TV

'Degrassi': The Guilty Pleasure of a Generation

As it enters its 400th (or 11th) season, Degrassi: The Next Generation has clearly discovered the secret for success are equal parts addicting and guilty pleasure.

I read a quote once that I now am unable to find via the usually helpful Google search, but the gist of it was, "One should never feel guilty about pleasure." I want to say that the quote is from Mae West, but that might just be wishful thinking. Anyway, while I want to agree with the spirit of that quote, I feel too much embarrassment about some of my television choices to fully accept that mantra.

There are many shows I’m not exactly proud to say that I watch, but none that cause me quite as much shame as Degrassi: The Next Generation. This reigns supreme as my guilty pleasure, beating out such favorites as The Real Housewives franchise, Jersey Shore and even House Hunters: International, for a variety of reasons. First and the most obvious, it’s a show that revolves around kids aged 13 to 17 and I am a grown woman of 21. Second, the plotlines consist of the stuff you’d expect to see in bad '70s after school specials (were there good after school specials? Probably not). And third, on a good day the acting can only be described as mediocre.

So what makes me love this melodramatic little juggernaut? That is a question I have asked myself many, many times and created numerous excuses over the years to explain, but have yet to find a concrete answer. My first taste of the Degrassi drug came at a sleepover in high school. A friend happened to be a fan and made the mistake of having it on while I was there. I was instantly hooked and subsequently forced us to watch a marathon that night, forgoing the usual social sleepover activities to watch Manny struggle with the decision to abort her baby.

From that point on, I watched it on and off for a couple of years. Discovering that, as with most addictive, guilty pleasure shows, Degrassi is a show that was made for a marathon.

I actually went about a year without watching Degrassi at all, but then a friend acquired all the DVDs and I was thrust again down the dark hole of endless marathons and deep conversations about whether the kids should really forgive Spinner for getting Jimmy shot. At this point I was 20 and I began to realize that maybe I was getting too old to care if Marco was addicted to online gambling.

As the new cast of characters slowly began to take over, it seemed the perfect time to wean myself off the show. After all, I was a purist, loyal to the original cast. But, as with all addicts, I could only stay away for so long. Back at school, with nothing to do but avoid productivity, my roommate and I took to spending our weekends watching the seemingly never ending Degrassi marathons. Soon I was hooked all over again.

It's always been a show I watched with someone else, it was a semi social experience, to talk through the ridiculous drama as it unfolded. Somehow it made it seem less sad that adults were spending their days watching crazy Canadian kids get into trouble. So when my roommate moved back home and I was left to live on my own, I expected that would be the end of my Degrassi phase. Once again I was wrong. And it is much sadder to be a 211year-old watching Degrassi alone, but that's not enough to stop me.

I’ve tried to convince myself that I’ve always been a fan of the teen drama genre, and while that’s true, I hardly think it explains my love for Degrassi. I gave up Gossip Girl after my own high school days ended and One Tree Hill is but a distant memory. Even with my beloved Skins, I can’t bring myself to connect to the new cast. Yet, with Degrassi, casts come and go and here I stay. Maybe I’ll never understand it, but I’ve learned to embrace it. Like maybe Mae West said, there is no reason to feel guilty about the things that bring you pleasure.

I will say this though; I don’t think I am alone in this guilty pleasure. I have come to realize that Degrassi is the dirty little secret of my generation. Whenever there are discussions about the shows that we loved as adolescents Degrassi has never come up. Boy Meets World? Always. Saved by the Bell? Of course. Disney series of all shapes and sizes, new and old, and even the likes of The O.C. and Gossip Girl all get credit and admiration. But never have I had a conversation about Degrassi outside of an actual communal viewing.

Yet a recent status update on a post about my love for the Degrassi “soar-y” got a surprising number of likes. People may not be talking about it, but they’re watching Degrassi, too, and that level of shared 'shame' is comforting.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image