill, Gilmore Girls, etc. to see there are plenty of opportunities abound for the show to continue on.

Finally a parting thought: we now have three Degrassi babies circulating out there. Who do you think will lead the third generation's development? If the show continues on its current schedule of one school year every year and a half (they've talked about next summer being the wrap-up for the current seniors), then:

Mia's Baby Isabella - Conveniently named after a Twilight character, Bella will be teenaged (at least grade 9 aged) in about a decade. She was three years old when we met her and Mia was in grade 10. Mia would now be a senior with Holly J, Sav, and Anya which would make Bella five, so for her to be a full-blown 13 or 14 year old is ten years down the road which seems ample time for a reboot. By then, Nina Dobrev's CW-infused career might be flagging and she might be willing to come back, or they could just cast someone new as her mom, or she could be living with her dad since her mom is in theory a supermodel.

Liberty's Unnamed Baby Boy - Adopted boy is off in Seattle, and was born when Liberty was in grade 11, which would make him about three years old by now. Perhaps his journey could start by opening up the chest Liberty gave him and discovering he's, gasp, adopted!

Jenna's Unnamed Fetus - At this point the show looks like they're going to make Jenna go through with the baby. This is the only baby storyline they haven't tapped yet - despite arguments that Mia's storyline was all about the rigors of being a teenaged mom, Jenna's is part Liberty's (being a pregnant mom) AND part Mia by taking us through her baby journey from start to finish. Although a miscarriage might make for an interesting late-in-the-game twist (would she feel sad? relieved?), I suspect she'll have the baby. Obviously this one will take the longest to mature which means it's either the most or least likely to lead the crusade for D:TNG 2.0.

S'all. Any other Degrassi topics you can think of that have never been touched? I think suicide & adoption are the two biggest ones for sure. Yes they were covered on the original series, but there's a ton of new, long-term development ways they could look at them.

- Britt's On


Unknown said...

What about Jack Simpson?

Unknown said...

What about Jack Simpson?

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