TV's 'Degrassi' finds adult following

TV’s ‘Degrassi’ finds adult following

By: Nick Shea

Gonzaga University Student Paper

School shooting? Car wreck? Pregnant high school president?

It’s just another average day at “Degrassi Community School.” The teen soap-opera that promises to “go there” and be “100 percent intense” provides a visual buffet of teenage dysfunction so engaging it may be Canada’s most entertaining import since Celine Dion.

Pick your problem: One character cuts herself, one has bipolar disorder and another has a drinking problem.

The show has a cult following among teens and adults alike, and Gonzaga students are no exception.

For sophomore Laura Mombell, founder of a Degrassi-dedicated Facebook club boasting 48 members, it’s the diversity that keeps her watching.

“There are some drug addicts, some depressed people, some sexually active people, some band nerds, cheerleaders, snobs – just everything,” Mombell said.

The night she got hooked on “Degrassi” was one she’ll never forget. “It was a cold, dark night and I was hanging out over at my friend’s house and we were flipping through [the channels] and we ended up watching it because it was a ‘Degrassi’ marathon, and from then on I was hooked,” she said.

Sophomore Kaylee Berentson encountered the show while living in northern Washington where her TV picked up Canadian networks. “When I saw my first ‘Degrassi’ I couldn’t believe they were showing something so controversial I was hooked. [“Degrassi” writer] Yan Moore’s writing style is really unique and the topics explored were something I knew I’d never see on an American station,” Berentson said.

Sophomore Victoria “Tori” Bennett enjoys watching the Canadian import with her younger sisters, “I think it may be even 110 percent intense,” Bennett said.

The majority of “Degrassi” fans at Gonzaga are women, but that doesn’t mean the show hasn’t attracted a strong male fan base. Although the show’s largest following overall is teenage girls, Bennett was introduced to the show by her 22-year-old brother who bought her the first season on DVD for a birthday present, and Mombell calls it a “major turn on” if a man likes “Degrassi.” It’s no wonder many male students at Gonzaga admit to partaking in the not-so-guilty pleasure.

“I’m not afraid to be a male ‘Degrassi’ fan,” sophomore Brandon Simons said. “I’m more than comfortable enough with my masculinity to enjoy some dang-fine television.”

Simons isn’t alone. Filmmaker Kevin Smith enjoys the show so much, he made a cameo appearance playing himself and alter ego Silent Bob with sidekick Jay, ironically appearing on episode 420.

Although students seem to tune in for its dramatic look at teen troubles, the show is meant to be more than just a drama. On the official “Degrassi” Web site there are discussion guides for parents and teens.

According to PR Newswire, “Degrassi” had its best season ever last summer with a following of more than 500,000 viewers. With an ever-increasing fan base, the show has proved to be more than just a passing fancy. “I’ll keep watching as long as it continues to go there,” Bennett said.

“As long as it’s 100 percent intense,” said Berentson, “I’ll continue to be glued to the tube.”

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