Netflix is streaming Degrassi: Next Class and The Bee and I made some time to watch. Even though Degrassi is technically a show about and for teens, I am a shameless fan, having followed Snake and Spike from junior high to adulthood on PBS, wishing for the best between Jimmy Brooks – also known as Drake and Ashley Kerwin while rocking a then infant baby, and binging with Pop as we watched countless storylines that made me both thankful and sad that I had such a boring teen life. Now, as the mom of a teen, The Next Class brings all of this to the screen and the two nights we spent getting to know this new class was so enjoyable.
Spoiler alert: If you are reading past this point, I will assume you have watched the series and will share spoilers about characters, plot and events.
There is so much Degrassi gets right. Along with the usual themes – hook-ups and flirting, crushes and people getting crushed, with each playing out in delicious little scenes that are fun to watch, there are four things which stood out and sparked a few conversations with The Bee.
- The idea of consent for sex while in a relationship. Two characters, Maya and Zig, are dating and have had sex. Maya, while in love with Zig, is busy with her career as a musician and doesn’t have as much time for her relationship. Zig gets awful advice from his friend, Tiny, and the result is a conversation between Maya and Zig about whether being in a committed relationship is blanket permission to have sex.While watching this scene with The Bee, we talked about the responsibilities of being in a committed relationship and she expressed that there are friends of hers who sometimes feel that because they are in a relationship, they will have to do things they may not want to. When I asked if SHE felt that way, she said no but did feel like she would have to meet someone who is as weird and silly as she is,
- Safe sex. The show does a fantastic job showing safe sex being discussed between heater couples and even with the openly gay character of Tristan. I do take issue with the lack of discussion of are sex practices between two female characters, Zoe and Grace. The two hooked up during a sleepover but there was never any mention of the two of them having a discussion about sex, history or any conversation someone would have with a partner or conversations the other characters have.
- Mastering your own domain. There is a storyline about female masturbation which, if I am being totally honest about, made both of is squirm while watching. As uncomfortable as we may have been during the scenes with Lola talking with her friend Frankie about how to do it, this was a decent storyline which made females interested in sex a normal thing instead of a shameful act.
- Video game addiction and objectifying women/cyberbullying and The F word. Degrassi tackles a lot of issues in this season and there is a story arc about video games and objectifying women. A video game club forms in response to students who do not wish to participate in intramural sports. What seems to be harmless fun is taken to task by the Feminist club who, rightly so, objects to the school sponsoring a club which glories violence against women. Miles, leader of the video game club, takes issues with the disbanding of his club and responds by cyberbullying Maya, the most vocal of the objectors.So much about this arc was fodder for a great conversation. Were Maya and the feminist club overreacting? Are video games just harmless fun? Does the person being cyberbullies deserve what they are getting? What does being a feminist mean? We still don’t have the best answers for these questions but have been having more conversations about what the answers could be.
I really do appreciate that Degrassi allows the female characters on this show to have friendships. So many shows show full, healthy friendships for the male characters and the females are afterthoughts. Degrassi allows these girls to have conflicts, make up, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and be people!
This goodwill, however, does not really extend to characters of color. The character of Shay, the only Black main character, doesn’t do much. She’s “the best friend” and her whole deal is that she wants to do well in school and likes a guy who is dating her friend. I hope more is done with her character in the next season. The character of Tiny gets more screen time if only to give bad advice and date Shay’s friend. There are a few Asian characters who get a bit more screen time but their characters are the friend, only on screen because of something a White character is doing.
That aside, I appreciate that Degrassi gives me a chance to broach conversations with my teen that are not the easiest for us to chat about. Catch Degrassi: Next Class which is available on Netflix Streaming. Start your 30 day trial by clicking here.
As a friend said, Degrassi is recommended viewing for anyone with a teen and I have to agree. It is a great way to address sensitive topics while heading back to high school.
r’s note: I’m a Netflix Streamteam member and I’ve been provided a year of Netflix, along with some great products, in exchange for sharing what’s HOT to watch month after month. Thoughts are 100% my own and honest opinion.