Tag Archives: teen television

All About Adam: Degrassi’s The Boiling Point Tackles Transgender Identity

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the popular Canadian teen show, Degrassi: The Next Generation.  Specifically, I previewed its Summer 2010 soap opera-styled block of episodes, collectively entitled Degrassi: The Boiling Point. 

In the post, I poked some fun at the show’s recent run of lackluster plotlines, and expressed concern over whether the series I had once loved had forever lost its Mojo . . .

Well, this is the blog post where I eat my words . . .

Why the change of heart, you ask?  Well, it has a lot to do with THIS GUY . . .

Meet Adam Torres, a sophomore, and recent transfer to Degrassi Community School.  As far as personalities go, Adam’s got a pretty good one.  He’s smart, funny, a little bit snarky, and a loyal friend.  He’s also biologically female.

Up until this year, Adam was known to the world as Gracie Torres.  And he looked like this . . .

By the way, special kudos to the Degrassi writers for not making the character’s birth name, Eve . . .

That would have been SO uncool!

From the time Adam was a little kid, he always knew he was different.  Adam never felt truly female, thus making the person who stared back at him in the mirror each day a complete and utter stranger.  In short, Adam felt as though he was trapped in a body that was not his own. 

After much discussion and hand-wringing, Adam’s parents reluctantly agreed to let him start over at a new school, as a male.  But in order to truly live the life he wanted, without judgment or prejudice, Adam had to keep his FTM (female-to-male) transgender identity a secret, while at Degrassi.  And, for a little while, he did.  But secrets have a way of coming out at the most inopportune moments.  And Adam’s secret was no exception . . .

This week, Degrassi aired an hour-long episode, over a span of two days, entitled “My Body is a Cage.” During this hour, we watch Adam cope with the realities of living life as a transgender.  In the first part of the episode, Adam’s secret is exposed to his classmates.  The first to find out about Adam’s “origins” are his two friends, Clare and Eli.

Clare becomes suspicious that Adam is hiding “something,” when she bumps into him near the lockers, causing an entire box of tampons to explode on the floor.  

(OK.   Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED this episode.  But come on!  What high schooler carries around an entire box of tampons?  Isn’t “discretion” one of the main benefits that tampons have over pads? Can’t you just stick one or two in the front pocket of your bookbag, and have them go virtually unnoticed?  Wouldn’t you think, of all people, that someone who was trying to HIDE their female parts would be sensitive to this?)

Beware of the Telltale Tampon!

Contrivance aside, Clare handles the situation with class.  When a group of guys pass by, and ogle the tampons on the floor, taking note of Adam’s proximity to them, Clare quickly improvises.  “Silly me, always dropping my feminine hygiene products!”  She sing-songs.  (I love that she calls them “feminine hygiene products” – good ole’ Nerdy Clare!)

Later, Adam sits Clare and Eli down at lunch and reveals his secret to them, permitting them to ask him any questions they might have.  “How do you know you aren’t just a tomboy or a lesbian?”  Clare inquires.  (A good question.)

“I just know,” replies Adam.  (A highly unsatisfactory answer.  But this is an hour-long teen show, where each story only gets 1/3 of the episode’s screentime.  So, I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting here. . . )

Things don’t go nearly as well, later on in the day, when Adam unwisely makes a play for the school’s “Bad Girl,” Bianca, during a Ballroom Dancing class.

Bianca shows interest initially, placing her hand flirtatiously on Adam’s chest, as the two banter back and forth.  But that’s when the problems arise.  “What’s going on there?”  Bianca inquires.  “You’re too skinny to have man boobs.” 

 (Sorry, I’m not buying this scene either.   The actress’ boobs weren’t all that big BEFORE they were taped to her body, and covered with three layers of clothing.  I sincerely doubt this chicky would be able to detect them that easily under these circumstances . . .)

In one swift move, Bianca dramatically rips open Adam’s shirt. (Clearly, she’s got . . .  um . . . experience taking off others’ clothes.)

This is what Adam SHOULD have been wearing under his flannel.

Upon doing this, Bianca spies the “hide the boobies” gauze wrap Adam’s got around his midsection.  (Here’s where the “old sports injury” argument, might have come in handy.  Just sayin . . .). 

Bianca flips out.  “I’ve seen freaks like you on Oprah!”  She yelps, before stomping off . . .

