TRILES PLOT SUMMARY: Zoë, Winston, Tristan and Miles play a game of Truth Or Dare where Miles reveals he’s had sex with five people. Upon hearing that, Tristan abruptly leaves. Miles thinks his number isn’t that big of a deal, but Winston tells him that Tristan is a virgin. Miles thinks that having sex with Tristan will help Tris feel less uncomfortable, but his plan backfires when he tells Tristan that’s the reason why they’re about to do it. Miles thinks Tristan wants to break up with him, but Tristan reveals that it’s not Miles’ number that makes him uncomfortable, he just wants to matter more than anyone on Miles’ “list.” At the party to celebrate Hunter’s return from the psych ward, Triles hashes out their differences and both reveal they love each other.
Historically, despite assuming a lot of the characters on the show are sexually active, casual sex or sex in relationships isn’t mentioned by the characters as much as one would think. Degrassi depicting certain behaviors such as recreational drug use (Jake and Eli smoking weed in Season 12) and acknowledging that teenagers are engaging in frequent sexual activity have become more common in recent seasons. However, Degrassi’s move to Netflix has allowed the franchise to up their lack of chill significantly when it comes to portraying how teenagers behave when adults aren’t around. In this episode alone we learn that Miles has had intercourse with five people, one of whom was Zoë during the summer when the Season 14 special Don’t Look Back happened.
While emphasis is placed on important things like communication when it comes to romantic relationships, one simple thing that can get lost in the hoopla is understanding the importance of sexual compatibility.
If you’re having sex (or even if you’re not), it’s crucial for you and your partner to be on the same page sexually, and it’s important to speak up if there are concerns. There are lots of grown-ass adults who can’t even bring themselves to actually talk to their partners about sex, and it can be as damaging to a relationship as anything else.
Miles typically treats sex as if it’s no big deal; his answer to learning Tristan (a virgin¹) might be uncomfortable with his sexual experience is to just “give em dat Hollingsdick².” But even though Tristan has hooked up with guys, the Tristan of old still exists to an extent. He may no longer be over the top these days in terms of “true love” and “finding the one,” etc., but he clearly wants sex with Miles to be something that’s meaningful for both of them.
Before Zig and Maya’s relationship derailed in DNC Season 1 thanks to Zig’s insecurity, we saw wonderful scenes between them having frank discussions about their feelings on sex. We get that here with Triles in #RiseAndGrind, but on a more intense level. “Does it hurt?” Tristan asks about anal sex. I love how it’s as awkward to watch them talk about sex as it is for them to talk actually about it.
I can’t help but appreciate that Degrassi’s continuing this trend of portraying teenagers as more dynamic than just being dumb kids who make dumb mistakes. I mean they most certainly do screw up, and the foundation of the show is having characters mess up repeatedly as they navigate through young adulthood. But Degrassi’s not only incorporating a level of self awareness into the characters, they’re also showing teens are capable of putting serious thoughts into things that matter to them.
*On subscript ¹: At this point I’m not sure what to make of Degrassi saying Tristan’s a virgin, assuming that virgin here means no intercourse. Looking back at when Tristan was in a relationship in Season 13 with his teacher, Grant Yates, it was widely assumed that they engaged in intercourse. Maybe they didn’t? Or maybe they did, but Tristan doesn’t count it (but at the time Tristan didn’t view sexual activity with Yates as rape…and there’s nothing to suggest he’d think otherwise now because there was no followup.)? Or maybe he’s keeping that as a secret to take to his grave? Or maybe Degrassi’s doing that thing again where they pretend certain things before Next Class never happened? Who knows.
On subscript²: If Degrassi were allowed free reign, I guarantee this would be said on the show.
*Hunter was released from the psych ward in this episode, and I’m glad his return wasn’t made into a big deal. It didn’t need the pomp and circumstance of a main plot, which would’ve made it feel less natural than it did here because they would’ve had to throw him into a situation immediately. Also, him simply returning isn’t the point; the focus should (and will) be on how he’s going to deal with the everyday challenges life will throw at him outside of a hospital.
MAYA PLOT SUMMARY: Maya notices the royalty check from her “Yes” video is larger than usual. However, the bump isn’t because her video received more views…it’s coming from Vijay’s cover of her song. She doesn’t like his version, and because she’s trying to “take music seriously” she demands he take it down. Vijay agrees, but he replaces it with a video blasting Maya to his much-larger Youtube following. Peter reconnects with Maya (who’s been avoiding him since his birthday part), and he tells her that even though she feels like she’s never going to become an artist at this rate there’s more to success than just hard work and there’s no guarantees. He also tells her the importance of playing nice, so instead of allowing Vijay to use her song, Maya lets him come to the music studio and helps him write and record his own. Peter’s impressed with Maya’s songwiting skills and plans to get her into some songwriting sessions at the studio, putting Maya one step closer to her dream of musical dominance.
I know I’m probably way more excited to discuss this plot than most everyone else, because there’s a good chance most viewers won’t see the relevance of this storyline when it comes to one of the most important aspects of Degrassi’s real world universe: fan-generated content.
