"Degrassi: The Next Generation"(s)
When I was in middle school, I came across a show called "Degrassi". I remember being told by one of my cousins that Drake was on it, this show is great, etc. As I was saying, one night, I was up late and stumbled upon what we know as "Degrassi". The cast at the time involved the new dress code, new characters, and it was a timeline way after the original characters left for college. Throughout the entire storyline, I felt connected to many of the characters. Degrassi has been a recurring show for generations. For those of you that saw it in the early 2000s, it has been going on since Spike (Emma's mom) was in high school. When the show "Degrassi" aired on TV, I wasn't in high school–or even elementary school. It originally aired during my mom's late teens. I remember watching it and feeling embarrassed because some of the episodes were past my maturity level at the time. Now, as I binge-watch it on Netflix, I realize how much this show could have potentially helped me and my peers as we struggled with self-identity, acceptance, peer pressure, drug use, and the influences of social media. Exposing a child to certain content and talking with them could help teens gain knowledge, a better understanding of the consequences of certain actions, and teach them how to make informed decisions. When I was in high school, my health teacher at would always say "Positive people, places, and things will get you far," and this is a phrase that has stuck with me well into college.
Thing is, life is random. And sometimes it's tragic and totally messed up. But there's one thing that makes all the drama and tears worthwhile–if you're lucky enough to find someone you love who loves you back, it's a gift. Know what I'm saying?
- Jimmy Brooks
I was very young and was pretty naive when it came to sex, drugs, and peer pressure. Thankfully, I did not have the desire to get involved with those things, as I focused on my grades. I tried to get involved through sports and other activities, but drama still permeated my life. "Degrassi" was a show that wasn't afraid to talk about topics like eating disorders, rape, sex, drugs, and even smaller issues like friendships and bullying. Not only did they challenge the stigma of a "girls-only disease," but they also gave one of the main characters an eating disorder.
Teenagers are curious about experimenting during this time period. They have more freedom to do as they please and are introduced to a large variety of students that come from all different backgrounds. Students may think that they are independently fixing a problem when, in reality, they are hurting themselves or someone else in the process. It is important to have a healthy and open relationship, so if your teen has questions, they are able to come to you for advice without the fear of being punished. This show has a diverse group of characters with different backgrounds and sexual identities, allowing students to relate to at least one of these characters. They go over different pronouns that certain students feel more comfortable identifying as and show that there isn't one type of "normal." Many of the social pressures faced in high school come from the ideas that we create in our head of what is "accepted" or "normal" and what is not. It is important to educate your teens on this so they aren't getting bullied or being a bully because of a misconception they might have.
Despite all the different households that these students come from and their unique interests, there is a safe place for them at Degrassi High where they are able to support each other. In a perfect society, this would hold true for our high schools, too, but with each step, we are closer to achieving that goal. The overall message of this show is exemplified by a quote in its opening and closing theme song: "Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through." This holds true for high school and any other obstacle faced in life. With the continuous support of our friends/family and our determination, we can get past anything that might be in our way.
The worst mistakes are the ones you never learn from.
- Liberty Van Zandt
"One Tree Hill"
We spend so much time wanting, pursuing, wishing. But ambition is good, chasing things with integrity is good, dreaming. If you had a friend you knew you'd never see again, what would you say? If you could do one last thing for someone you love, what would it be? Say it. Do it. Don't wait. Nothing lasts forever. Make a wish and place it in your heart. Anything you want, everything you want. Do you have it? Good. Now believe it can come true. You never know where the next miracle's going to come from, the next memory, the next smile, the next wish come true. But if you believe that it's right around the corner, you open your heart and mind to the possibility of it, to the certainty of it, you just might get the thing you're wishing for. The world is full of magic. You just have to believe in it. So make your wish. Do you have it? Good. Now believe in it with all your heart.
- One Tree Hill
Somehow, when I was younger, I missed the cultural phenomenon that is "One Tree Hill". Most of my friends started watching this iconic masterpiece as it originally aired, through the filter of youth. While they were hanging with the Tree Hill Ravens in small-town North Carolina, I was probably busy obsessing over Clark Kent in Smallville, Kansas. Fast forward to 2015 and I was tired of the constant "One Tree Hill" references that my friends threw around.