Oh no, you didn’t, Bianca!  You  did NOT just evoke the Wrath of Oprah.  Be afraid, be very afraid . . .

Bianca’s reaction to Adam, though definitely mean-spirited and b*tchy, was, to some extent, understandable.  Unlike Clare and Eli, who were let in on Adam’s secret gently, and heard it “straight from the horse’s mouth,” Bianca was completely blindsided.  She felt attraction for Adam, and then learned he wasn’t AT ALL who she thought he was.  

Bianca must have felt betrayed, tricked, and manipulated.  Her sexuality was challenged, and she felt threatened by it.  So, she lashed out.  And if things ended right there, I would actually have some sympathy for Bianca . . .

I know, crazy right?  But, it DIDN’T end there.  Instead, Bianca told the ENTIRE school, which led to THIS highly uncomfortable to watch scene . . .

Now, while I could slightly commiserate with Bianca’s initial reaction to Adam, the above-illustrated reaction by bullies, Owen and Fitz, absolutely floored me.  After all, however you slice it, these guys joyfully beat up someone they believed to be a GIRL!  (Isn’t that against Bro Code or something?)    And yet, as awful as it was, I can certainly see something like this happening at a real high school.

Fortunately, for Adam, he isn’t without support.  And I love how his relationship with his stepbrother, Drew, is portrayed in this episode. 

Drew is the quintessential school Golden Boy, a popular “dumb jock,” in every sense of the word.  He is even friends with the bullies who beat up Adam.  And yet, Drew stands by his brother, without question.  He is even willing to fight physically with his (former?) friends to defend Adam’s honor.  (He gets his ass kicked doing it, but STILL . . .)

The second part of the episode, deals with Adam grappling with his parents’ inability to come to terms with his decision to live life as a male.  They call him by female pronouns, and force him to dress up as “Gracie,” when Grandma comes to town.  But things really come to a head, when Adam tries to deny his identity, by coming to school dressed as Gracie.  Adam soon becomes so depressed and overwhelmed as a result,  that he turns to self-mutilation, as an outlet for his emotions. 

Despite the aforementioned doom and gloom, the episode actually ends on a relatively positive note, with Adam’s parents coming to terms with the “loss of their daughter.”   They even going as far as to hold a bonfire, where all the material things that represent “Gracie” are burned.

A few unbelievable scenes, and a smidge of cheese aside, I thought this episode was pretty brilliant.  It handled the issue of transgender identity believeably, without being heavy-handed or overly  maudlin.  The actress who plays Adam, was also relatable, and sufficiently understated.  Watching the episode, I could definitely see how a lesser actress could have really “butched it up,” just to prove a point.  Fortunately, that did not happen here.

You may recognize Jordan Todosey, the actress who plays Adam Torres, as little Lizzie, from Life with Derek, a Canadian sitcom about a Brady Bunch-esque blended family with a modern twist.  (It still airs on the Disney Channel, every once in a while, in case you’re curious . . .)

She’s obviously very talented.  I suspect this is not the last we will hear about her . . .

So, there, I’ve said it.  With nearly ten years of episodes behind its belt, Degrassi still manages to surprise me, every once in a while.  O’ Canada, I will never doubt you again.

That’s the crow I just had to eat . . .

Degrassi: The Boiling Point airs weeknights at 9 p.m. on Teen Nick.  Have you been watching? 

[www.juliekushner.com]

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Degrassi: The Boiling Point (Because Canadian Teens are People Too!)

The cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation . . . NONE of these people are actually on the show anymore.  Seriously.

Once upon a time (the early 2000s) in a land far, far, away (Canada), a bunch of folks got together and created a half-hour television program called Degrassi: The Next Generation.  It was a show about high school kids (well . . . actually, they started out in junior high), one which starred actors and actresses who were ACTUALLY teenagers  . . .

 . . . as opposed to the 35- and 40-year olds who typically starred in teen television dramas at that time.

Meet the first 16-year old to ever suffer from menopause . . .

And the first 17-year old to experience erectile dysfunction disorder.

But what most of us fans of the show DIDN’T know, was that Degrassi wasn’t exactly NEW.  It was actually a revamp of a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY old show (from the 1980s) that ALSO featured high school kids.  Except THEY looked like THIS . . .

Woah!  Scary!

 . . . and had HAIR like THIS . . .

