Degrassi Personality Regression To The Mean (DPRTM): A Theory

Like most women in their late twenties, I spend my Friday nights watching a soap opera for 11-year-olds.

Ironically, I tell you. Ironically.

Last week I finally caught up on all the Degrassi: Showdown episodes. I know what you’re thinking: “What on earth is Degrassi: Showdown??”

I’ll explain: TeenNick does this thing where they give a “name” to, like, 6 or 7 sequential episodes and pretend it’s some kind of exciting mini-series. The tagline for Degrassi: Showdown (really, there’s a tagline) is “Whose side are you on?” and the whole “theme” is that characters disagree with each other. TeenNick, are you actually trying to insinuate that CONFLICT BETWEEN CHARACTERS is a unique dramatic motif?


Did I mention there’s a music video trailer (with production values that in no way resemble the actual show)?

Underneath the fancy marketing, it’s still the same old low-budget Degrassi. Returning (and rapidly aging) characters include Fiona, who’s having an awkward romance with the even-more-awkward Imogen; Drew, who’s finally split up with prissy Katie (to reunite with sexay Bianca); and fan fave creepy couple Clare and Eli, who are also back together (but mostly offscreen).

Season 12 also brings us a bumper crop of new young’uns, including Maya, Tori, and Insecure Hockey Guy (I didn’t catch his name).

Comparing the incoming and outgoing cast got me thinking: why is it that Degrassi characters seem to grow blander over time?  It reminds me of a phenomenon from the world of statistics: regression to the mean (RTM). The basic concept behind RTM is that things have a tendency to average out over time. (Yes, that’s a gross oversimplification. This is a blog about TV and pizza. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)

Degrassi Personality Regression To The Mean (DPRTM): Description and Case Studies

When characters on Degrassi are first introduced, they typically dress and act somewhere between quirky/weird (Imogen) and batshit insane (Eli). After a few seasons they regress to bland everyteen protagonists who just want to go to the prom or work at a newspaper. Sometimes they briefly return to their former personality, usually as part of a story arc for one of those godawful straight-to-TV “Degrassi Travels Somewhere” movies. But generally they settle back to “average.”

Eli

Early Seasons: Weird. Intense. Kind of scary. Drives a hearse and occasionally smashes it on purpose. Serious issues with revenge and self-control. Creative but also nuts. Clothing = Hot Topic Halloween Costume.

Now: Basically an average guy. Kind of polite. Spends most of his scenes leaving or arriving. Dresses like a JCPenny catalog model (but with dark colors).

Claire

Early Seasons: Wears a catholic school uniform for no reason. Repressed. Writes erotic vampire lit.

Now: Wears business casual outfits to her internship at the newspaper.

Ellie


Early Seasons: Goth punk with crazy wardrobe. Sassy. Alcoholic mom. Cutter.

Later Seasons: Has boring job at college newspaper with boring boyfriend (what is it with Degrassi and newspapers?). Wardrobe = J. Crew catalog.

Holly J.


Early Seasons: Megabitch supervillian. Backstabs basically every character. Rage issues.


Later Seasons: Eh, she’s really a nice girl underneath it all. Has a series of low-intensity relationships with weird boys. Finds out she was adopted and takes it pretty well, all things considered.

Fiona

Early Seasons: Super-wealthy but unstable. Passionately kisses her own brother during a fancy party out of spite/jealousy. Buys a potbelly pig. Hates Holly J. and plots her destruction. Alcoholic.


Now: Has a stable relationship with a girlfriend who started out weird but is now getting more normal (RTM!). Becomes BFF of former enemy Holly J.

And those aren’t the only examples. How about Emma transitioning from eco-freak activist to ordinary college girl? Or Johnny going from murder accomplice to Ali’s sarcastic boyfriend?

All in all, it’s a pretty solid theory. Any chance of getting it published? Conference proceedings, maybe? No?

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