A look at Degrassi, 25 years after resonating with teens:

Degrassi ’s grassroots approach to social class served as a near-invisible narrative strategy, but it anticipated the show’s most memorable legacy: its unflinching, plain-spoken treatment of pregnancy, suicide, interracial dating (a big deal in 1987), and HIV/AIDS. What’s more, Degrassi didn’t treat its characters with benevolence. Spike’s pregnancy at age fourteen — the result of a clumsy first-time sexual encounter with Shane, a baby-faced ninth-grader — didn’t end with a convenient miscarriage. Her character spent the remainder of the series as a struggling single parent. Later that season, Shane experimented with LSD, fell off a bridge, and suffered permanent brain damage. Wheels, one of the most popular characters, lost his parents to a drunk driver, and later experienced a breakdown that culminated in a drunk driving incident that killed a child, blinded his friend Lucy, and landed him in prison. In the early years of HIV/AIDS, Dwayne contracted the virus after having unprotected sex with his girlfriend (a thoughtful plot choice in an era when many thought of it as a ‘gay disease’). In a 1999 cast reunion on the CBC talk show Jonovision, actor Darrin Brown, who played Dwayne, was asked where his character would be now. ‘Dwayne would probably be dead,’ he replied.

“Teenage Dreams.” — Emily Landau, The Walrus

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