Have you ever been to Degrassi.ca? The current generation of Degrassi fans probably haven’t because that site hasn’t been active for years. During its glory days it was the largest Degrassi fansite of its time, run by a fan named Mark Polger. It was created in the late 1990’s, that period between the end of Degrassi High but before Degrassi: The Next Generation. Around 2000, Degrassi approached Polger because they wanted the domain name for use with The Next Generation. According to various articles from the time, when Polger refused, Degrassi threatened a lawsuit.
Now obviously nothing came of it because Polger still owns the domain to this day, some 16 years later, and Degrassi’s official website is Degrassi.tv. But when looking at this in the context of Maya’s plot with Vijay, something struck me in this 2001 article from The Globe And Mail¹:
It also hurt his feelings that Schuyler doesn’t seem to acknowledge what his Web site has done for Degrassi. “It’s about being gracious,” he says. “Without me and my Web sites they would have no market, they would have no reason to make a new show.”
Schuyler agrees that Polger’s unofficial fan site was a “contributing factor” in the show’s on-going popularity, but she said it helped that the show has almost never been off air since it was produced.
She is sensitive to the fact that she may alienate the very fans who have helped keep Degrassi alive, but believes the new show will attract an audience on its own merit.
In this episode Maya is well within her rights to control her work as she sees fit. However, she also learns that just because you can protect your content, doing so with a firm hand isn’t always the most beneficial move, especially when it comes to your fans. I’ve been running this blog since 2009, and I’ve practically been a walking promotional billboard for the show ever since. DegrassiBlog has millions of pageviews under its belt, and despite probably infringing on every possible Degrassi copyright and trademark in existence, I’ve thankfully never been confronted legally by Degrassi or any broadcaster that’s owned the rights to the show.
When I first joined fandom in 2004, music videos and creating Degrassi blends/edits with Photoshop made up a majority of fanmade content; today, GIFs are now the standard. GIFs are still weird territory when it comes to copyright and Fair Use, but of course Degrassi knows it’s far more beneficial (and fun) to let the most popular form of fan engagement slide. I mean, what else are fans going to do during these now 6-month hiatuses?
Maya’s solution to Vijay might be diplomatic, but it’s still awesome (and damn smart on her end). It’s essentially, “Hey instead of you copying my shit, why don’t you come to this big music studio I work for and I’ll help you create your own song. See? Everybody wins!“
It’s all a part of the big picture of Maya learning to navigate a difficult industry, especially during a time when anyone with a smartphone can instantly become a content creator. And while being a song artist is her dream, she also learns that even though there’s more than one way to get her foot through the door (songwriting, etc.), success is never guaranteed.
As Peter explains to Maya that luck, opportunity and networking are just as important to success as talent², Degrassi continues nailing the most underrated arc in Next Class.
*On subscript²: I’m a poster child for Maya’s slow burning arc when it comes to her music career. I work in radio…it’s taken a combination of hard work, luck and opportunity for me to reach the point where I am now (doing the radio things I wanted to do when I was a radio fetus).
*There’s absolutely no way that Bruno Mars reference was random, or Vijay’s usage in this plot for that matter…did you know Dante Scott has a Youtube channel? Wanna guess what’s over there?
ZIG PLOT SUMMARY: While Grace has her computer stuff and Tiny’s into science, Zig feels as if he doesn’t have anything he’s good at. He’s approached by a random woman at The Dot who asks him to audition for a dancing gig. Zig employs the help of Esme to train him for the audition, but when the training is too much he tries to quit. When he starts having a pity party about being useless and Maya dumping him, Esme tells him to suck it up because dancing is about confidence. Zig’s training pays off at the audition when the woman is impressed with his dancing, but out of nowhere she asks Zig to get naked. He does, but realizes that all along it actually an audition to be a stripper. Later, Grace and Tiny make fun of Zig, but Esme offers Zig a summer job as part of her dance group.
One of Degrassi’s most undervalued arcs came in the form of Drew Torres, a guy who consistently displayed a lack of self confidence. They’ve sort of been following a similar path with Zig in Next Class; the only difference is while Drew was basically a dumbass whose low confidence helped him make even dumber decisions, Zig’s low confidence has simply compelled him to behave like an asshole at times.
There isn’t much to say because this plot is pretty simple; once again Zig thinks he’s useless until Esme (who continues to be impressive in every appearance in Next Class Season 2) tells him to stop crying about Maya and wallowing in self pity, and focus on training instead. He churns out a really good dance performance, proving to himself that he can do at least one thing right in this world. Him not identifying that something sketchy is afoot the moment they asked him to get naked is kinda silly, but it’s nowhere near the level of ridiculousness of a character blindly following a complete stranger into an alley to buy a gun.
In Next Class, Zig’s perception of his own value has been tied to Maya, but this episode was the first time we’ve seen him feel inferior even to his closest friends. He may or may not rediscover his value through Esme’s validation, but Grace’s piercing glare at the end of this episode is a reminder we’ve still gotta get through whatever we’re calling this unappealing Zig/Maya/Grace (and possibly Esme) love shape that’s yet to climax.
*Holy cow, Chelsea Clark is good. I get fans are impatient and want Esme’s backstory like 10 episodes ago, but her consistent brilliance on screen is a great way to build anticipation for that moment.