Saturday, July 21, 2012

Degrassi - Still going there.

Yeah I know it’s the show’s old tagline, but it still applies.

Television these days, if not all days, is so typically a “play it safe” medium, especially when it comes to kids and teens programming.  We know first hand from working so often with kids and teens in our “React” series, there are so few entertainment options that are not ADD and fast paced, and without much in the ways of messaging, teaching, and learning.  Degrassi has always been that show to take those risks, and they continue to do so even in its 12th season.

In the recent episode “Walking on Broken Glass Part 2”, the show ends taking such a strong stance for standing up for what you believe in and the equality of people.  This alone is merit worthy, but tenfold with this being a show geared towards the youth of today.  The scene has Eli (warning - spoilers ahead!), who has spent this and the previous episode up in arms having to produce the play alongside a girl named Becky, his very opposite. In the casting of said play, (a cliche musical of Romeo & Juliet) Eli finds his happy medium by changing the play to “Romeo & Jules”, casting two males and having it be a same sex adaptation of the classic play, and casts a gay student named Tristan as the role of Jules.  Becky is furious when she finds out and threatens to quit, and Eli immediately tries to explain that it’s no reason to quit, but after she alerts him that she can’t be part of a play that “that depicts an alternative lifestyle choice as normal” Eli responds with what will forever be a classic TV moment in our memories as the camera pushes in on him and he says, “Welcome to Degrassi.” End of episode. 


The scene encompasses everything the show has been for all of these years. A show that takes risks.  A show that isn’t afraid to take on real issues. Even if some would feel it too glossy at times, the truth remains that it does things no other show is brave enough to do and it took a dual stand in that moment. First in the show itself by teaching the lesson that you should try to use reason with people to be more open and understanding and not just “quit” things in life due to something not being what you consider “right” or “safe”, but then it took a second stance as a show overall telling anyone out in the world that is watching Degrassi - if you’re just as intolerant in your life, and can’t look past the show taking on topics you consider “wrong to take on” well, essentially “Stop watching our show. We don’t want you here”.  

What a moment. 

Being writer/directors with a passion for creating content that makes you think and encourages opinions and individuality in youth, as well as pushing the envelope in our comedy our entire careers, this moment felt like it was for us, and all of us who push the envelope. 

So hey! To all of those who would claim that taking content to edges to make meaningful statements and stories to reach people by approaching things in a true way and not walking on egg shells avoiding hot button issues is “wrong” -  we’ll echo that sentiment as a motivational banner to not stand down.  You think it’s wrong?  Well we’re not going to change.  

Welcome to Degrassi.  

-Benny & Rafi Fine


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