Just watched the very first episode of Degrassi Junior/High, called Kiss Me, Steph. Stephanie Kaye, parent’s newly divorced and struggling with her identity, decides to vamp up her image. Her best friend Voula doesn’t approve, but what does that matter as opposed to the “˜approval’ of all the boys in the grade?
After a few days campaigning to be class president, she discovers that offering the boys kisses in return for a vote works wonders. She explains to Voula: all the boys will vote for me, and all the girls will split their votes between the other runners.
She ends up winning, only to lose Voula’s friendship in the bargain. And then she realises being class president is much harder then she thought. She muddles through as best she can, ultimately letting a lot of people down – ending up in an attempted recall.
She learn, in effect, that selling sex only gets you so far. And often the cost is far higher then if you’d made it on your self-respect and integrity. Because no-one takes Stephanie seriously – least of all the boys who kissed her for a vote.
And it wasn’t done judgementally, either. Most of the impact as seen through Stephanie’s eyes, who realises she just has the contempt of the girls, and the adoration of the boys, but the respect of neither. She realises she’s sunk pretty low if NO-ONE thinks much of her.
Isn’t this the ultimate goal of television? That the consequences of a character’s actions are realistic? That women, though they may basically be good people, can do rotten things? This is what I love about Degrassi. The women (who I think get the lion’s share of the good storylines) often do rotten things – and they face up to them.
No Mary Sue-ing for them.