MIRROR IN THE BATHROOM
CTV AIRDATE: 11/17/02
THE-N AIRDATE: 7/18/03
Mirror In The Bathroom, in my opinion, is the most underrated episode in the Degrassi: TNG franchise. This episode is textbook Degrassi Junior High: the main plot deals with an issue that delivers quick consequences, and both plots deal with the same issue, but in completely different manners. Looking beyond the episode’s simple storylines one will find it examines a deeper issue, quietly giving us a look at a yin and yang that drive social behavior: the quest to obtain acceptance, and avoid rejection.
TOBY PLOT SUMMARY: Toby is disappointed when no one seems to care about his third place finish in a computer programming competition, but everyone shows Sean praise for being sports MVP of the month. In order to get noticed, Toby decides to join the wrestling team. A week before official team tryouts Toby finds himself in the same weight class as Sean, the defending champion. After getting pummeled by Sean in practice, Toby starts training with the help of JT. In order to avoid being in the same weigh class as Sean, Toby starts secretly taking laxatives and avoids eating to help lose weight. He loses enough weight to drop down to an easier weight class, and makes the team.
Ashley notices Toby hasn’t been eating lately and he yells at her, telling her to mind her own business. After receiving his wrestling windbreaker he flaunts it in front of Kendra and Nadia, then suddenly snaps at JT because he thinks JT is jealous that he made the team. One the day of the wrestling team’s first meet Ashley confronts Toby, and threatens to tell their parents that he hasn’t been eating. To get her off his case he orders a giant burger and eats it in front of her. Later, Toby sneaks off to the washroom and makes himself throw up. JT walks into the bathroom and hears Toby, who insists that everything is fine. Toby’s vision becomes blurred and he becomes more seemingly out of it, yet he keeps insisting that he’s fine. Ashley tells JT she’s worried about Toby, who she thinks has started developing an eating disorder. JT finds Toby in the locker room and begs him not to wrestle, but he does so anyway. During his match Toby’s vision is still blurry, and he ends up passing out. At home Toby is okay, despite being cut from the team for making weight. He’s thinks everyone made fun of him passing out, but JT tells him that everyone at school was actually worried about him.
The good thing about this storyline is that it does more than what people give it credit for, being a plot that shows guys deal with eating disorders. It also sheds a light on the dangers of “making weight,” a practice used by even elite athletes that almost seems like no big deal to those doing it if you google the term. The pressure Toby feels is self inflicted, and we gradually watch someone who is intelligent and (normally) proceeds logically make decisions fueled by emotion and desire.
It’s amusing watching him arrogantly flaunt his new-found popularity before it even exists, as Kendra and Nadia observe bewildered as he shows off his windbreaker. We all know just making the team isn’t enough, but in Toby’s mind he’s already won.
At one point in this episode Ashley says Toby is “in training for an eating disorder.” Most people’s idea of and/or experiences with an eating disorder involve it becoming a dominating part of their existence, the type that transforms into a lifelong struggle. Some may discount Toby’s plot because that’s not the case for him, but him never having any further body image issues after this incident makes complete sense. His focus in this episode is extremely narrow: he wants to be popular. He views being on the wrestling team as his only way of accomplishing this. He’s well aware of the fact that the only way he’ll make the team and win matches is to drop down to and maintain a certain weight, and in return he’ll face beatable opponents. Once he passes out at his match and is kicked off the team, what mental motivation does he have to continue taking laxatives and starving himself? This isn’t him believing in the idea that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” it’s a case of “nothing feels better than being popular, and making weight is just one small step in that process.” One could say that though he did engage in eating-disorder behavior, he was stopped in his tracks before reaching a point of no return.
We’ve all experienced it: we do something great and no one seems to notice or care, but if someone else accomplishes something everyone thinks it’s the greatest thing in the world. If anything Toby received a lesson about success, and how there’s no fast route to obtain it. The sheer existence of society and our inherent need to gain its approval and adoration can cloud even the smartest of minds.
TERRI PLOT SUMMARY: Terri has a fancy new cell phone on top of a new bag and coat she’s received of the past several days. Paige and Hazel think she might have stolen them, until Spinner spots Terri posing in an advertisement at the school bus stop. Terri admits that she did some modeling, but is embarrassed because the ad is part of a national ad campaign for plus-sized women. As Mohammed walks by and sees the ad, he makes fun of Terri because of her size.
Terri cancels her next photoshoot because she doesn’t want to be known as a “fat model.” Spinner is disappointed that she’s quitting, and tells her that she’s pretty and shouldn’t worry about what anyone else says. She goes through with the shoot, and afterward runs into Mohammed again. He makes fun of her again while working at an ice cream stand, but this time she sticks up for herself, boasting about how much more money she makes modeling than he does selling ice cream before proudly walking away.
Why Terri would become a model is baffling at first, but it kind of makes sense the more you think about it. If offered the opportunity of course she would do it; models are considered pretty. I like how she’s given an amazing opportunity, yet her low self esteem won’t allow her to truly enjoy it. Despite being a model and making good money (for being a teenager), she doesn’t even have enough confidence to tell her own friends for fear of being judged.
In Toby’s case his body image is influenced primarily by his own thoughts and actions. He’s pushing forward in order to be noticed. Terri is afraid to fully put herself out there for those around her to reject her. With More Grrrl obviously being aimed at larger girls (as well as the rude comments from Mohammed) that feeds into the negative self talk of someone who, as long as we’ve known her, has been self conscious about their weight. Her scene with Spinner at the bus stop is heartwarming, as words of encouragement finally come in from someone she adores. Spinner could’ve easily beaten the crap out of Mohammed for his remarks. Paige could’ve given Mohammed verbal tongue lashings all day. In Terri’s final confrontation with Mohammed, we don’t see someone whose body image issues have been magically been cure. Instead, we see someone whose confidence has been boosted enough to make her believe she is worth standing up for herself. The war within her might not be over, but this is a battle she’s won indeed.