They got wide-eyed and dreamy when they talked about Nathan and Lucas Scott. They smiled broadly when they spoke of Brooke and Haley's friendship, reveling in a nostalgia that I could not relate to. I basically knew nothing about "One Tree Hill" except that it was filmed in North Carolina and that Nayley was the couple goals. Thassit. Eventually, I was suffering severely enough from pop culture FOMO that I decided to give it a whirl. Thanks to Netflix, I was able to start finally meeting the Tree Hill gang, one fateful day during my sophomore year of high school. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I learned a lot along the way. To borrow from "Saturday Night Live", this show has everything: A high school marriage, a stolen school bus filled with beer, and an evil father who rivals Joffrey in terms of audience hatred.
And while I loved every second of it, I know there are a lot of things I picked up on now that I wouldn't have before. At this point, I've already made my way through my freshman year of high school and half of my sophomore year. I've stated my first real relationship (who I was with from ages 14-17 ), started friendships, and ended some. I feel like I am better equipped to understand what the residents of Tree Hill went through and now I can watch from a whole different perspective. I compared most friendships and relationships with them and they seem about right.
Here's what the teen drama looked like in my wise(r) eyes:
1. Where are the parents? And why are they always MIA?
Peyton's dad is always on the high seas doing whatever he does; Brooke's parents are rich but mysterious; Haley's parents seem awesome but get little to no screen time. And then there is Dan, who is basically always around but is a monster. Then there's Karen, who is charged with keeping an eye on all of the teens in Tree Hill. No wonder there is so much debauchery going on. When I was in high school, I would have thought that this was just how upperclassmen acted. I don't know about everyone else, but I had a house with parents that were always around and a pretty strict curfew.
2. Deb and Karen are #friendshipgoals
I am sure that as a teen, my friendship goals would have aligned more with Haley/Brooke/Peyton, but now I am able to truly appreciate how hard it must have been for these two to put their differences behind them and become their own little squad. These two ladies support each other through some of the most dramatic parts of the show (Having the same baby daddy! Attempted murder!) and the showrunners could have taken the easy way out. They could have pitted these two against each other for endless dramatic fights. Instead, we get to enjoy a friendship between two strong women. I'm just glad that I was able to really appreciate that by the time I got to "One Tree Hill."
3. Sorry, Lucas–no high school boy loves literature THAT MUCH
The same goes for college boys. Even as an English major, I did not run into too many guys that were super into quoting dead authors–or any authors, for that matter. In my experience, guys are much more into quoting "Entourage" or "How I Met Your Mother". They are great, but those shows aren't exactly Shakespeare.
But who can help falling in love with that smile?
4. Nathan and Haley are actually perfect
My pre-teen self and current-self are in agreement about this. While it is 100-percent insane that these two got married in high school and had a baby before they even graduated, I can't help but love them. So yeah, in my pre-teens, I would have been obsessed with Nathan Scott. And not much has changed. Nathan is that senior guy my high school freshman self would have loved to tutor. Now, I see Nathan as the type of guy who would encourage his lady in her creative pursuits, the way he encouraged Haley to continue working on her music. And seeing him with his kids in later seasons only helps adult me appreciate him even more.
5. Oh hey, feminism!
While I have always inherently believed in gender equality, it was only through senior year and my involvement in the women's march that I came to understand what feminism is and claimed it for myself. I don't know if I truly would have been able to appreciate the gender-related topics that "One Tree Hill" explores through Anna's storyline before now. Aside from being one of the few bisexual characters on TV at the time (and one of the only non-straight characters on the show), Anna refuses to be defined by any one label, whether it be her sexuality or her race. When she claims her bisexuality in the video for the time capsule, it is one of the series' most powerful moments–especially because the rumors of Anna's sexuality caused her family to have to move in the past. During a sleepover with Brooke, Peyton, and Haley, Anna attacks the double-standard between men and women while discussing Brooke's friends-with-benefits relationship with Felix, Anna's brother. Out of all the shows that I did watch when I was younger, I don't ever remember hearing a monologue like Anna's that calls attention to double-standards and the ownership that society feels over women's bodies. I can never say how much I loved Brooke's growth as a character in the show.
In the end, I'm glad that I fell victim to my FOMO and decided to give "One Tree Hill" a shot. I thought it would just be another WB show with pretty people and a lot of drama. And while it is both of those things, the show has a lot of heart and I truly came to care about these characters. The lessons are timeless, whether you are 15 or 25. And now I can be one of those people that talks about "One Tree Hill" so much that other people feel left out.
The first words spoken on "Gossip Girl" were by the elusive (and titular) Gossip Girl (voiced by Kristen Bell) way back in 2007 when the pilot first aired; These three sentences sparked a massive following of an entire generation of digital age kids, including me.
