Two of the plots in #IWokeUpLikeThis deal with people judging other people in cruel form. Zig starts to question his relationship with Esme based on everything that everyone is saying about her. Yael thinks that “girly” things like makeup are dumb, so girls that waste their time on it are dumb. Not only do these situations feature harsh judgments, the characters, just like people in real life on a daily basis, are judging people and things they know nothing about.
ZIG PLOT RECAP: After getting a blowjob from Esme in the school parking lot, Zig unintentionally reveals that to Tiny, Jonah, Frankie and Shay. All of them are grossed out, saying that Esme is crazy and implying that she’s a slut. Tiny’s also concerned that if Zig keeps spending so much time with Esme he’ll flunk senior year. Zig turns down time with Esme to study for a makeup quiz, and he tells her his friends think he spends too much time with her. Esme tells Zig that she’s really good at math and helps him study. But when Zig receives a message on his phone Esme reads it and mysteriously disappears. The two have a huge argument in the hallway about Zig’s group chat which has Jonah and Tiny referring to Esme as “easy” and “thirsty,” and Zig also responded in the chat by saying, “As long as I don’t wife her, what’s wrong with some extra third base action?” Zig says that Esme’s always doing crazy things and does things other girls wouldn’t do. In response, Esme grabs Winston and says she’s going to hook up with him since she’s so easy, but Mr. Perino walks up which ends the argument. Later, Zig asks Maya if he makes bad choices, and Maya tells him that if he really likes Esme, he shouldn’t let everyone else’s opinions about Esme affect him. Zig finds Esme to reveal that he got a good grade on his math quiz thanks to her, but she’s still upset. She tells him that she doesn’t care what anyone says about her, but what Zig said hurt because his opinion is the only one that matters to her. She’s worried Zig will freak out when people say crazy things about her that might actually be true, and she reveals that as a child she watched her mom kill herself. Zig in turn reveals that his parents kicked him out for selling drugs and now he lives in a group home. He says he relies too much on his friend’s advice because he has no one else, and Esme tells Zig that he has her.
“Zig, that girl is crazy.”
“So she went down on you. Classy.”
“What kind of girl even does that?” “In public? Damaged girls.”
“Yeah, but how man other dudes has she liked in that parking lot?”
Over the course of Degrassi: Next Class we’ve seen multiple characters make offhand remarks about Esme being crazy or implying she’s a skank, but this is the first time we’ve seen characters extensively gang up on her in an episode. I absolutely loved the core message of this story; regardless of how close you are to people, you shouldn’t necessarily be letting others heavily sway your decisions. This is such an incredibly relatable concept because we all make judgments about people, but how much of what we think about people we don’t know is really true?
Degrassi does an amazing job of counterbalancing so many things in this plot. They balanced people’s concerns about Esme by adding the missed math quiz and showing Tiny genuinely concerned that Zig missing classes to spend time with Esme may cause him to flunk. Then we see the show balance everyone’s perception of Esme by having her tutor Zig in math. Confirmation bias strikes again as Esme confronts Zig in front of everyone in intense fashion. “So, still think we were wrong about her?” Tiny says.
I love the scene with Zig and Maya. Not only does Maya give him the most simple of advice (if you like her and she makes you happy, it shouldn’t matter what everyone else thinks), this scene also seamlessly transitions from Zig’s plot into Maya’s from a storytelling perspective.
But back to Degrassi balancing everything…we finally understand why Esme is messed up when she tells Zig about her mom’s death. And with everyone so focused on how Esme is “crazy” and a mess, we’re also reminded that Zig’s life is far from perfect when he tells Esme about his past gang life and how he’s now living in a group home.
No truer line has been spoken on Degrassi when Zig tells Maya that Esme is messed up, and Maya responds by saying, “Who isn’t?”
YAEL PLOT RECAP: The gamers have started a vlog channel, but their reach to the female demographic is lacking so they decide to have Yael do makeup tutorials. After some “training” from Lola, Yael tries, but messes up while recording the vlog. She ends up going on a rant about how makeup is stupid and how girls can never progress in society because they spend so much time on it. Yael uploads the vlog and it receives major backlash; Lola and Frankie are also upset because Yael came off as saying people who wear and enjoy makeup are stupid. When Yael tells them that wearing makeup is oppressive and its only worn to impress boys, Lola and Frankie say they do it for themselves because it make them eel good. Yael doesn’t want to do makeup videos because it’s just not her thing, so the vloggers decide to hire Lola to do them instead.
