There are two types of Degrassi fans: those who’ve patiently waited for Next Class to arrive on Netflix, and those who haven’t.
I’m a mix of both, having watched roughly half of the episodes so far. I’m sure I’ll end up watching this series countless times once it gets to Netflix, but here’s a couple of thoughts about what you can expect from this new version of Degrassi.
It looks (and feels) different.
There’s a new set. The old one will forever have a place in my heart, but I’m enjoying the new look of Degrassi. I find myself noticing the lighting in scenes because it’s more prominent and seems to be carefully crafted, ranging from the bright hallways of the school to the shadow-filled bedroom of Miles Hollingsworth.
Degrassi also tests some new camera/editing techniques on occasion (they’re not *new* new, they’re new to this show…you’ll know them when you see them).
As far as the show being “edgier” as they’ve said in every interview since last summer, the show feels heavier than it did in recent years on TeenNick, as evident by the issues they’ve decided to tackle.
Degrassi takes on social issues.
Yeah, Degrassi’s still taking on personal topics such as anxiety, illnesses and heartbreak. However, they’re also addressing hot-button issues such as feminism and GamerGate that have extremely passionate opinions from real-life people on all sides. As of now we’ve only received a few super generic reviews from entertainment sites about Next Class. Virtually no media sites wrote reviews about Degrassi when it was on TeenNick, so hopefully the jump to Netflix will get them to actually put forth an effort into breaking down Next Class with insightful commentary the way they review other Netflix shows.
Technology defines this show.
Degrassi wasn’t kidding around when they said technology plays a role in every storyline. Sometimes the online world is what drives the plot (things accidentally getting posted online, or someone getting harassed on social media).
Other times it’s thrown in there as a reminder of how technology-dependent this generation is. The more I watch the new opening sequence the more impressed I am; Degrassi has gone out of its way to create an entire online universe within the Degrassi universe itself.
There’s a good chance your favorite character will be “problematic.”
If “fanservice” was the the most-overused fandom word of 2015, “problematic” might be the chosen one for 2016. In my upcoming review of episode 103, #YesMeansYes, I’ll point how viewers tend to hold characters to Utopian standards, which is insane. You can’t expect the show to be realistic and have your unrealistic expectations of the characters to be people who say and do the right thing all the time. One thing I’ve noticed is that characters in Next Class will casually make statements I don’t agree with because they’re misinformed or they don’t know any better (ex: someone makes a casual remark about how feminists get angry over everything), not because they’re trying to be hateful or malicious. You’d almost think Degrassi’s doing this on purpose, seeing as how we’re all guilty of saying and doing stupid shit.
The “gray area” is bigger than ever before.
I’ve said many times on this blog that Degrassi likes to explore the gray area of situations. Life will try to make you believe that things are always black/white, right/wrong, etc., and that’s just not true in all cases. The thing with Next Class is that with certain issues, especially the social ones, Degrassi presents both sides of an argument, and I’m left feeling like both sides have valid points (I’m specifically referring to a couple of things that happen in the episodes #NotOkay and #NotAllMen).
The promo for #NotAllMen caused an uproar online before the episode even aired in Canada, and the responses from real-life people are exactly how you’d expect people to express their opinions online in today’s digital age. Coincidentally, that’s addressed in this season as well. The move to Netflix places a bigger spotlight on Degrassi: Next Class…I have a feeling this will make things quite interesting for this show.
Looking forward to reading the rest of your reviews, Kary! Though I know you hear it a lot, as one of the *ahem*…older fans of Degrassi myself, I’m really grateful for your blog, and for your astute discussion and impartial breakdown of the episodes. It’s a refreshing respite from a place like the Degrassi fan Wiki, which is just flooded with cliquey kids ready to jump down your throat if you have an opinion which differs from theirs. It’s much like high school there, itself. Fights break out – it’s kind of a hellhole.
And THANK YOU for pointing out the high standards some fans hold the characters to (which is another thing I don’t like about many of the fans on the Wiki). They’re CHILDREN who are still learning how to function as civilized human beings. I get annoyed by fans who expect these characters to be saints. They say mean or ignorant things because for the most part, they don’t know better yet, not because they’re inherently evil.
I posted below but just read your comment… you read my mind, right down to that wiki page. I didn’t want to specifically mention that fan group, but wow, I can’t even look at that page anymore. They are so hypercritical of the characters and even the writers! It’s truly a spectacle… I’ve never seen anything like it.
Granted, there have been objectively poor decisions on the part of the writers, and regression of certain characters, but it’s not as though human beings develop in a linear way. Sometimes people in general, not just teens, need to re-learn lessons, or make the same mistakes a few times before they grow.
