Degrassi Junior/High

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.


  1. says

    Have you watched any of the new Degrassi? They’re highly addictive and tackles much of the same issues as the original series.

    However, it’s interesting to note that there was an incident where the N (the station it’s broadcasted on in the states) wouldn’t air the episode about abortion, but they have so since.

  2. scarlett says

    When I started watching, I was about ten and it was the most awesomely confrontational thing I’d ever seen. By the time I realised TGN was playing, I was well into my twenties, and it wasn’t so much :p Plus, it’s broadcast all over the place so I have no idea when it’s on :(

  3. says

    Yes, it can be pretty cheesy. I only started to watch it when Bitch Magazine would mention it over and over and it fills my need for a soap operish show. The seasons have been released on DVD, so if you like NetFlix, you can probably get it off of that if you’re ever interested. I just really wish it or a show equivalent to it were more accessible and not on cable. Especially since it’s on the N: I only have the N because of a special cable deal, and when that runs out, I don’t think I’ll still be able to afford it.

  4. scarlett says

    No I mean that, because I was ten-fifteen when I watched the original series, the topics were really taboo, and I loved that they dealt with all these risque issues, and had such strong female characters. Now, in my twenties, they’re less so, so it doesn’t hold the same appeal for me, although I still think it was fantastically honest, and I think its cheesiness was often the result of ‘real’ dialogue. I mean, how trite and over-anaylitical was the dialogue from Dawson’s Creek, in an attempt to sound sophisticated and witty? They say the most obvious, unsophisticated things on Degrassi, but I think that’s largely what teenagers WOULD say.

  5. says

    Ahh, yes and true.

    I’m wondering, now in their newest season since some of the characters are in college, if their focus will change much (really pushing issues that aren’t usually discussed on tv), or if they’ll stick with the issues they have been working with.

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