With the HBOmax revival show “Degrassi” set to hit the streaming platform in 2023, it is important to note the impact the show had on Gen Z culture and future generations through the shows we now consume.
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is a Canadian teen drama series, broadcasted in the U.S. as well, that ran for 14 seasons with a total of 385 episodes. The show followed a cast of teens struggling to survive high school all while navigating the turmoils of relationships.
As an early 2000s teen drama series, “Degrassi” was a reflection of the times. The show depicted topics of sexuality, gender norms, drug use, and teen parenthood all while normalizing the high school and adolescent experience. In some of its more serious episodes, the show also displayed teen suicide and school shootings.
Fans of the show might suggest that one of the most memorable episodes of the show would be the shooting of Jimmy Brooks played by Drake, which ended in Jimmy being paralyzed from the waist down.
Although Drake went on to pursue music after being on the show for seven seasons (2001-08), it left an impact on him which he translated into his other artistic endeavors such as “Euphoria”, which he is heavily involved in as an executive producer. Euphoria’s Storm Reid, who plays Rue’s younger sister Gia, commended the artist for his commitment to the show in an interview with Seventeen.
“I know that he’s a brilliant businessman and creative, but I mean, he’s Drake. He doesn’t really have to pay attention in the table read, and he did”, stated Reid.
Much like “Euphoria”, “Degrassi” was controversial for its portrayal of teens as they took on adult themes and merged unrealistic lifestyles with the relatable trials of 21st-century adolescence. Despite the fact that many of the topics and themes explored in Euphoria are geared towards an older audience, with a much darker and more severe examination of the effects of drug abuse and toxic relationships.
Degrassi set a standard for shows, specifically teen drama series, to engage in controversy and take risks with the subjects they explore, pushing culture to shift towards a more progressive perspective. The show made it okay for future series’ to defy societal norms and talk about the uncomfortable situations that teens experience, which can be beneficial and healing to communities with large percentages of younger individuals.
While the show caught a lot of hate for tackling topics that might have been too mature for a teen audience, it was also useful in destigmatizing having difficult conversations about things that directly affect youth. The show was also valuable in showing and inspiring young people to embrace who they are, including the parts of themselves they deem unconventional.
Degrassi’s ingenuity was influential to many shows that came after like, “Euphoria”, “Gossip Girl”, and “The Fosters”. All of which dove into difficult conversations about disaffected youth in our modern society, and the hardships they overcome as they grow into themselves and learn to appreciate life’s many trials.