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Channel J: New generation of ‘Degrassi’ worth watching

I’ll admit, high school wasn’t the brightest time in my life thus far, but essentially it’s the time where we all begin to figure ourselves out, right? I had awesome grades but socially, I was nonchalant and put myself in a bubble around classmates that weren’t my close friends.

All in all, teenage Janaya was definitely not the same person almost twenty-something year-old Janaya is today. I usually don’t care much about being quasi-shy as a youngster but Degrassi is the one thing that makes me wish I could go back in time and do high school all over again.

My early memories of tuning in to “Degrassi: The Next Generation” were during the show’s sixth season. I was only 10-years-old and wanted to be like my older sister, who watched the show on The N (now named TeenNick) nonstop, so I often snuck and watched the adult-ish drama when no one else was around (sorry, mom). Though I couldn’t fully understand many of the different topics the show tackled at age of 10, I continued to watch Degrassi into the time I entered high school.

Rewatching the show from its first season to it’s latest, I was amazed at how thoroughly the show tackled subjects as serious as racism to smaller subjects like girls learning to how to adapt to having periods.

(By the way, my all-time favorite episode is “Coming of Age” when Emma gets her first period and calls out J.T. for being immature about it in front of their entire class. Yes, Emma! Menstruation is nothing to be ashamed about! Let the little immature lads know!)

Once it was publicized that the 14th season of Degrassi would be the last to air on MTV Canada and TeenNick, most people I know didn’t care much. Many felt that the latest seasons had lacked the drama’s original “touch”– you could say– and I agreed. The film style and older characters of the show brought a candidness that made me feel I could possibly attend Degrassi and meet Liberty, Paige, or Jimmy in my own school. The new characters felt too polished but I held on, and  — as I usually do when I’m as invested in a series like this one,– and I’m glad I did.

In the U.S, Degrassi has been taken on by Netflix (viewers in Canada can watch the new season on the Family Channel) and it seems to have regained it’s flare. Zoe, Tristan, Maya, Miles and a few other characters return this season along with two new characters: Goldhi Nahir, an outspoken hijab-wearing feminist, and Esme Song, a character who seems to have it all together but really stirs up loads of trouble while adjusting to Degrassi.

From hashtagged episode titles to almost impeccable looking shots — compared to old-school Degrassi at least– you may think that the show is still presenting hardcore storylines with a ribbon on top. But, as the English idiom goes, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The new season tackles online harassment, heavy reliance on anxiety medications to students “internet diagnosing” themselves with infections like chlamydia– bizarre, I know. But nonetheless all of the topics hold strong to what I see young people, even college students, dealing with today. So don’t count “Degrassi: Next Class” out just yet. The students of Degrassi Community School still have a few lessons to share.

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