'Degrassi' tackles the issue of anorexia

‘Degrassi’ tackles the issue of anorexia

By BILL HARRIS — Toronto Sun

Right off the top, we must admit that our knowledge of the Degrassi TV franchise can be summed up as follows:

Me: Is that kid with the bowler still on the show?

Colleague: It was a fedora, you idiot.

Me: Whatever.

As it turns out, the kid with the bowler/fedora (Pat Mastroianni as Joey Jeremiah) actually is still on the show, which has transformed itself from Degrassi Junior High to Degrassi High to the current Degrassi: The Next Generation.

But this is not a debate about the value of hats, or the sad retro souls who don them. Rather, the subject is Degrassis ham-fisted handling of anorexia in a two-part extravaganza titled Our Lips Are Sealed, the first half of which airs tomorrow (CTV, 8:30 p.m.).

It certainly would have been cool had the Go-Gos, who had a song called Our Lips Are Sealed, made a cameo appearance. And yes, were very aware of the obvious cheap shots that can be taken (That Degrassi episode was so bad it made me want to throw up, etc.).

But coming on the heels of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it has to be acknowledged that the problem of teenaged girls starving themselves to be thin is a serious one.

Its just that, well, the Degrassi foray, while well-intentioned, leaves you hungry for a fresh insight, some relevant information, a compelling storyline, good writing, believable dialogue, anything.

Emma (Miriam McDonald) has become so frustrated by the numerous elements in her life that she cant control, she throws all her energy into the one thing she thinks she can control: Her weight. She is not fat by normal standards, but of course, anorexia has little to do with normalcy.

So Emma and Manny (Cassie Steele) cut way back on their eating and take up jogging. That leads to

this timeless dialogue after a lengthy run that, strangely, has left them only barely out of breath.

Emma: I just feel all floaty.

Manny: Me, too. Is that good?

Uh, no. On many, many levels, its not good.

Manny eventually wises up, God bless her. But Emma plunges head-first into the horrors of anorexia, with the forced vomiting, the fainting and the violent mood swings.

Through the years Degrassi regularly has attempted to be topical, and thats admirable. But, truthfully, the longevity of the show is a bit of a puzzler.

You cant find many actual teens who admit they watch it, the usual lament being, Too corny. And yet, you now can find folks in their 20s and 30s who will admit they watched Degrassi in their formative years.

So maybe there are more 15-year-olds secretly watching Degrassi than a straw-pole would indicate. If so, we pray they all have healthy eating habits.

Sadly, the ones who dont have healthy eating habits are not likely to be scared straight by Our Lips Are Sealed. Unless, that is, an enterprising parent uses it in the following manner: Eat your dinner, kid, or you have to watch more Degrassi.

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