If you aren’t Canadian, Degrassi is probably an unknown to you. Originally billed as The Kids from Degrassi Street, the show has aired in various incarnations since 1979. Never once has it failed to touch on the awkward poignancy of growing up. They’ve had every type of kid imaginable on the show, from bullied to murderer, virginal to promiscuous, and of course every flavor of queer.
Unlike a great many shows, Degrassi doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics of first times, periods, masturbation, bisexuality, sexual assault, cheating, and more. And all those topics are touched on in season three of Degrassi: Next Class, which was released on Netflix this week.
One of the newest characters introduced is Rasha, a Syrian refugee and a Muslim, who happens to be a lesbian. The setup is predictable. Returning senior, Zoë, had finally accepted her own homosexuality in the previous season and come out, much to the distaste of her mother (who thought it was a phase). In her coming out scene, we are introduced to Rasha, and I turned and announced “there’s the new lesbian.”
I was right, but it was a few more episodes before we find out that not only is Rasha gay, but she too likes Zoë. Of course, this is a drama, and the course of young love never runs smooth.
The teens of Degrassi make mistakes and they make choices. Some are as obvious as you’d think. Others do surprise you a little. Like Adam (transgender male), who dates a strictly Christian girl. She insists God must have meant for Adam to be a boy, otherwise she wouldn’t be in love with him. Other times, you end up with Tristan who is so desperate to be loved, he sleeps with a teacher. He’s not the first. He won’t be the last.
The show tells, over and over, the recurring cycle of growth and adulthood. And it shows all the possible options in all the myriad ways they could occur. Take abortion. Of the eight unplanned teen pregnancies, four are aborted. Of those four, one is surprising in that all the character feels is relief. Yeah. They show all the ways women can be impacted by an abortion.
I call the show queer positive because it tackles tropes head on. Zoë’s mother insists she can’t be a lesbian because she doesn’t look one. Cue Zoë trading her bridesmaids dress for a tux, after seeing a couple young lesbians in army jackets. She’s still girly and frilly, of course.
Each of the new seasons is only 10 half-hour episodes, so a Netflix binge won’t take too long for you to catch up on the three seasons. Just remember, whatever it takes, they’ll make it through.