Feature Image via Degrassi Wiki
Season fifty-eleven gazillion of Degrassi: The Next (Next Next) Generation kicked off last week. Before we get too far into bisexual cutie pie Imogen’s last semester in the show, we figured we should take a look back at last season. So welcome to Degrassi High, where every student gets cancer and there are too many spontaneous musical numbers for the characters to be as straight as they claim to be. Even though Degrassi killed off our favorite trans character, Adam Torres, the show made an attempt to appease the queers with some lesbian action, a touch of female empowerment, and a handful heteros with queer ambitions. Without further ado, here are the top 10 queer and feminist-y moments of Degrassi season 13.
10. Drew’s mom gives us a lesson on treating women with respect
Remember Drew Torres? So-called lady killer, champion of heterosexuality and stereotypical masculine chest thumping, and somehow the school president as of last season? The most interesting thing about Drew for the last few years — as far as I’m concerned — is that he is (or was) Adam’s older brother and gave producers an excuse to give Adam more screen time.
Fortunately, Drew decided to get some ambition in his senior year by becoming a leader in the student council, and getting an internship with a douchey mayoral candidate. Even though he says he’s taking a break from women, we all know that on Degrassi, life decisions only last two minutes of real world time and one episode of screen time. Obviously, he starts dating a sophomore named Zoë Rivas after an outfit change.
In an attempt to stay true to his no-dating commitment, Drew claims that their relationship is casual and has sex with Zoë in a pool house to prove it.
Zoë is not amused that Drew tells her post-sexy time that he wants to be casual, especially since their pool house dalliance was her first time having sex and she thought it was special. Zoë tells her mom that Drew is an asshat and Mama Rivas confronts Drew at a public Q&A session with the mayor that Drew is hosting for his internship. Awkward! The mothers and ex-casual-not-casual-pool house-frequenting lovers meet with Principal Simpson, who is probably the worst person to use as a conflict mediator and who helps resolve this conflict in no way. Drew faces no punishment because technically his pool house adventures were not statutory rape in Canada thanks to “close-in-age exceptions” in the law.
But when Drew gets home his mom is like, “Sike! I hate men like you!” She tells Drew that it’s important for him to be aware of why he’s having sex with someone and that it’s fucked up to use someone for sex.
“Sex is serious especially for a girl, especially at that age. You did a dumb, selfish, insensitive thing.”
Her reasoning isn’t perfect, but thanks, Mama Torres, for educating your son. He needed to have several seats.
9. Clare joins a coven of dykes
Clare Edwards is yet another champion of heterosexuality, most often associated with former emo-kid/current NYU student Eli Goldsworthy. After the most yo-yo hetero relationship I’ve seen in a while with Eli, briefly dating her step brother, and then falling for Drew (I call witchcraft on this kid’s pheromones), Clare decides to focus on herself by training for a triathlon.
Who else would be the triathlon coach but new student, pot smoking dancer, and our resident Lady Homo, Jack. Jack sees straight (heh) through Clare’s struggle.
Jack: Lemme guess, just broke up with a guy and now you’re here to get fit.
Clare: Two guys actually. And my friends seem to have zero interest in hanging out with me.
Jack tells Clare to hang out with her and her friends for a better time, and take Clare … AXE THROWING!?!
Aka the gayest shit I have ever heard of. Let’s take a moment of silence for all of us women in the U.S. who did not know that in Canada y’all throw axes for fun, and who are now contemplating crossing the border. I can’t be the only one whose world was rocked this hard by axe throwing.
Jack offers Clare some really beautiful advice in this episode which I hope Clare takes to heart:
“Take boys out of the picture and the whole world opens up.”
Jack’s raging misandry is a breath of fresh air, but proves too overwhelming for Clare, who feels the need to come out as straight at the end of the episode. Jack says they can still be friends, adding, “You’re a cool girl Clare, even if you’re a hetero.” Imogen better marry this woman or I will hop into the TV and marry Jack myself.
8. Imogen fights the system with feminism?
One of Degrassi‘s most consistent queer ladies is awkward heartthrob Imogen Moreno. She shows up to her French class late and is forced to make her presentation on Celine Dion as soon as she runs in the door because high school sucks. Imogen, in her rush, forgot to wear a bra, which is definitely not scandalous in my world. But, this douche-canoe named Luke starts making fun of the fact that everyone can see Imogen’s nipples. The French teacher pulls Imogen aside in what we hope will be a moment of breasted-people solidarity, but instead she tells Imogen that she’s distracting the class — which would’ve happened even if Imogen were wearing 20 bras because homegirl is a cutie — and needs to leave until she gets a bra.
In a meeting with conflict-resolving-failure Principal Simpson and Madame Brassiere, Imogen rightly complains that kicking her out of class for wearing no bra is sexist and irrational. Simpson concedes that nothing in the school constitution states that a student with breasts needs to wear a bra, but mentions that said constitution has language about community standards. Imogen is like fuck the noise! and uses her school television department, Degrassi TV, to shame the administration. She wears her bra over her shirt so that everyone will know her boobs are covered.
Simpson is mad as hell because boobs are scary and other breasted-folks are following Imogen’s lead. He’s also mad because Imogen takes her complaint a step further by pointing out that the dress code specifically aims to control female students’ appearances.
