‘Degrassi’ Season 4 Worth a Watch (with or without Your Preteen)
Dear, Parents of Generation Z. The latest season of Degrassi: Next Class just dropped on Netflix, and, if you are worrying about your impressionable teenager’s media choices after the 13 Reasons Why controversy, then let me (as their predecessor young Millennial) breakdown the drama for you in this review.
The good news is that, (unlike the high school TV shows of my time, in which one teen queen fought another valiantly over the school crown, eye candy or college admission), season 4 of Degrassi: Next Class is literally all about inclusiveness, whether by accepting their classmate Yael as genderfluid, their valedictorian as a lesbian, or supporting a Syrian immigrant against racism. Generation Z is completely over labels and over anyone else judging them or dividing them with stereotypes.
But sometimes, like every other teen generation before them, the show also seems to try to gain (and preach) too much wisdom in too little time. We are dealing with a lot of life lessons each season and episode. Be it Esme’s mental health struggles (stemming from childhood issues), Maya’s attempt at suicide after the pressure to be perfect, or even Tristan’s recovery after a school bus crash. There is A LOT going on and sometimes the dramatic turn of events can be overwhelming and downplay the slower and subtler burn of these experiences in real life.
However, does that mean it’s not worth a watch? My answer would be a solid no. Despite the drama leaving little room for humour, the fourth season of Degrassi: Next Class doesn’t sermon on about why you shouldn’t have sex or lie to your parents. Instead, the episodes tell kids that you need to self-examine your actions before you make any decision. I mean, Shay thinks really hard about whether she is comfortable with the idea of having sex, and she also apologizes and returns the money she steals from a friend out of desperation. For the most part, all the teens in this show actually want to be good people. They care about morality and find their own way to it, which is arguably a more lasting way of learning.
Even better, to my mind, the season has no quintessential “hot girl”, or any “losers,” because the show is meant to be about real teens grappling with real-but-evolved issues — such as how to be feminist without being angry, whether social feeds are a reliable indicator of mental health, racism, and checking privilege. What’s refreshing about the fourth season of Degrassi: Next Class is that the more traditional and superficial dramas of high school, like being prom king and queen, are as important as being politically conscious and socially inclusive. This millennial approves.
Watch it with or without your preteen. Preteens are at the ripe age of being curious about the shenanigans they’ll face (and be part of) in high school. Let their aspirations open up those lines of communications that we keep going on about at The Swaddle. This season of Degrassi: Next Class is stuffed full of opportunities to ‘omg!’ together and then ask your kid what they think.