All of the boyfriends and mean girls and teachers, and our crazy mothers, we went through it together. We raised each other.
- Blair Waldorf
I started watching the show the year that I had my first real heartbreak. I was 16 and "Gossip Girl" had been long aired and finished. One of my friends suggested I watch it so that I could see what she means when she said "You and (x)'s relationship is a Chuck and Blair relationship. I think you two will end up together, but maybe after destiny has taken you two apart for some time" and I was just there like "...Okay." At that point, I'd spent years rushing through my homework just to plant myself in front of the TV and get my fill of Serena, Blair, Nate, Chuck, and Dan making mistake after heartbreaking mistake, only to eventually redeem themselves. With its realistic portrayal of the ups and downs of female friendships, accurate enough representations of family struggles, and loads of characters with a willingness to do everything to get what they want, "Gossip Girl" changed my life. It was partly because it offered a sometimes accurate, sometimes distorted version of life, and what I wanted it to be.
Whether it was Chuck leaving his mark on the Manhattan skyline, Dan publishing a novel while he was a student at NYU, or Blair creating a new junior line for her mother's fashion company, I always found the characters' passion for what they loved to be contagious. Of course, the characters' passions also included the harassment of fellow students, multiple student-teacher relationships, and a tendency to trade friends and lovers as though people were just another form of capital. But I loved that the show allowed me to live vicariously through the characters and their outlandish adventures without actually having to be the bad seed myself. In that way, I was a Dan Humphrey-level insider, even if didn't publish a novel when I was a sophomore in college.
That didn't stop me from trying to replicate certain shenanigans of the "Gossip Girl" characters, though, which varied from simply wearing headbands adorned with bows or gems to creating an anonymous Twitter account at my high school to attending college in New York and interning at fashion magazines, in part based on the 0.3 seconds in the show that Blair and Dan worked at W. As crazy as it may sound, the show did tap into my very real interests in both fashion and journalism. It made me want to experience it all for myself. Seriously, if the few episodes featuring Dan and Blair interning at W had spun on off into its own series, I would have watched religiously. Sometimes after binge-watching the show, I think to myself, WWBWD? (What Would Blair Waldorf Do?) I'm not alone in my loyalty to these prep school alums. If you need further proof, check out the half a million users that follow a Chuck Bass parody account on Twitter or the 1.5 million viewers who tuned into the series finale. As soon as I find out that someone I've just met is a fan of "Gossip Girl", it's like we share a secret bond. The community of GG lovers demolishes any and all social separations.
In my room, this show will serve as the perfect form of escapist entertainment, thanks to the beautifully decorated apartments, incredible fashion, and, let's face it, ridiculously hot guys. While the guys have some pretty significant plotlines on the show, it's the girls that stick out to me. These are the strong confident female characters that I really aspired to be like: Whether it was Jenny taking a stand when Eleanor was stealing her ideas by launching her own clothing line, Blair's attempt to be powerful on her own, not because of who she's dating or who her mother is, or Serena trying to shake old (very bad) habits with a desire to be better than she'd been, I couldn't help but admire these young women. Plus, the portrayal of female friendships was something that always stood out to me as very real. Even when S and B got into one of their classic power struggles, they always found a way to forgive each other. It's also hard not to admire the way these girls walked the fine line between bitchiness and brilliant sarcasm. One of the best—and simultaneously the worst—parts of the show is the dream-like portrayal of an elite New York life. It's the reason Dan Humphrey was so desperate to get on the inside.
As Gossip Girl narrates in the second episode, "Breakfast is brunch, and it comes with champagne, a dress code, and a hundred of our closest friends." Who doesn't want to live in that world? Unfortunately, the show fails to represent certain aspects of New York, most notably in its astounding lack of diversity, which is unrealistic to a fault. The show eventually introduces Raina and Russell Thorpe, two black characters, at the beginning of season four, but I'd already spent quite a bit of time thinking "Wow, this show is really white." And yet, there are some NYC things that the show perfectly captures, like the feeling you get when you're in New York as a tourist. As Blair Waldorf memorably says to a character who comments that she feels like Alice in Wonderland, "Manhattan will do that to a girl. You'll be happy to know it never wears off." Three years into living here myself, I wholeheartedly agree. "Gossip Girl" allows us entry into the most vulnerable and relatable times in these characters' lives—the end of high school and the beginning of college, adulthood, and everything else. It taught us to appreciate the magic around us without getting blinded by it; It helps us treasure who we are and trust in ourselves, despite what an anonymous voice on the internet wants us to think. This is a life-changing lesson. That, and the power of waffles to make everything better.
