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