There was a Canadian public broadcasting series, Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, which ran from 1987-1992. In five years, it covered all manner of topical subjects (especially given the show centred around teenagers) including sex, pregnancy, abortion, rape, domestic violence, infidelity, sexual harassment, marital affairs, AIDS, homosexuality, interracial relationships – you name it, this show covered it.
So far I’ve only watched the first four episodes of DH but I remember why it appealed to me so much growing up – topical storylines and strong female characters. So far, we’ve had Joey fret because he fears his girlfriend Caitlen is getting bored with him, a debate over abortion and a kick-ass character named Lucy, who happily proves anything the boys can do, she can do just as well, if not better. Michelle stands up to her father over her right to date a black boy, and Kathleen gives an older bully what-for, which proves that most bullies scamper off at the first sign of confrontation.
No wonder I loved this show, there isn’t a girl kowtowing to a boy in sight, and the boys suffer from the same insecurities as the boys – does she like me, do I look good in the outfit, will she notice me?
Unfortunately, I can’t imagine such a show being produced today, even on PB. The closest I know of is our Heartbreak High, which wasn’t nearly as topical as Degrassi, although it had some excellent female characters in it. Hell, even Degrassi‘s ditzier characters like Alexa and Stephanie kick the ass of Heartbreak‘s Anita. I really hope this ultra-conservatism that’s got a grip on our mainstream media doesn’t last too much longer. I would hate for my children not to grow up with such shows to influence their thinking.