It might not be a “go there” theme, but the Degrassi: Next Class Season 3 debut presents one of the most controversial topics of today’s society: safe spaces. The idea is that everyone should feel free to be who they are and exist away from behaviors that might be uncomfortable or triggering.

I want this to be a safe space where everyone feels free to be themselves,” Zoë says in her speech. But the show also uses two of #BreakTheInternet’s storylines to show that it’s impossible for every safe space to be a safe place for everyone, and that the concept of a “safe space” is far more subjective and expansive than our modern day’s debate suggests.

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ZOE PLOT RECAP: With Tristan still in the hospital, Zoë’s the new school president. She’s busy making Degrassi a welcoming place for the new Syrian students when Vijay and Degrassi’s QSA stage a “kiss in” protest. They’re upset that their club was moved to an old Janitor’s closet to give the Syrians a prayer room. When Vijay accuses her of being homophobic, Zoë admits for the first time publicly that she’s gay. While running errands with VP Goldi, she freaks out when she sees Vijay has posted a vlog calling her a self-hating gay for treating the Syrian students better than the QSA. Zoë’s afraid her mom will find out she’s gay, and in the panic Zoë crashes her car into a fire hydrant. Later at the scene Zoë’s mom arrives; she saw the video, but she doesn’t believe Zoë’s gay and says that it’s awful that someone would say such “bad things” about her. Zoë decides that she can’t treat the QSA poorly and tells Goldi that them and the Syrian students will have to share the same office, and they’ll handle any conflicts accordingly. New president Zoë gives a speech where she comes out to the entire school, and she tells everyone that Degrassi should be a place where everyone feels welcome. Zoë says her mom won’t believe she’s gay unless she actually spotted Zoë kissing someone, and Zoë’s introduced to new Syrian student Rasha, who’s impressed what Zoë did handling the office drama.

dnc301-1aSince the beginning of Degrassi: Next Class, we’ve seen characters running for office who say they want Degrassi to be a place for everyone. The show does a good job here of intertwining that thought with Zoë’s personal life, as her mom’s behavior serves as a strong reminder of how it feels to be isolated.

Zoë took a huge step in admitting that she’s gay, first to Winston and then the entire school, but her biggest challenge will be dealing with her mom’s anti-gay behavior. I laughed as Grace told Zoë that  “No one has a problem with gay people anymore.” We’ve definitely come a LONG way, but there are still plenty of people in this world who are homophobic, and there always will be. It’s easy to say Zoë should just come out to her mom and let the chips fall where they may, but her mom has always been the only family that she has. The bond between family can be a difficult one to break, even in the most toxic of situations.

dnc301-1bYou’ve gotta love the setup of Zoë’s mom with this storyline, so confident that she knows her daughter well enough to believe she can’t possibly be gay. “You mean that horrible video?” Ms. Rivas says. “I wouldn’t want anyone saying those awful things about me, either.” All you have to do is imagine how it’d feel to hear a parent tell you to your face how horrible of a person they think you are.

After all that Zoë’s been through during the past four seasons it’s great to see her reach a point where she can stand tall and fight for herself with poise and maturity. With the show planting the seeds for her and Rasha, she’ll need to do it again soon.


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MILES PLOT RECAP: Everyone involved in the bus crash survived with no major injuries except for Tristan, who’s been in a coma for 10 weeks. During that time, Miles has been posting personal updates about Tristan’s condition onto Degrassi’s social page. He’s stoked when he sees Tristan’s finger twitch, but when he goes to post about it he finds out he’s been blocked from posting on Degrassi’s page, because the personal updates have made other students uncomfortable. In class, the other students agree that his updates were too personal, and Esme says Miles has been deluding himself by holding onto every shred of hope Tristan will pull through. She also tells him that Tristan’s finger twitching was just an involuntary response that meant nothing. Later, Tristan’s mom confirms the same thing, telling Miles that he shouldn’t drop his entire life to be by Tristan’s side nonstop when the prognosis looks so bleak. At Degrassi, Miles is spotted tearing down posters and Lola keeps him from getting into trouble. She’s upset because she feels as if no one cares about her feelings, and Miles feels the same way. In class, Miles uses a graphic image of Tristan to present how he spent his summer, and how he feels like he’s the only person who hasn’t given up on Tristan. Esme attacks Miles when he says Tristan isn’t going to leave him the way that everyone has left her. Miles is given detention for his outburst, and so has Lola for hers. Lola tells Miles he can talk to her about Tristan anytime he wants, and the two become friends.

