Monday, January 31, 2011

Eighties vs. Nineties Fight To The Death: Degrassi

Ah, the Degrassi school. A sacred Canadian place. A place where different stereotypes came to interact with one another. A place where even the most trite teen problems evolved into a stretched-out saga of Dynasty proportions. A place of miracles.

The late eighties gave us Degrassi Junior High and later, Degrassi High. It seemed as though there were more heavy-handed issues than actual students at that damn place, but it was entertaining no less. True story: my mother likes to tell me about how I was obsessed with watching Degrassi Junior High when I was two. Two years old. I don't know why she just didn't switch off the bloody TV -- two-year-olds generally don't understand...anything, and here I was, not old enough to use a toilet but somehow adept at convincing my mother that this show was something I needed in my life. I was probably just mesmerised by all the hair. They did have an awful lot of it in those days.

Degrassi: The Next Generation picks up 15-odd years later, with the illegitimate lovechild of two of the original Degrassi teens now old enough to start junior high herself. Basically, it was a show that encompassed the crazy adolescent problems of the eighties, but experienced by new characters. Oh wait, why am I using the past tense? The show's still going. It's been going for ten freakin' seasons, and it doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. I watched the first couple of seasons of Next Gen when I was in high school, but outgrew it soon after...although here I am, ten years later, watching the reruns on ABC3 every night I possibly can.

Instead of recapping episodes for you, I'm putting the eighties versions of Degrassi (Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, which featured most of the same characters) up against the current reincarnation in another Fight to the Death. There will be blood. Oh yes, there will be blood.

 Best Band

Eighties Degrassi: Two words -- Zit Remedy. Joey Jeremiah's band was pretty much the only one at Degrassi, but they had tapes and everything. Tapes, you guys. Plus, they had a gig. Sure, it was the school graduation dance, but a gig's a gig. I bet there were groupies involved.

Noughties Degrassi: Next Gen had three bands that I can think of -- Craig and Ashley's band Downtown Sasquatch (which actually had a record deal for about three seconds), Paige and Ashley's all-girl band Paige Michalchuck and the Sexkittens (also known as PMS -- fun with acronyms!) and Ashley's other band Hell Hath No Fury. Clealy, there's a pattern forming here. Perhaps Ashley's music career would've gone somewhere had she stuck to just the one band. She's like an unsuccessful Dave Grohl.

The Winner: The most likely reason that there were so many bands in Next Gen (apart from Ashley's overzealousness, of course) is that the writers saw the popularity of Zit Remedy and went, "Hells yeah, let's do that again, as many times as possible." So Zit Remedy wins, although Downtown Sasquatch gets an honourable mention.

Because really, what could that mean?!

Cheatingest Cheater

Eighties Degrassi: Joey Jeremiah spent the first few years of his Degrassi life desperately trying to get a girl, any girl, to go out with him. (Bonus points if it was Stephanie Kaye.) After scooping up everyone's favourite character Caitlin, he proceeded to cheat on her with town bike Tessa Campinelli. Which is just Not Cool. Why would you cheat on Caitlin? She was so adorable! Not Cool, Joey. Not. Cool.

Noughties Degrassi: Craig and Ashley started dating after Ashley took an ecstasy pill and alienated all her popular friends. After Ashley refused to have sex with him, Craig (who by no coincidence is Joey Jeremiah's stepson) not only began a torrid affair with the town bike Manny, but also impregnated the hell out of her.

The Winner: Craig, that fertile turtle. Banging the town bike is pretty much the easiest thing in the world to do, but it takes a special, irresponsible sort of someone to knock her up in the process. In fairness to Craig, though, he probably learned his cheating ways from Ashley, who never managed to stay faithful to her bands.

Whose band did you wake up in this morning, Ashley, huh? Huh?

Best Fall From Grace

Eighties Degrassi: Surprisingly, there's a lack of 'good girls gone bad' in early Degrassi. Sure, Spike got pregnant on her first go-around with Shane, but she was a rock chick with spiky, bleached-blonde hair! There's nothing 'good' about a rock chick with spiky, bleached-blonde hair!
So we'll have to look to the boys to fill our Fall From Grace category, and who better to fill it than poor old Wheels? Wheels started off as a relatively cool guy -- after all, he planned to have sex with the famous Stephanie Kaye, and would've too, had he not tried to buy the condoms from her mother's pharmacy. Things for Wheels started to go bad when he got nerdy glasses (THE SHAME!) and began his new life as a petty criminal, stealing videogames and whatnot. The real fun came when he got into a drunk-driving accident -- killing some innocent kid and paralysing his passenger, Lisa. I do enjoy the irony of a kid nicknamed Wheels not being able to control his, but I don't think Lisa's laughing with me.