Simpson says that Imogen gets to decide how to amend the dress code, which is a harder task than Imogen anticipated. Imogen’s friend Becky spends most of this episode’s plot murmuring some respectability politics-informed feedback that we all ignore. Fortunately, Imogen tells Becky that the problem with dress codes is that they limit the creative self-expression of all people, and that the solution isn’t just forcing male students to wear tutus or stop wearing their pants low. After some questionable statements about feminism and what Gandhi would do, Imogen proposes a new dress code where students can wear whatever they want as long as their intention is not to distract other students or to disrespect themselves. I’m not exactly sure how the administration plans to enforce this, and the language of “disrespecting themselves” seems like it might lead to some problems down the road; but Degrassi‘s knack for continuity is only a little better than Glee‘s, so I don’t think anyone will be inconvenienced by the dress code for another 14 seasons.
7. Grace is a character
Grace Cardinal has to be the best secret homo sidekick since Alex Nuñez (seasons 3-6). She rocks blue hair and numerous piercings, confronts her male friends when they say problematic things about women, is not afraid to call people out for treating the students in remedial classes like trash, and helps expose two students who sexually assaulted Zoë Rivas (more on that to come).
Grace has not gotten a plot of her own, but she is a nice contrast to sidekick characters like Connor or Winston (aka Chewy), who literally spend seasons making white characters feel better about themselves before they get any kind of development. Grace isn’t a stand alone character yet, and we don’t learn why she is placed in the “Rubber Room” for remedial classes, but I think she shows potential. Also, everything about her screams baby queer to me so I am excited for her to embrace her lady-loving feels someday. And, if the producers decide to kill or write off the queer ladies (again), we may have a survivor!
6. Becky tries to be gay
As a former conservative Christian/misguided biddie, I sympathize with Becky’s struggle. Except I’m actually gay but that’s a different story. Becky Baker became a somewhat decent LGBTQ ally when she started dating Adam Torres, but maybe we hate her because she killed Adam. (Okay, no she didn’t but she may as well have.) Without a boo, she doesn’t really have anyone at school to call a friend until she bonds with Imogen. They have all the BFFL feels until Jack transfers to Degrassi mid-semester and mid-season. Imogen tries to do the thing where you’re totally into that cute lady and you’re 85% sure she’s queer, but you don’t know how to flirt so you ask said potentially queer person to spend all of their time with you and your friends while you try to find out how they identify and learn how to flirt. Becky is not amused because she knows about the lesbian merge and doesn’t want to lose her new BFFL.
Becky makes mistake number one and asks Drew for advice. Drew’s like “Have a ladies night,” which theoretically could’ve worked if Becky didn’t ask Imogen to go to Degrassi’s Sweethearts semi-formal dance with her so that the two could get to know each other more “intimately.” Becky goes back to Drew for advice, because as a man and as the straightest dude ever he must know about queer women. Drew advises:
“You could become a lesbian. Or pretend to be a lesbian.”
And that’s how MTV came up with the idea for Faking It.
Jack is not amused when she finds out that Becky is jacking her swag and tells Becky to do better.
Jack: “But you’re not gay…”
At the semi-formal, Becky and Imogen slow dance for a hot second and then Becky also comes out as straight. When Becky blurts out that she can’t be a lesbian, Imogen is actually really happy.
Imogen: Oh thank goodness!
Becky: Why? Because you already hate me?
Imogen: No, because you’re my first girlfriend at Degrassi that isn’t my girlfriend. Fiona and I used to be inseparable but now we barely talk.
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I had to give up watching Degrassi when they killed Adam off, but this is kind of making me reconsider. Except I’m still hung up on Fimogen and I’m not sure I could move past them AND the fact that Adam won’t be there anymore =/
I was so impressed with that part of the Zoë assault storyline where Zoë calls Miles out for letting the assault happen by not doing anything. I was also impressed when Zoë quits the movie because she doesn’t want to be an example to other young women of giving up and not fighting back.
The Ali abuse storyline was well done, but I’m sad that it seems like the showrunners never let Ali learn from any of her past experiences about not telling her friends and family the truth (not that her parents are supportive the I wish they would be, because fiction and wish-fulfillment).
YASSS Degrassi on Autostraddle forever!! <3 <3 <3 <3
Also I would add Miles and Tristan making out to this list!! I think Miles potentially being bi/queer/questioning is awesome. There are so few portrayals of non-monosexual dudes on TV! #triles
I heartily agree! I’m surprised by how little coverage that storyline has got, given that non-monosexual teen male characters are practically unheard of.
An irrational part of my brain wants Autostraddle to recap/cover Triles because it’s about the only site that handles bisexual representation decently. (In fact, if anyone could point me to a site that covers male bisexuality in a non-heinous manner, that would be delightful.)
I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that the writers gave Imogen a new lady love, because typically, bisexual characters “go gay” for only one character, and then it’s opposite sex partners from then on. Good on the writers for not switching her same-sex attractions off after Fiona.
Helen, this is so good. You could teach an entire semester on this post.
I assure you that axe throwing is also A Thing in Northern NY and probably anywhere else that has the perfect storm of houses heated only by wood, queer girls, and limited internet access. We have a lot of time on our hands and also a surplus of axes. It’s a good life.
This was an awesome summary of a show I’ve never watched but always wished I did.
Sobering correction: in Canada, the number of reported sexual assault cases are much lower than 40%. It’s actually more like 6%.
The fact that Grace is of Aboriginal descent has me hoping that the writers will touch upon the often ignored issues that plague Canada’s Aboriginal women.
I haven’t watched Degrassi in years, but as a NH native, I can tell you that I was raised with axe throwing. Like, my dad taught my sister and I to throw axes and knives and stuff and it’s pretty cool! So, totally happens outside of Canada.
And this is the story of how I became smitten with baby queer Jack from a few screencaps only to realize she’s played by my sisters shitty ex boyfriend’s kid sister. Turns out I can’t even get five degrees of separation from fictional Canadian queers.