You know you love me. XOXO, Gossip girl.
This show literally saved my relationship with my mother. And I never knew how much she and I were like Loralei and Rory. After lamenting my mom's resistance to watching "Gilmore Girls", I finally got her on board with the series. But why did I fight for my mom to watch the "Gilmore Girls" revival, beyond the appeal of being an episode ahead of my fellow marathon-watching girlfriends? It goes back to the point I made during Luke's Diner Day: Sometimes I miss my mom. More than that, though, sometimes (always), my mom misses me. No matter how much I've covered and discussed "Gilmore Girls," I've desperately wanted her to experience the mother-daughter themed series. My mom and I have never shared great pop culture passions like the Gilmores, and a recent Netflix survey shows that 62 percent of mother-daughter pairings report that sharing a TV show helps build a stronger relationship. So we're definitely at a point in our relationship where we needed to share this experience, whether she wanted to or not. The result? Well, my mom and I learned quite a few things by hanging out with the Gilmores.
I love my mother, but we did not spend my youth sharing toasted marshmallow lip gloss and Macy Gray CDs. My early teen years had an Emily-Lorelai dynamic with more eyeliner and less teen pregnancy.
We mostly moved past it once I moved onto graduation at 18, becoming actual friends–friends who can have open and honest adult discussions over Starbucks. Still, that'll never change the fact that my mom is an entire generation and a half older than me, and therein lies the disconnect in pop culture references and lifestyle decisions. Lorelai is so proud that Rory is "On The Road-ing it," while if I added becoming broke from college and family drama, my mom would flip the Friday night dinner table over the smallest mention of specific people. Although my mother wouldn't speak to me if I didn't spoil her when she asked a question about the show, it was all we could talk about.
Mom, you've given me everything I need.
- Rory Gilmore
So I built up significant frustration. And that frustration manifested into a chorus of "Mom, please," "Mom, stahp," and of course, "Oh my God, Mom," punctuated by stressed out sighs. No "Donna Reed Night" or Stars Hollow town meeting is complete without popcorn and Red Vines, and Netflix was sweet enough to bring those snacks to the showing. The latter definitely perplexed Mama Garis, who appraised the candy with, "Oh, and they have Twizzlers." No, no, no, mom. That's like calling Pepsi Coca-Cola. These packs of red licorice are Red Vines, the "Gilmore Girls" are a Red Vines family. It's a lifestyle. It's a religion. And I do believe that you need the right junk food on hand (and in the mouth) to appreciate this revival. I was mainlining caffeine like it was about to be criminalized, because how else does one prepare to watch "Gilmore Girls"? Not that you were worried, but a decade later, Rory and Lorelai haven't given up their java addiction. More than that, they haven't given up mother-daughter bonding time over their drink of choice. That jolt of energy definitely fuels their chatter and it comes across as late-night comfort, especially at a pivotal scene in the heart of "winter".From the screen to real life, another mother-daughter pairing is brought together by the sacred drink and we are closer than ever, but let me say that SHE HATED THE WAY THE REVIVAL SHOW ENDED. Just to reiterate, I don't know if either of us has the skin or passion for Lifetime films like Rory and Lorelai. We're also, despite my adolescent resistance and mother's fierce love of Kelly Bishop, not exactly Emily and Lorelai, either. Truthfully, I think we have more of a Marge-and-Lisa-Simpson thing going on, but that's a whole different article. Regardless of your relationship, though, I'd absolutely vouch that making a having a "Gilmore Girls" date night with your mom is the perfect way to top off the holiday season, even if she's never seen the show before. Why? Because as much as the show is gratuitous in delivering fan service, it's transcendent in telling one more story about three generations of mothers and daughters–three women and three relationships. It hasn't lost the brilliant and inherently feminist storytelling that every girl, young and old, can appreciate. The importance and heart of the show finally translated as we giggled in line to get our photos taken and she joked, "We're like the Garis Girls!" She still doesn't really get the whole Hep Alien thing, but, you know, baby steps. We loved our trip to Stars Hollow, and I would recommend that you bring your mom along for the ride when "Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life" hits Netflix on November 25th. Brew some coffee, get Red Vines and Mallomars, and come to hang with your favorite girls... Fictional or otherwise.
So, mom, as I head off to college soon, this is for you:
I cannot do this alone. I need my mommy and I don't care who knows it .
- Rory Gilmore