Noughties Degrassi: Anyone who watched the early years of Next Gen knows that Emma Nelson was the high and mighty, morally correct character that you desperately wanted to smack upside the head. So preachy, so unnecessarily bitchy. And she was supposed to be the nice character. Imagine everyone's surprise when, in season four, Emma did something no good girls at Degrassi ever do -- she went out with a 'bad boy' named Jay! Gasp! And she...wait for it...gave him a blowjob! Double gasp! And, after all the fun oral sex was over with, got a nice case of gonorrhea out of it! Gasp to end all gasps! For some reason, I can't think of this storyline without laughing hysterically -- that is the power of my Emma hatred, people. I'd tell her to suck it, but it seems she already did that.

The Winner: Emma and her escapades with Jay at the ravine, hands down. Sure, nobody died or got paralysed, but there's something so satisfying about pious Emma being talked into sneaky blowjobs in a public place, isn't there? Plus, Jay actually used the word 'blowjob,' which is just the most scandalous thing I think I've ever heard. Do you know how many teen shows get to actually use the word 'blowjob?" Not a one.

At least he lit some candles first.

Best Blonde

Eighties Degrassi: Boy, there were a lot of blondes at Degrass in the eighties! Stephanie Kaye was the token popular blonde, Spike was the awesome bleached-blonde, Simon and Alexa were the gorgeous blonde couple everyone wanted to get in on, even adorable Caitlin had a Rayanne Graff-esque blonde many choices, so little time.

Noughties Degrassi: The only blonde that counted in Next Gen Degrassi was the incomparable Paige Michalchuck, the Stephanie Kaye of the new era. Sure, there was Emma, but fuck Emma, okay? The world does not revolve around stupid Emma.

The Winner: Paige. She was the only one who truly embraced her blondeness, and everything that goes along with it. Sorry, Stephanie Kaye, but those streetwalker outfits you used to wear really lost you points on this one. That is not the way of a true blonde, sweetheart.

True blondes wear pink.


Best Shit-Hits-The-Fan Episode

Eighties Degrassi: The fact is, in whatever sad part of Canada we're in, it seems that shit is constantly hitting the fan. Every episode brings up some awful new drama, so we have a few to choose from. The most dramatic episode is probably the one from Degrassi High where Caitlin's douchey boyfriend killed himself. Before you slam me for being so cruel to the dead, let me remind you that A) his name was Claude, and he pronounced it werid, B) he dressed like the lovechild of a Toulouse Lautrec and an eighties rent boy, and C) he was a douche even after death. After his parents divorced and he had some relationship troubles, Claude took himself to the school bathroom and blew his brains out with what was possibly the quietest gun ever, since no-one seemed to hear it and people only realised Claude was dead when Snake went to take a leak and found a corpse on the floor. Poor old Snake was scarred for life by this discovery, and a few days later Caitlin received a posthumous letter from Claude telling her in no uncertain terms that his suicide was all her fault. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...a douche.

Noughties Degrassi: You know it's a shit-hits-the-fan Next Gen episode when it's a two-parter. Paige's rape was one. Manny's pregnancy was one. Marco's sexual awakening was one.
The most jaw-dropping episode of noughties Degrassi was probably 'Time Stands Still.' Rick, who has just returned to school after being suspended for beating his popular girlfriend, was getting dumped on something fierce by everyone at Degrassi, especially said girlfriend's buddies. Even Emma hated him for an episode, before her future love rat Jay pummeled him and she randomly decided to be his friend. After Jay and Spinner went all Carrie-at-the-prom on Rick and dumped paint and feathers on him, Rick returned to school with a handgun, shot Jimmy and tried to shoot Emma. (It's actually a good thing she didn't die, because her grief after the shooting directly resulted in the awesome Emma/Jay blowjob fiasco.) Since school shootings were all the rage in the media back then, it was the highest rating episode ever, followed closely guessed it...Blowjobgate.

The Winner: While the school shooting was pretty damn good, I'm giving it to Douche!Claude and his dramatic suicide. Never before has a Degrassi character been such a downright wanker from beyond the grave.

Also nominated: Sean's eyebrows.

Best Feat of Disproportionate Retribution

Eighties Degrassi: In this one, the people dishing out the nice cold dish of revenge soup were actually the writers. See, Duane was a bully. There's no other word for what he was, and the karma? Karma don't much like bullies, you guys. God gave Duane a good, hard bitch-slap by giving him HIV. Full-blown HIV. I'm not sure how successful a deterrant these episodes were, since TV show punishments generally have something to do with the actual crime (ie sex leads to pregnancy, blowjobs lead to mouth gonorrhea etc.) but Duane certainly learned his lesson -- he and his regular victim, Joey Jeremiah, ended up getting a long pretty well afterwards.

