During season 4 of The Next Generation, the evil, heartless writers (only kidding, they’re actually nice if you give them food) ruined my life by destroying my OTP, Sellie. The same happened to my Parcy, Drianca and nearly every couple you’ve shipped while watching this show. And then out of nowhere Bhandallas, a second-tier OTP of mine, became endgame. It felt good simply based on the show’s nearly 30-year history of breaking up couple after couple before they leave the show permanently, but in reality there was nothing special about Bhandallas’ departure. They left the show still together and that’s it, and upon the afterglow fading, an underwhelming feeling lingered within the undefined “ending” for this couple.
For as long as I can remember, us Degrassi fans have placed such an emphasis on couples being endgame; it’s a part of the fandom’s obsession with ships in general (we can complain all we want about Degrassi focusing so much on relationship drama, but like clockwork *we* fall so hard into the ship trap year after year…Next Class will be no different).
Thinking about what Degrassi did in the season 14 broadcast finale, on top of a question posed by Erin from Degrassi Online, it has me wondering whether or not we’ve wasted all of these years overvaluing “endgame.”
“What are your thoughts on Degrassi ships being “endgame”? Do you like seeing Degrassi characters get a happily ever after?”
The phrasing of that series of questions can easily be interpreted as “endgame” and “happily ever after” going hand in hand. However, Degrassi brilliantly dismantled the premise that endgame automatically equates “happily ever after” or the stereotypical happy ending with the way it quietly allowed three couples to leave the show still intact in Finally.
Let’s talk about Eclare for a moment, as if we haven’t for the past five years. The power this ship had over this fandom, shippers and anti-shippers alike, was astounding. Based on how the show dealt with this couple, paired with the narrative that Eli viewed their relationship as if it were a fairytale, we all jumped to the conclusion that Eclare would have a fairytale ending if they were going to be endgame. But then Degrassi went and set it up so that they’re still technically endgame (“endgame” simply means a couple leaves the show still together), but their future is unknown. The thing is their future is no more uncertain than Bhandallas’ or Jonnor’s. Ten years from now all three couples could still be together, or they could all have broken up. Climbing out of the powerful, emotional ship trap for a second, in general it’s hard for myself to imagine a “happily ever after” for a couple of 17 or 18-year-old kids without the show actually telling us, “Hey, these guys got married, had kids and lived a love-filled life as they grew old together,” or the writers giving us an update on these couples in season 43 of Next Class.
From a technical standpoint I do believe a correlation between “endgame” and “happily ever after” exists, it just isn’t as strong in the actual scripts as we want to believe based on the lack of immediate results we’re used to in all fairytales. But at the same time “technical standpoint” isn’t where fandom exists, and I haven’t taken into account an important variable…the fact Degrassi could be doing it on purpose, because ultimately they want viewers to make their own decisions:
“I feel like it’s our job as producers to present all sides of the argument. Then the audience can make their own decisions. Ultimately that’s what kids need growing up: the tools to make their own decisions without being be told what to do.” – Linda Schyuler
If this thinking is applied to serious issues on the show, why wouldn’t it also be applied to ships and their post-endgame status? Despite being given a hard time for their love of Eclare over the years, Degrassi knew what would happen if they completely catered to one side or the other in the finale. For now they’ve given fans the option to choose what they want to believe in regards to Eclare’s future. The same goes for Jonnor and Bhandallas; I’ve been given the option to believe Jonnor is most likely out of the three couples to still be together a decade from now, because they remind me a lot of Degrassi’s first ever endgame couple, Simon and Alexa.
So the real question is, are Degrassi fans overvaluing endgame if the “happily ever after” isn’t presented by Degrassi itself, a feat I’ve realized is extremely difficult to accomplish on this show? Even with that last part I’d have to say no, we aren’t overvaluing it. In the case of the Degrassi fandom, endgame is valued so highly because it’s seen as something that leads to that coveted “happily ever after.” And based on what Degrassi did in Finally, the fans are ultimately the ones determining what that “happily ever after” is.