dnc301-2aWhile Degrassi is more direct in its safe space storyline with Zoë, the show presents a more subtle angle in both Miles’ and Lola’s storylines. Miles has become obsessed with Tristan’s condition, and it’s heartbreaking watching him trapped in that cycle. He feels as if everyone else has just given up on Tristan, but from the all of the scenes in Mr. Mitchell’s class with Zig, Esme, Jonah, Grace and Winston, everyone just wants their lives to revert back to normal, and that’s just not possible if their every moment is spent being reminded of the crash. Meanwhile, as they try to move on, Miles’ life has come to a complete halt as he’s desperate to believe the one thing he cares about most in the world won’t leave him.

The conversation between Miles and Lola is a perfect summary of how impossible it is to fit concepts into the boxes we constantly try to place them in. “We have to care about everyone’s feelings…unless our feeling are hurting their feelings, then we’re not allowed to have any feelings,” Lola says. In a world where we’re told our feelings matter, they only matter to others when it’s important or convenient to them.

dnc301-2bMiles says that there isn’t a safe space for everyone, and whether or not that’s true is completely dependent on how you choose look at it. Can the world itself be a safe space where every single person can truly be themselves and express their feelings the way they want to? Societies past and present has proven the answer to that to be a resounding “Hell no.” However, that doesn’t mean that people can’t have safe spaces, or that those spaces in any capacity are silly for existing. Your “man cave,” your social club or activity, or even burying yourself into an obsession with this TV show can function as a safe space away from the insanity of the world.

Forget all of the media hype and drama around that saying. As we watched Miles and Lola sitting in detention connecting with each other, both digitally and emotionally, we see that sometimes a safe space isn’t a college campus or an office at Degrassi; often times we end up finding a safe space in each other.


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LOLA PLOT RECAP: Lola feels uncomfortable seeing Shay and Tiny together, so she decides to post a throwback photo of her and Tiny being cozy online. The picture upsets Shay, and then the two get into a subtweeting war over it during class. Mr. Perino decides the class should do hold a mock trial to solve the conflict, and Lola angrily admits that she feels like Shay stole Tiny from her. Lola’s sent to the Simpson’s office for swearing, but spots Miles tearing down posters in the hallway. She stops them and the two have a conversation where they connect over the fact they feel like no one cares about their feelings. Later, Lola and Miles are seen in detention; Lola tells Miles she can talk to her about Tristan anytime, and she friends him online.

dnc301-3aThis plot is so tricky because I think a lot of us have been in a situation where you’re swallowing your feelings for the sake of someone close to you, but should we be doing that? If Lola puts her feelings out there that she’s bitter over Shay and Tiny’s relationship, what is the resolution she’s expecting? How should Shay respond to that? Does one person’s feelings trump the other’s, or can these conflicting sides truly co-exist in the same space?

Both of their feelings are valid, but what I love is there isn’t really a concrete answer to any of this. There’s also the fact that now both Lola and Shay have been on this side of the issue, watching someone they have feelings for date their best friend.

dnc301-3bBecause this is Lola the conflict runs through social media, everything from Lola posting the photo to her and Shay pulling a classic fandom move with their indirects. “TFW your friend used a like/RT question to prove a point, knowing people are more likely to hit like” is a brilliant comeback from Shay, one that rings too true in an age where everything’s valued or perceived as right based on the number of likes/RTs/favorites/reblogs and not necessarily the content itself. Confirmation bias at its finest.

We see the wheels of Degrassi social structure churning with Lola and Miles separating from their friends to connect with each other. This plot is setting up for a bigger story for them, but the supporting characters in Lola’s storyline bring a lot of humor to a situation we know from experience is no fun to deal with in real life.


RANDOM THOUGHTS

*The newbies! Great casual intros for both Rasha and Saad.

