Dallas Plot Recap: When a small explosion occurs at the mall, Dallas and Connor find themselves being racially profiled by police. The cops have rounded up every black male around to question them, telling them they fit the description of the potential suspect. The revelation angers Dallas, not only because of the racial issue, but also because being detained is keeping him from catching the bus with Alli for their trip to the science fair. After police determine the bomb was a prank, Dallas and Connor are finally released. They miss the bus to the science fair, but Principal Simpson lets Dallas and Connor borrow his car. On the drive to Kingston, Ontario they’re pulled over by police. The police tell the two to step out of the car and sit on the curb until they sort out ownership of the car; Dallas is livid because he feels they’re being racially profiled again for no reason.
In my preview for this episode I said it wouldn’t take much to improve on the last race-related episode Degrassi did, Got My Mind Set On You back in season 7. Degrassi takes a different approach in Army Of Me by addressing racial profiling instead of going down the route of having a generic antagonist, a blatant racist who has the n-word on the tip of their tongue ready to say at any given moment.
If you don’t know by now, I’m a black guy. Hang around me for a few minutes and you’ll learn very quickly that I don’t fall under any of the negative stereotypes geared toward black men. However, at times I admit I am concerned about being profiled, primarily when shopping in retail stores. Why exactly is that? I didn’t grow up in a household where everything was made into an issue about race (though I do know relatives who are all about making it an “Us vs. Them” thing if you know what I mean). But my parents did teach us that even though race shouldn’t be an issue, that doesn’t mean other people won’t make it one.
Gauging Dallas’ reaction, he’s been in this kind of situation before. During the first instance at the mall he seems annoyed, but moreso because the situation interferes with his plans (the Science Fair and Alli). However, when Dallas and Connor get pulled over that’s when we see Dallas reach his breaking point. “Wake up Connor, we’re being persecuted her!” Dallas says. Of course Connor behaves exactly how I expected; during both instances he doesn’t grasp what’s happening to them because it doesn’t make logical sense. Maybe it’s just me, but when the officer asked Dallas and Connor to get out of the car I found myself yelling at the screen as Dallas talked back to the officer. Yes Dallas should be angry, but in that specific situation what else does being verbally aggressive do besides reinforce the stereotype in the cop’s mind that you’re an “angry black man?”
Degrassi chose to address racial profiling through the eyes of a black character, but I’d like to think that what makes this storyline great is that it should make viewers think more broadly than that. Black people aren’t the only ones racially profiled by cops. Cops aren’t the only people who profile based on race. Race isn’t the only characteristic used to profile others. From Hispanics, to the gay community and even women, profiling knows no bounds in society. Watching a story about unfair treatment based on a general characteristic should lead to introspection, looking at how we view and treat others in our own lives. The Golden Rule has been around for forever, so there’s no use in not knowing and living by it by now.
Clare Plot Recap: Clare’s tired of people at Degrassi thinking her and Drew are a couple, so she decides to create and manage an online dating profile for him. However, when Imogen tells Clare that Drew would never date Clare because she’s not his type, Clare creates a fake online profile named “Annabella” to test him. She presents him with three potential options: two girls whose profiles include a picture, and her “Annabella’ profile, which has Clare’s interests listed but no picture. Clare seems disheartened when Drew ends up picking one of the other girls.
Clare says that about her— err I mean “Annabella’s” profile, as Drew casually glosses over it in favor of dating Eden. Are things so bad between Clare and Eli that she’s completely “Clewless” to the fact that if she’s ultimately looking for an intellectual relationship with someone who appreciates a woman with depth, Drew is not the guy she should be lusting over? Clare’s still trying to contain her seemingly unwanted feelings for Drew in this episode, but she’s hammered hard twice, once as mentioned earlier when Drew chose Eden over Clare’s fake profile. Granted Drew probably doesn’t think Clare Edwards is boring, but that scene also shows the difference between reality and how we perceive others based off of a limited amount of information. Clare’s ego is also bruised when Imogen tells her that even though crushes are natural, Clare has no chance with Drew. “It’s not like Drew would ever actually date you,” Imogen says. “…because you’re not his type, like, at all.”
This plot of Clare’s is almost frustrating because it constantly has me going back and forth. There are parts that make complete sense (Clare trying to hide her feelings and setting Drew up). But then Clare does something to make me question what in the world is happening. It’s like season 11 Clare all over again, when she lost her freaking mind after her parents’ separated. The difference now is, unlike her parents deciding to divorce, Clare has complete control over how this current situation with Eli and Drew plays out. The concept of Clare becoming attached to someone else because she feels emotionally distant from Eli is so simple and relatable, but things are complicated but now that it’s turning into a game of her mentally flip flopping. Who is this Clare Edwards who’s allowing her ego to get in the way all because of a guy who isn’t even her boyfriend?
Back to the quote above where Clare mentions that “Annabella” is looking for an intellectual connection and has more depth than the other dating prospects, that statement contradicts Clare’s egoistic pitch for Annabella. Yes, girls’ behavior in real life can be frustrating and contradictory, but I’m not sensing that’s the point here, as Clare has officially drifted into that dreaded zone Degrassi girls always wind up in. You know, the one where they lose who they are by doing the most mind-boggling things all for the sake of some boy.
Tristan Plot Recap: A unique new teacher named Grant Yates takes over the Tenners’ English class. When Yates decides he’s creating a playwriting group, Tristan is desperate to join as it will give him something to take his mind off his parents’ current marriage troubles. When neither of his parents pick him up to take him to his dentist appointment, Tristan ends up spilling his guts to Mr. Yates about how he’s feeling; Yates then offers to drop Tristan off at his appointment. The next day Tristan discovers that he was no accepted into the playwriting group; the invitation is so secretive that not even Zoë will tell him where they’re meeting. However, Tristan finds out anyway and crashes the meeting. He begs to be let in and eventually succeeds. After the meeting is over Yates keeps Tristan behind, telling Tristan he rejected him to test him. Yates also says that Tristan will probably end up being his favorite student.
Normally a character’s troubled home life is what we want to see, but the constant bickering between Tristan’s parents isn’t really the focus here. It merely serves as the launching pad for Tristan’s vulnerability, leading him to find something to distract himself from the worry that his parents will get divorced. An emotionally vulnerable Tristan is not a good thing, because it causes him to become shortsighted and make poor decisions (ex: his juice cleanse, and any time he’s ever had a crush on someone). And that’s what makes this storyline so wonderfully creepy; something feels off about Mr. Yates, and if Degrassi were to go down this route Yates would be able to take advantage of Tristan with ease.
Mr. Yates is immediately introduced as kind of an unconventional guy, babbling about the Algonquin Round Table and walking on top of the desks. When Tristan “problem vomits” his friend and family issues all over him, Yates is able to relate to Tristan because his parents got a divorce when he was a kid. Things get weird though when we discover Tristan is the only one who wasn’t invited to be in playwriting collective, but then Yates pulls him aside after Tristan is able to beg his way in. “Don’t tell anyone else this, but you’ll probably end up being my favorite student,” Yates says to Tristan. The fact that Yates wants Tristan to call him by his first name, Grant, also screams that this plot is setting up for things to go down a very inappropriate path.
“I’ve never had a teacher like you before Mr. Yates,” Tristan says, “You really…care.” But does Yates care a little too much?