RECAP: Zig’s concerned that because Maya’s avoided talking about and having sex with him since their first time, she’s eventually going to break up with him for Jonah. Tiny buys Zig some condoms and tells him in order to woo Maya he needs to be more assertive. While studying Zig initiates making out with Maya and tries to initiate sex. She says no multiple times while the two wrestle and she accidentally hits Zig in the face, causing things to become even more awkard. The next day, Zig’s upset because he thinks Maya doesn’t love him anymore and Grace points out that forcing yourself onto someone, even a partner, is considered rape. Both Zig and Tiny cringe at the word and Grace gives them a frank lesson on sexual consent. Maya’s mom also sits down with Maya and Zig after finding Zig’s condoms. Instead of scolding them, she points out that they shouldn’t be having sex if they can’t even discuss it with each other. The next day, the two finally talk; Zig is afraid the lack of sex means she doesn’t love him anymore, and Maya’s afraid she’ll want to, then change her mind. Zig tells her if she ever says “no” he’ll stop, because he doesn’t want to force her. After school the two wind up having consensual sex.
It goes without saying that this is the best job Degrassi’s ever done in terms of defining consent. They’re very clear and concise about what it is and they point out the very crucial yet unknown fact that consent also extends into relationships (more on that later).
I also love this plot stressing the importance of actually discussing sex with your partner, regardless of how uncomfortable it might make you feel. “If you two can’t even talk about sex, should you really be doing it?” Maya’s mom tells them. She accepts the reality that teens are going to have sex as opposed to pretending like sex is something that doesn’t exist until you’re an adult or married. She also knows that sex is more complicated than what’s shown on TV, so she encourages Zaya to embrace the uncomfortable reality of sex and be fully prepared . Hell, there are grown-ass adults in marriages who can’t even talk to each other about sex (their needs/wants, etc.), so Zaya finally telling each other their concerns in regards to their sex life puts them ahead of the curve.
The best thing that this storyline does isn’t necessarily pointing out what consent is, but showing us that not everyone is going to have a thorough knowledge of such an important concept, and it’s not always because they’re evil. Zig and Tiny are literally shocked to hear that, yes, you must ask for consent even in a relationship or else it’s rape. Not only is there a belief in society that it’s only considered rape if it’s done in a violent or aggressive way, there’s also a belief that once you’re in a relationship or marriage it gives you a free pass to access the other person’s body any time you want.
This storyline makes me analyze how I learned about sex and consent, and it’s far from perfect. I had a fairly normal childhood, but my sex talk was basically my parents saying “wrap it up.” Outside of a generic “No Means No” campaign as a kid I was never introduced to the ins and outs of consent until the age of social media made discussing the issues more prevalent. Given his upbringing, where exactly would someone like Tiny have learned about consent in detail, from his thug brother? The gangsters and druggies they’ve associated with? Do you think Zig’s mom is sitting him down to talk the birds and the bees when she’s forever stressed out about their family’s struggling business?
Zig and Tiny’s ignorance here doesn’t make them monsters who we must label as irredeemable pieces of garbage and that’s that. Even in a show like Degrassi, viewers tend to have unrealistic, Utopian expectations of the characters. They’re either seen as perfect angels or shitty human beings, but the real world isn’t always that black and white. Thank God Zig and Tiny have Grace as a friend; she doesn’t try to shame them, instead she educates them as she continually strives to keep the people close to her in check, and Zig learns from his mistakes in this instance. That scene addresses how people can be good yet also carry problematic viewpoints or engage in questionable behavior, and I’d say that’s a pretty accurate representation of both you and me in this journey called life.
RECAP: Mrs. Hollingsworth has planned a family dinner which Miles is dreading because his dad will be attending. While complaining to Winston about it in class he draws the attention of Esme, who tells them multiple times to be quiet. She eventually cuts off a lock of her hair, hands Miles the scissors then frames him so that Miles gets in trouble. Miles intentionally misses the dinner and pleads with his mother not to take his dad back, however, she tells him she’s planning a second dinner. Miles goes to confront Esme for getting him in trouble and she tells him she got him detention so he’d have a reason to miss the family dinner. She tells him if he doesn’t trust his dad he should find proof at his apartment. Miles and Esme sneak into Mr. Hollingsworth’s apartment and discover Mr. H really is trying to repair his family. The two hide in the closest when the cleaning lady walks in, and while Miles is rambling, Esme kisses him. The next day, Miles still doesn’t want to believe his dad is trying to change, so in order to cope with the dinner Esme gives him her bottle of “happy pills” and he takes two of them.
Miles’ emotional struggles in regards to his father continue to be heartbreaking. For viewers who’ve avoided early promotion of Next Class, Esme’s role could be confusing up until the end. Here’s this random girl who randomly cuts her hair and randomly convinces Miles to sneak into his dad’s apartment to find out if Mr. Hollingsworth is really trying to change.
However, knowing who Esme is based on her introduction that information naturally guides my mind in a certain direction, leaving me questioning yet intrigued by her every move. While everyone else in Miles’ life is sort of just standing around as if they’re blind to his breakdown, Esme jumps in to guide Miles into acting on his suspicions.
How Miles reacts when telling Winston about the e-mail he found is telling. “That e-mail…was it real? Can my dad change?” He’s consumed by the anxiety of his father attempting to return into his life and has no reason to believe his Mr. Hollingsworth will change. Miles is desperate for relief and doesn’t care that Esme freely cutting her hair the way she did and her casually handing him an entire bottle of her “happy pills” are massive red flags. At the end of the day, the person leading him down a potentially-dangerous path is also the only person trying to help him in any way at all.
RECAP: After embarrassing himself during a game of intramural basketball, Hunter wants to start a gaming club. Student Council President Tristan scoffs at the idea, leading Hunter to ask Yael to break his finger so he can get out of intramurals for a month; she does. Afterward, Tristan changes his mind and Hunter’s gaming club is approved.
Hunter Hollingsworth feels like a lot of people do; he isn’t popular and he feels out of place in “normal” activities, so when he’s forced into situations like sports it’s like the universe is setting him up to fail.
I love when continuity rears its head, as Hunter reminds Tristan of the promise he’d made when running for president to make Degrassi a place where everyone can feel included. Hunter willing to have his pinky broken is kind of a red flag that shows how far he’s willing to go if things get desperate, but for now this plot quietly lays the foundation for one of Next Class’ biggest storylines.