Naughties Degrassi: Hmm, where to start. There was the episode where, after being given a single detention, Jimmy and Spinner harassed their teacher and vandalised her car to the point where she had a nervous breakdown. That's definitely something. Could it be the episode where Spinner treated his girlfriend like crap at her minumum-wage jobs in order to pay for damage to his car? Possibly. Spinner being a dick to Marco when he came out? Eh. Or how about the time Spinner inadvertently caused his buddy Jimmy's shooting after telling Rick that Jimmy was responsible for his public humiliation? No matter which of these things you think is the most unnecessarily cruel, I think we can all agree that Spinner is a monumental arsehole. He makes Claude look like Snow freakin' White.

The Winner: Sorry, Spin, but you can't beat 80s-era AIDS, no matter how hard you try.

Also, Duane looks like Jonah Hill.

Best Couple

Eighties Degrassi: Joey and Caitlin. Why, you ask? Because Joey Jeremiah was the most likeable character in the show -- for years, he could do no wrong, not even when he tormented Melanie for having a flat chest. And Caitlin? Was so freakin' adorable. Seriously. I just want to put her in my pocket and take her everywhere with me. So Joey + Caitlin = magic. That's just maths, you guys. That's all it is.

Naughties Degrassi: Paige and Spinner. He was a bit of a bully, she was a popular bitch. It was a match made in heaven until it all went to hell. Honourable mention goes to Jay and Emma, but I can't in good conscience shortlist them since I'm pretty sure my love for this hook-up stems from the fact that I know what's going to happen, and it's too freakin' funny. Still, the pre-gonorrhea flirting was a bit of fun.

The Winner: Joey and Caitlin, who actually got together as adults in Next Gen as well. Love that lasts two reincarnations of the same show will always win out over a couple who couldn't go the distance for four measly seasons, or a couple who give each other STDs.
See? Adorable!

Best Bad Boy

Eighties Degrassi: Clutch. Last name unknown. And first name, probably, unless his mother really did name him Clutch. Clutch was famous for driving a sparkly car (which is not an accurate measure of his badassedness) and his itsy bitsy teenage alcoholism problem. Honestly, though, Clutch was kind of a weak baddie. By the end, even Wheels was more badarse than Clutch.

Naughties Degrassi: Jay 'Ask Me About My STD' Hogart. He turned pseudo bad boy Sean into a petty criminal who ignored his then-girlfriend Emma. (One point for crimes against Emma.) Then he got Sean to steal Emma's dying stepfather's computer. (That's two.) He was king of the ravine, where the bad kids go to get nekkid, even 'branding' his conquests by giving them coloured bracelets as prizes for whichever sexual act they perform on him. You'd better believe that Emma got one of those. (That's three.) Plus, he gave all those girls gonohrrea. (That's four.) Jay started to get a little soft in later seasons, but with all these crimes against Emma, I'm willing to forgive.

The Winner: Take a guess. I love you and your backwards baseball cap, Jay Hogart, despite the fact that you look like you're late for your shift at Luke's Diner.

I'm betting Alex had a lot of coloured bracelets.

And the overall winner is...a tie??! What?! My Fights to the Death can't end in a tie...unless they're like Gladiator and both parties just kinda shuffle off this mortal coil at exactly the same time. Sadly, though, there needs to be a winner, so I'm throwing my personal opinion in there (shocker!) and giving Degrassi: The Next Generation the title. Thanks for playing, eighties, but better luck next time.


  1. So I'm not the only one that enjoys Emma when she's falling from grace. Good to know. The only times Emma was even partly cool was the BJ episode and when she kicked the crap out of Alex. That was hilarious.

    Oh, just one thing. I don't remember Downtown Sasquatch ever being Ashley's band. It was Craig's band, along with Spinner, Jimmy and Marco. As I remember it, Ashley was only in it for a very short period of time.

    And now I think I need to go watch some Degrassi TNG

  2. I included Downtown Sasquatch in the list of Ashley's bands because, even though she was only in it for a couple of episodes, she really acted like it was HER band to the point where Marco and Spinner wouldn't play with her properly. I believe there was a piano accordion involved...

  3. I never watched the original Degrassi. I've been watching TNG reruns on ABC3 and it's so friggin awesome. My favourite couple is Craig and Paige. I don't know why. They're just so sweet. I have a soft spot for Paige for being the original Queen B.

  4. Yay, a fellow ABC3 Degrassi lover! I'm loving me some Jay/Alex at the moment. But Craig is gorgeous -- I remember the actor who played him also being on this show called The Zack Files, and my friend and I were completely in love with him.

  5. Ok I don't know why I wrote Paige and Craig. I meant Ashley and Craig :S.

    I remember the Zack Files. That was a really good show! I think there was one about Alice in Wonderland?

  6. Excellent post! I need to rewatch early TNG - it's so awful now (if it's even still on.)

    Love Jay, hate Emma. And for some reason, I loved the Manny/Craig/Ellie triangle. I wanted Ellie to win :-(