PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Television

'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.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.