The World of Degrassi

Last week, I realized that I have been watching Degrassi for ten years.



You may be asking yourself, “Degrassi — but isn’t that a soap opera for like, 11 year olds?”

Well… basically. But it’s still awesome.

Degrassi is a teen drama starring an ensemble cast of young ‘uns at the fictional Degrassi Community School in Canada. Pretty much every episode is of the “after-school” variety, replete with underage drinking, drug abuse, school shootings, etc. Every few years the kids age out, or get jobs on American shows, and they have to replace them with a new crop.

The current series actually owes its concept to Degrassi Junior High, a teen drama broadcast on Canadian TV way back in 1987. Some of the actors from the original Degrassi Junior High (later Degrassi High) even crop up as teachers or parents on the current Degrassi.

As you might expect from a more than 20-year-old franchise, they sort of struggle to stay current. In addition to edgy plot points (Abortion! Ecstasy! Hoarding!), the scriptwriters frequently resort to piggybacking on other teen entertainment trends. When the Twilight films came out, a character on Degrassi began writing a romance story about (surprise!) vampires. When everyone was abuzz over Friday Night Lights, the previously ignored Degrassi football team suddenly started getting serious screen time. When Gossip Girl was all over Teen People, a brother-sister pair of wealthy socialites enrolled at Degrassi.

XOXO, Gossip Girl (of Toronto).

But the best reason to watch Degrassi is to revel in the anachronistic plots—which are OBVIOUSLY written by 38+ year old screenwriters. In the Degrassi universe, throngs of just-pubesced teenagers hang out at mid-priced cafes drinking coffee and couples in tenth grade solemnly discuss the state of their “relationship.” The fact that everyone on Degrassi has an obsession with cheerleaders – who’s on the cheerleading squad, who isn’t, will the squad get to regionals?!?  — is also the telltale mark of an over-30 screenwriter, because no one under 30 cares about cheerleading in a non-ironic way.

High school parties on Degrassi also  bear a striking resemblance to soirees thrown by suburban publicists.

Whatever happened to beer in a basement?

I KNOW there must be other people over the age of 20 who watch Degrassi, so I’ll be adding episode reviews to my (attempted) blog repertoire. Here’s a sneak peek of this Friday’s episode.

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