Ahhh, junior high.
I really don’t remember it looking that much fun. Course I was a pretty geeky looking kid trying his best to fit in, while living in a country that was not my own, though I did grow to love it as if it were.
Still, the stories and cast of Degrassi Junior High have resonated not only with Canadians who grew up with it, but around the world.
I decided to revisit it on Netflix and see if it still stands up, or was I simply looking at it through rose-colored glasses?
I’m happy to say it stands up.
While the clothes may be different, the locations changed drastically, and the cast all grown up and moved on, I am quite happy to wander these hallowed halls again, which is saying something, cause like I said when I was that age, I was a strange little geeky kid who could not find his niche.
The stories can be fun, the stories can be poignant, and though the acting may not be stellar, it always felt real. These were kids not so different from me, who were going through things that I was, or that my friends were, things we all knew about, talked about, and would never confide to our parents about.
There were so many things to relate to.
I think that’s where most of the series’ real appeal lies. It doesn’t pander to its viewers, sure sometimes it goes for the goody-goody ending, but that doesn’t make it trite. It shows you what CAN happen, not necessarily what will happen for you.
In the first season we’re introduced to characters that we will get to know really well over the next few seasons, Joey Jeremiah, Snake, Wheels, Steph, Arthur, Yick, Lucy, twins Erica & Heather, Spike, and of course, sigh, Caitlin. I think every guy I knew had a crush on her.
Right from the start the show deals with teen issues, things like being accepted, sexuality, gay issues, cheating, racism, teen pregnancy, shoplifting, drinking, and child abuse. And these things aren’t forgotten episode to episode, there are arcs and storylines through the entire run of the first season (13 episodes), so you grow and learn with the characters.
Heavy stuff, and yet handled really well, and they creators made sure to make it suitable viewing for all ages.
You can’t help but look at some of the characters and shake your head and sigh, like poor Steph. She wanted to be School President to be popular, she changes her looks, and gets the boys to vote for her by letting them kiss her. She doesn’t realize the responsibility that comes with it, and ends up losing one of her friends for almost the entire season.
Arthur and Yick provide a lot of comic relief, and the episode that sees them trying to watch a porno is a lot of fun, and the title of the film they want to watch is hilarious in and of itself, urging on the imagination… Swamp Sex Robots! Hmmm.
Watching Snake and Joey bicker back and forth about names for their band, and even when they settle on one, The Zit Remedy, Joey makes sure that his shirt has an addendum on the back “A.K.A. Joey and The Jetset.”
Caitlin trying to make Rick smile, and also worrying about whether her teacher Ms. Avery was a lesbian, and if that might mean she is too.
This series doesn’t just stand as a hallmark of Canadian television in the late 80s, it resonates still today with legions of fans. Even bringing it up briefly at work, people will go on about their favorite characters, or “remember when” moments.
And your good memories of the show aren’t lying to you, it still is that good. I’m looking forward to finishing the junior high run and moving on to Degrassi High properly. Then I’ll have to see if I make the jump to the Next Generation.
Degrassi Junior High.
These are people that could have been your friends if you knew them.
That’s why I like visiting them again so many years on. Perhaps we’ll see if The Mind Reels can’t find some of them, and have a chat with them, and catch up on old times.