10 Things I Love About Degrassi: TNG
1. Paige Michalchuk was the “bitchy hot girl” when she was clearly amongst the least hot in that cast. I mean, Emma had some brutal puberty to go through, but she finished as amongst the hottest in the group. And yet somehow, no one questioned the fact that Paige just took the role normally reserved for the alpha female of the school who had not an inch of glass in her entire house, and thus was impervious to criticism and haters. Why did no one just kind of look around and be like, “Umm, Manny could essentially cure cancer with her dimples, why are you the bitchy hot girl?” Paige needed to abdicate that throne in the first season.
2. I think we can safely say that we all knew a Craig and Ashley growing up, and they were perhaps two of the most perfectly-rendered characters on television. Craig was the ~sensitive guy~ who had far too many feelings not to set them to music, and Ashley was the girl who thought that dying a single lock of hair blue and wearing black lipstick made her ~dark~, and they went together like peanut butter and jelly. Their lives were just filled with dramatic AIM sessions and away messages with song lyrics that were directed to each other. Ashley peels through her phases like one might peel through an onion, each one more heavily reliant on Hot Topic than the last. They made terrible music to and for each other, and were the royalty of the music scene that no one cared about. We all knew them.
3. Snake and Spike were the ultimate “cool parents” who are actually humiliating in their mayonnaise-esque whiteness, but you so desperately wanted parents like them. Why? Why were they so simultaneously lame and kind of charming? And how do milquetoast 40-year-olds call themselves names like Snake and Spike? I mean, really.
4. Emma Nelson, as I previously mentioned, went through perhaps the Golden Renaissance of puberty years, going from gawky, snaggle-toothed string bean to incredibly stunning blonde, no longer encumbered by the white trash boyfriend she so loved in those first tender scenes. I mean, we truly watched that ugly duckling morph into a perpetually-tanned swan, and as icing on the cake, the actress apparently hit some rough patches in her career or something shortly after leaving the show, and did a smattering of nude scenes that now linger around on the internet waiting to be Googled. God is truly generous.
5. No matter what “Drake” ever does in his career (besides, of course, trimming his sideburns while weeping silently to himself in the mirror), he will never live down the fact that he started it all as the token basketball-playing black guy who apparently wasn’t enough of a PC stereotype and thus had to become handicapped as icing on the cake. We will never forget, and we’ll always remember when he couldn’t get it up for Ashley. Degrassi fans never forget, Jiminy Cricket.
6. JT Yorke has the most hilariously absurd trajectory of any televised character. He was a nerd who used a penis pump to try and enhance his tiny package, as though that’s something any high school-aged student would ever do, and it somehow doesn’t prevent him from ever getting laid ever again. He told a girl he’s gay to avoid dating her and then was like “loljk I just don’t like you,” but still ends up being able to hit it, while using a Magnum condom no less (that I assume he had to tie on with a bread twisty). The condom, of course, slips off, as it was like putting a motorcycle helmet on an earthworm, so the girl gets pregnant. (This is still the girl who he originally told was gay to avoid dating her, by the by, self-esteem just abounds in this show.) So they give the kid up for adoption, some other uninteresting stuff happens, then he gets stabbed by some Juggalos in a parking lot after he calls them out for peeing on his car. His storyline is like the Citizen Kane of young adult programming.
7. A guy who looks like he would show up to a Papa Roach concert wearing studded JNCO jeans and is named “Spinner” can manage to snag just an endless line of beautiful/smart girls, even after getting his best friend and school superstar shot. He and Sean both completely encapsulated the ultimate early 2000s alt-bro look that just drove girls absolutely insane — and if we didn’t have proof in our pop culture like Degrassi, we would have erased it from our minds out of shame. Do you realize how hot we thought guys in chokers and leather bracelets who liked Tool were? Do you realize that?
8. Manny was just a hot mess for like 4 seasons in a row, but we still adored her. She was trying to get breast implants, taking off her clothes for some lame guy’s “video” that was going to somehow make her famous (?), getting drunk and stealing Craig from Ashley (the tart!), and basically just flopping around talking about how hot she was for, like, a solid several years. And, granted, the girl is gorgeous and probably could have gotten away with it, but how did no one end up killing her? People were just getting picked off willy-nilly on that show, I feel like she stepped on enough toes to get shot at some point. It was probably those dimples. It’s always the dimples.
9. Craig coming back on cocaine. Degrassi taught us that our favorite characters are always enhanced if they show up out of nowhere again and are coked up to the ceiling. You just plow through all those girls and sweat and shake a lot! We love you, Craig. (Real talk: I always had a brutal crush on him. He would be all of the points on this list if he could.)
10. Every episode of this show was a “very special” episode, and from gay-bashing to testicular cancer, no one was safe from the “let’s just talk about our feelings” programming. The kids could all just go live with each other at a whim, stealing prescription medication was the most obvious form of income, everyone and their mother had an eating disorder, and things were just generally not going well for anyone. Parents usually didn’t factor into anything — except for a once-per-season “serious conversation” — and teachers were often the only voices of reason, occasionally floating by to drop some advice and then not be seen again for ten episodes. Essentially, life was just incredibly difficult from the ages of 12 to 18. What happened, Canada? I thought you were some kind of utopia of socialism and healthy relationships. Your kids have some serious problems — maybe a little Hunger Games-style capitalism would do them some good.
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What does it even mean to be in love? Does anyone really know or is it just up to the individual to create their own idea of love?
I always wanted to give a commencement speech.
My ears listened to what they wanted me to believe.
3. Don’t get mad, get everything.