Over the course of Degrassi: Next Class, we’ve seen that Yael has a tendency to be very condescending when it comes to things she doesn’t like. If it isn’t something she enjoys it’s stupid and so is everyone who does it, so I’m glad Degrassi used not one, but two female characters to put Yael in her place.
She doesn’t enjoy “girly” things which is totally okay, and it shows how clueless the guys are for thinking Yael doing vlogs on a subject she hates and has no knowledge of will work simply because she’s a girl. However, Yael’s completely out of line when she rants about how people are stupid for wanting to wear makeup, or that they only wear it because they’re trying to impress boys. There’s an irony in Yael knowing nothing about makeup, but also trying to tell Frankie and Lola why they wear it. “It’s the patriarchy oppressing you,” She says. The scene where Lola does Yael’s makeup seemingly makes Yael’s points, as Lola points out wearing makeup does make you more appealing as she simultaneously Oomfchats Miles. But Lola and Frankie are quick to point out that they’re main reason for doing it is because they enjoy it and it makes them feel good about themselves. Yael’s a strong feminist, but the application of her views in this situation only shows that just because you’re “woke” and willing to be outspoken it doesn’t always mean you know what the hell you’re talking about.
It’s great that Degrassi uses a unique method to address why girls choose to wear makeup that doesn’t involve an actual conflict with a boy. And while unfair beauty standards most definitely exist, part of Yael’s angst seems to come from her insecurities of knowing she doesn’t fit into the stereotypical definition of what a girl should be, making it harder for her to reach her personal goals. But in the end, she also realizes that while she’s fighting for womankind there’s more than one type of woman in this world, and it’s no one’s place to tell any woman what type of woman they should be.
MAYA PLOT RECAP: After missing the first week of school, Maya returns with a lot on her plate: she has missed school work to complete, university applications to start and Grace and Jonah want her to write lyrics for their new song. Maya meets with Ms. Grell, but beforehand she stumbles upon Saad’s camera. As she starts to look through it he walks up, says “That’s mine,” and then grabs it and walks out. Maya tells Ms. Grell that she feels overwhelmed by everything, and Grell tells Maya that taking everything on her list one step at a time will help, and that university is the light at the end of the tunnel. After Maya talks with Zaya, she’s questioned by Grace and Jonah, who’ve been waiting for her and the lyrics after school for 40 minutes. Maya tells them she feels like she can’t juggle everything at once and both Grace and Jonah tell her they feel the same way…they also tell her to take the night off and she can work on the lyrics later. At home Maya’s looking at university applications in the bathtub. The last scene shows her holding her breath until water until she no longer can, gasping for air as she rises to the surface.
I don’t really have much to say about Maya’s plot in this episode; it’s slowly laying the foundation for her storyline this season, and just the thought of it all leaves me feeling unsettled already. The quick appearance of Saad and Maya looking through his camera is setting up things for later.
However, there’s a clear change in Maya, and it’s scary to think that the most simple of tasks are now overwhelming her. Pretty much everyone is treating Maya as if she’s back to normal, but even Maya’s smiles look completely hollow. It’s as if she feels nothing, until the very end when she holds her breath underwater for as long as possible, flirting with that sense of panic and impending doom.
*There were some really cool shots in this episode: the camera pulling away from the car right before the opening credits…getting out of bed…the camera trucking besides Maya to reveal Zig…good stuff!
*I love the concept of “All Inclusive” as a vlog channel because Degrassi can build bonus show content around like, just like they did with the series of All Inclusive webisodes that were released a couple of months ago. Though the goal of the vlog is to be a safe-space channel for everyone, we know making it a financially lucrative is a goal as well (hence them covering gaming, comics, movies, song covers and now makeup tutorials).
* We learned Maya broke both wrists in the bus crash. Remember the last time double broken wrists was incorporated into the show?
*#ContinuityFTW: using the Yael/Lola scene to casually show us that Lola and Miles are communicating regularly through Oomfchat.