*Simpson’s comment about being afraid Miles’ posts will be triggering comes full circle when we see Esme’s response to the graphic image of Tristan during Miles’ presentation. Her attacking him and her knowledge about Tristan’s involuntary response reveals that she’s experienced this situation herself.

*Some funny moments in this episode: Vijay’s “kiss in” protest and everything that came out of Baaz’s mouth. I loved the mock trial, something the show hasn’t done in ages!

*Before Zoë’s speech, the scene starts with Jonah carelessly bumping into Baaz, who responds by saying “Okay.” I love the nuance of a passing interaction like that. Putting that kind of thought into a meaningless moment that says a lot about the detail that we’ll see throughout this season.

*More #ContinuityFTW: Zig talking about the summer dance program he did with Esme, learning that Hunter is on parole for the swatting, Jonah and Grace wondering where Maya is and they reference Zoë’s self harm.

*Though she never says it, Goldi’s facial expressions clearly show she’s uncomfortable with homosexuality.

 

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Posted by Kary

8 Comments

  1. From watching the whole season in one day, I remember the first 3 episodes I thought were really good, then number 4 was probably the worst of the season, and the rest were mostly good, but it seems like this season was less ‘fun’ than the past two seasons. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, maybe neither. Just a little different. I wish they could have a new season as often as possible, I guess realistically every 4 months rather than twice a year.

    With this new 10 ep formula the show is definitely a lot better since they’ve cut out a lot of filler episodes. I thought these episodes were a couple minutes longer than before, maybe not, but maybe they cut out some stuff that is too risqué for the Canada tv?

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  2. *spoilers (even though the article did too)*

    After watching the whole season in one day as well I think the first few episodes were really good and then end few really tied some stuff up but still left questions to be answered. I wasnt expecting Tristan to be so forgiving but I dont think that’s over just yet though. Also happy with Tristan’s progress!

    Rasha and Zo are so adorable, glad they made up. This isnt the first time someone has been kicked out for something but it definitely is heartbreaking due to its nature. (As a 28 year old) I remember watching Manny get kicked out when her parents found out she had gotten pregnant as one of the first times anyone was kicked out but she eventually was able to return home- I’m curious how Zo reconnects to her mom, if at all. Also glad that Goldie was accepting of Rasha and Zo.

    It seems that being accepted for who you are and trust is a big issue in this season and that most are scared to be truthful of who they are because they aren’t sure of the consiquences or in denial. I’m glad a lot of those issues got resolved like Goldie, Zo, and Rasha- or Lola, Shay, and Frankie. I feel badly for Jonah though because now I really see how I used to be in past relationships and how my husband did that to me when we first me however, I see if from Frankie’s perspective too. I used to be that way and it was because of past relationships that made me crazy. When Winston kissed Lola in the past, Frankie had a hard time trusting him again and ultimately, it ended. Things with Jonah were great because of that happy honeymoon phase however- from Frankie’s perspective, when Jonah started ditching her, years ago I would have gone into protective mode myself to protect my heart from something bad. Something my husband and I clarified when we first met, having both been cheated on in the past, was to be upfront and honest when we felt scared like something in the past was happening. I think if Frankie and Jonah had sat and talked when they first dated setting boundaries for sexual behavior, became understanding and open about their pasts, I think it would have been better for both of them- kind of how things with Jonah and bible girl were. She didnt trust him after he stole from her because of the drugs. They talked after the fact. I do feel Frankie was in the right when she said she deserved to know but also that she didnt need to. If Jonah told her, like the theme of the season being trust about others accepting you for who you are, then it may have turned out better. For Frankie to explain to Jonah about being cheated on, maybe Jonah would have been different. Do I blame Frankie for spying- not really, despite having done that myself. I watched the Wendy Williams show years ago after my last break up where I was cheated on and a guest, Lance Bass of NSync, said that if you trust someone, you have no reason to cheak their stuff. And also, being a scientist, I believe in Occam’s razor, which states that the simplest explaination tends to be the right one. My husband knows that I struggle sometimes when he travels for work, but he also knows why and its a lot more understanding that I need him to be in contact as much as he can. And I have to understand that he can only contact me a reasonable amount. We had an agreement that he video calls before he settles into bed at the hotels. While thats simply become a tradition now, he and I did it for the same reason, learning to actually accept Occams razor and to know that we can trust each other. In my past I hacked phones, laptops, and email accounts, now of course, I felt I had good reason to and it turns out, I was cheated on and wouldnt have known otherwise and it started like Jonah and being secretive. I feel like when Jonah told her about NA that Frankie should have explained about Winston cheating and being sorry she though otherwise about him. I could understand how that hurts. My husband and I both went through that a lot early on but it always ended with us saying to each other “I know you, I know how you are, I know my thoughts aren’t you” and eventually the questioning of each other stopped. Sure, we needed that reassurance but we never looked at each others phones. We actually wound up deleting social media all together, not so much for trusting each other better but so others wouldnt become involved in our relationship.