I work with a lot of teenagers, mostly boys, and I really have to drive home the point to many of them about how jokes about assaulting/raping women are not okay. Their ignorance can get on my nerves (as I was assaulted myself when I was in my early 20s), but I know that they aren’t “bad” kids who are doomed to become rapists. They’re mostly inexperienced when it comes to relationships, and the media they consume largely focuses on how men need to be “in charge” and dominating. No one’s ever had a discussion with them about things like respect and consent, real feminism, and what girls really want from a guy.
Wikians want Zig’s head on a pike because they insist he “forced himself upon” or “assaulted” Maya, and that he’s a “meninist”. What kind of environment did he and Tiny grow up in that would have allowed them to know what real feminism is? What strong, female role models have they had in their lives? Women’s rights are things these guys need to be taught, because they’re just dumb kids who don’t know anything about the world. While I’m not condoning relationships where one partner tries to force intimacy on a regular basis, sometimes having a discussion with him/her about boundaries and consent can make a difference, and I’m glad that the writers showed that Zig understood that he made a mistake and learned from it, rather than having Maya dump him right away because she’s worried that he’ll become violent. That would have sent teenage girls a scary message, the idea that you can’t talk to your partner about boundaries in a relationship. Not to mention it’d have been hugely disrespectful to teen guys, implying that they can’t learn how to be respectful and sensitive to their partner’s needs.
Sorry for the long response! :)
p.s. love the username by the way!
Just want to throw in my agreement as an older Degrassi fan. (Why yes, I have been watching this show since it came back on the air and was excited as a fan of old school Degrassi, which we watched in middle school AND my dad apparently watched with me when I was a baby.)
But especially since many entertainment websites forget about Degrassi and don’t do recaps or reviews, this website has been my saving grace for this show for a long time. Thanks for keeping up with it, Kary, for all these years!
I’m with you on the sets, the lighting, and production values. I guess I was hoping that they would use a fresh approach to directing the show. It’s not really a criticism, but I sort of feel like they put a fresh coat of paint on an old vehicle. In all fairness, it’s gotten them through 30+ years and won them numerous awards, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But I was hoping that they would shoot the show differently, just because they had the perfect chance to do it.
I think depending on what comes back numbers wise from Netflix, they might be more willing to switch things up after the first 20 have aired. We’ve spent a good deal of time studying how Netflix determines the viability of a product and it’s no secret that their formula is guarded more closely than the gates to Fort Knox. But they do figure out pretty quickly what gets a second shot and what doesn’t. Be interesting to see if Next Class gets an early renewal after these first 10 pop.
I’ve seen half of the episodes as well, but will re-watch and finish them all when they are released on Netflix. It was nice to see that the show is less “soap opera” and more into its educational roots. The issues depicted (very topical, too) presented multiple stances and sides which was awesome to see… in a way it felt like old school Degrassi (I’ve been watching since 2004).
I’ve been observing the message boards, and a lot of fans are commenting about how writers are “ruining characters” or making them “problematic” through their dialogue or actions (Zig/Hunter in particular). To me, for the first time in years, it feels like these characters are real teens, saying and doing stupid things without second-thought, even if it is offensive or wrong… it’s what teens do on a daily basis. And characters’ actions are heavily influenced by their immaturity, insecurities, and/or personal troubles, so it is also refreshing to see vulnerability as well. Hating or judging teenage characters just for making mistakes and growing up, especially in an educational show, is harsh. It would be incredibly boring if the characters always did and said the right thing.
I thought the characters became so stale and stereotypical, especially in season 13/14, but Next Class (and moving away from TeenNick) lets them behave like actual people with individual personalities. If you couldn’t tell, I’m excited to see where these characters go.
One thing Ive noticed is that all the plots seemed to be spread out equally and there doesn’t really seem to be a dominant plot or story line per episode. Eric is doing such an amazing job this season I am so impressed
I love Hunter’s gaming plot because it emphasizes how high school can be the whole world to someone in it. He isn’t the only one guilty of not seeing the big picture yet, so while in the “real world” Hunter is arguable the most privileged character on the show (white, male, straight, able-bodied, from a wealthy family), within the vignette of high school he is low on the totem pole. He’s not as well-adjusted as Goldi or Tristan or Maya, and the high school world is the only one he knows, so that serves to make him unaware of his privilege.
Adding to that, I read that next season Hunter gets diagnosed with something. That bothers me. In real life people are quick to say a white gunman was mentally ill. He can’t just be hateful or angry. This gives them an excuse, in a way, and also contributes to the stigma of mental illness. Not to mention it would be illogical since Hunter hasn’t exhibited signs of mental illness or being wired differently in the past, imo. The writers will probably either make him bipolar, since that’s their favorite, or having Asperger’s, since they like to give stereotypical nerds Asperger’s, but that would bother me because he just seems like a neurotypical, albeit awkward kid with some communication issues likely due to the way the Hollingsworth family operates.
Maybe he just gets “diagnosed” with anger management issues? I hope, cause that’s definitely what it seems like. And who could blame him in that family? I’m really questioning how Frankie came out so well-adjusted.