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Reimagining of Degrassi: The Next Generation Through a Mental Health Lens

Somewhere amongst the memories of adolescence in the 21st century arises an image of a not so personal, yet prominent stitch in the millennial mindset. This keystone teen drama piece known to most as Degrassi: The Next Generation, highlighted many of the mental health troubles endured by what I like to call the schizoids. However, captivating an audience of a generation brimming with distractions and constant stimulation is no easy task. The setting of the  show mainly existed in a fictional Canadian high school. One can assume the vastness of issues able to be attacked. At times it seemed as if the content the show offered on screen mirrored the plotlines consistent with the  lives of youth off screen. In a contrary approach of providing escapism by illustrating a not so distant on screen reality, viewers found solace in the nuance and familiarity between their lives and Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Mental Health Degrassi
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

Mental Health for Millennials

The show tackles a variety of mental health issues. 21SCHIZM intends to highlight them all, in due time of course. At times one wonders how the fictional high school counselor handles so many disorders and maladies. From addiction and rape to gender dysphoria, this show covers it all. In terms of accuracy Degrassi presents the most poignant and refreshing take on mental health for teens. Stepping in line with the youth of today and yesterday, Degrassi  boasts nominations and commendations, applauding their depiction of the present era including but not limited to the PRISM Award. While the only competition or companion that grapples with similar content comes to us from across the pond as the show Skins, which will be addressed in later segments. Intertwined within every character is some identifying characteristic that sets them apart from their counterparts, much like in real life. The audience finds themselves immersed in the fictionalized turmoils that befall the characters of Degrassi.

“Wheelchair Jimmy” AKA Drake

One of the most acclaimed episodes in show history places the 21st century pop culture icon, Drake in the proverbial and literal captain’s chair. The character Jimmy, played by Aubrey Graham, otherwise known as Drake, evokes enough star power alone to hang this show’s title amidst the drama greats. In this episode a disgruntled and disturbed Degrassi student, Rick, takes upon himself the goal of vengeance against his tormentors. In the episode Rick shoots Graham and Graham is forever immortalized as ‘Wheelchair Jimmy’, as if ‘Drake’ were not enough. Even in modern times, one can find parodies of the incident on media sites across the web. While never receiving a diagnosis, his character certainly suffered from some sort of affliction. Still, the exact diagnosis remains contentious as the creators perhaps worried it may escalate the stigma. Aside from the media powerhouse Drake there are many reasons one may find this show interesting.

Must Watch Series

Degrassi: The Next Generation needs to find itself on every member of the audiences’ ‘must watch list’. The show raises awareness for issues facing the world today. For the purposes of 21SCHIZM, further coverage will mainly confront the mental health crises . For most millenials, the show arouses some sort of nostalgia. Whether the nostalgia stems from either personal ties or a vicarious life depicted on the silver screen, one fact remains. The show weaves together two of our favorite things, the 21st century and dramatic, downright crazy lifestyles.

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