How exactly did one sleep at night, with hair like THAT?  Wouldn’t it puncture holes in the bedroom wall, in the middle of the night?

Throughout the years, the NEW Degrassi grew more and more popular.  And as its cast aged (into their LATE teens, mind you, not their LATE fifties like those OTHER shows), its storylines became more and more provocative.  Degrassi began to tackle REAL issues that REAL teens faced everyday, like . . .

Rape;

Self-mutilation;

Mental illness;

Addiction to Prescription Pain Medication;

School Shootings; and

Zombies.

Due largely to the success of the show, and the innate talents of its stars, many Degrassi: The Next Generation cast members went on to become big stars in .  . . wait for it . . . THE UNITED STATES.  For example, you may remember Darcy Edwards (played by Shenae Grimes), the “good little Christian girl” . . .

“OMG!  You just CURSED!  You are SO going to hell!”

 . . . turned Skanky Ho / Internet Porn Star . . .

 . . . or, as you NOW know her, Annie from the NEW 90210.

Then, there was Little Jimmy (played by Aubrey Graham), the Rich Kid Jock . . .

 . . . who was tragically confined to a wheel chair, after being shot in the back by a psycho.  But you might know him better as kickass rapper dude, Drake . . .

And who could forget my personal favorite?  Baby Mama Mia.

 She doesn’t look familiar to you?  Perhaps you’d recognize her more, if she was attached to the lips of some VERY HOT VAMPIRES . . .

It’s Nina Dobrev!  Or as you know her better, Elena Gilbert of The Vampire Diaries!

Can I get a, “Hell yeah!”

Unfortunately, soon after the departure of these folks (along with most of the rest of the show’s original cast) came an inevitable drop in the show’s ratings . . .

Coming up on its tenth season, Degrassi: The Next Generation was staring down cancellation.  To stay afloat, it needed a MIRACLE!  It needed a HAIL MARY!

Hail, Mary!

So the producers of Degrassi came up with a plan . . .

Why not spice things up a bit, by changing the show’s format to one that’s already proven successful?  Why not make Degrassi into . . .  a SOAP OPERA!

So what if HALF of the longest running soap operas on television have been CANCELED within the past two years?

Clearly, this is an AMAZING and FAILSAFE idea!

And so, starting this week, Degrassi: The Next Generation has traded in its weekly airings for daily ones.  This summer, a half-hour episode of the series will air every weekday at 9 p.m. on TeenNick for six weeks.  This television viewing event is being referred to by advertisers as THE BOILING POINT . . . though I’m not quire sure why . . .

(Maybe watching it gives you hot flashes . . .)

The promo is pretty cool though!

THE BOILING POINT kicked off early this week, with a two-hour special entitled Degrassi Takes Manhattan.  The series got off to a good start, at least in terms of “shock value,” if not exactly for “good plotting” or “good acting.”  During the special, two characters who had precisely NOTHING to do with one another for the ENTIRE ten years they were on the program together (Spinner and Emma), inexplicably declared their “love” for one another, and got married . . .

“And you are . . .?”

(Man!  That drunken Vegas Toronto casino sex must have been REALLY GOOD . . .)

Then, an, admittedly very attractive, brother / sister duo (Declan and Fiona) engaged in a very public, disturbingly sexy, MAKEOUT session with eachother!

“So, Declan.  What do you think we should name our three-headed kids?”

But then, things kind of went downhill .  . .

Take this first week of episodes, for example.  It featured the following plotlines  . . .

THIS couple is NOT pregnant . . .

THIS girl is NOT getting a boob job  . . .

THIS girl did NOT try to commit suicide (ugly ass headband, notwithstanding).

If this keeps up, they may have to change Degrassi’s infamous tagline from “It Goes There” to “It Goes  . . . Where?”

I mean, really!  Fake pregnancies to win ELECTIONS?  Rumors about someone getting a boob job, when she is actually getting LASIK EYE SURGERY?  Could THIS be the same program that brought us this shocking scene?

OR this one?

Then again, maybe I’m being too harsh.  It IS early in the season, yet.  And maybe things will start to pick up, as the weeks wear on . . .  Here’s hoping . . .

So, I have to ask.  Have YOU been watching THE BOILING POINT?  If so, what do you think so far?

[Degrassi’s THE BOILING POINT airs weeknights at 9 p.m. on TeenNick this summer]

 

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