    Sorry #ranted. Anyway, great season, looking forward to next.

    *wink wink* Make me a writer haha

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  3. I haven’t seen the premier yet. i cant wait till it comes to F2N

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  4. *Spoilers*

    To me, this has been one of the best season in a long time. I definently have to say Degrassi “went there” this season, and let’s get real for a moment, this is the most artsy Degrassi can get. It had the look and feel of an HBO series, something like ‘Teenagers’ the hit web series.

    I’ve seen and heard people complain about the continuity and this season Degrassi really stepped up their game on this one. They acknowledge the Cam incident, Zig’s gang violence, Maya’s Sibling, Adam’s death etc.

    One thing That didn’t make sense to me was… WHERE WAS OWEN?! He’s Tristan’s brother for crying out loud, I mean sure maybe they couldn’t hire the actor for Next Class, but we can at least get a mention?

    To be fair this was the best out of the three seasons, and makes up for the atrocity that was season 14, which was by far one of the worst Degrassi seasons ever.

    My personal favorite season was season 13- and now we’re here in season 17 and it takes the cake for me.

    Sure people might say Degrassi can never surpass the early seasons, but I disagree. Next Class is on Netflix, and when Degrassi used to be on Teen Nick it couldn’t get away with MOST of the things that are happening in Next Class. Hell, they couldn’t get away with most of anything that’s happening in season 17.

    This season was just beautiful, complex, and a breath of fresh air.

    I’ve watched all 10 episodes and I have to say, they’ve out done themselves this time.

    Yes some plot lines are rehashes if older ones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good season with fresh characters.

    Everything felt real and exaggerated. That’s the way Degrassi should be.

    It didn’t cancel out the “Degrassi” era, (Eli, Imogen, Katie, Adam, Clare, Drew, etc.) people saying that in Next Class only “Degrassi: TNG” happened.

    The writers knew what they were doing, and fixed errors.

    Sure there are still mysteries that they’ll never address sadly. (Jack Jones, Tristan: Mr.Yates, Arlene (you know, that girl that Hunter was going to date, and is basically Yael… well uh, Yael is actually better tbh)

    But after watching EVERY SINGLE Season since the first season of TNG, I must say, Season 17 is my favorite, and in my opinion, the best.

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    1. Cutting it down to 10 episodes along with apparently being able to do more pg-13 type ideas, or be more frank/direct/graphic about subject matter has been the 2 biggest helpful things. And the overall emphasis on being a super modern show regarding technology and social internet has really helped too.

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  5. I hated the fakeness of the sudden Miles/Lola friendship. It was so obvious that Miles was going to cheat because that is what he does, not because Tristan was injured.

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  6. I hated the fakeness of the sudden Miles/Lola friendship. It was so obvious that Miles was going to cheat. I don’t like how it was rationalized and Miles given a pass. I fully expect Tristan to dump him next season so that Miles can be the victim instead of the cheater.

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  7. In Hungary there will be a school that will live through the worst possible development of a bus crash: the bus crashed and caught fire! 16 students are dead, a professor saved many, many were thrown away by the violence of the impact and those who didn’t were burned alive! A student sacrificed his life to save others, and one student is in a coma. Weird coincidence that it happened on the day of this series finale.

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