20 Characters that Rocked Degrassi (part 2)
So, a few days ago, I counted down the 10 characters from “the new generation” that have made the biggest impact on the show so far and have seriously “rocked” Degrassi to complete intensity. But now it’s time for me to highlight the 10 characters from the “80′s series” that did the same thing. And there were many…but I had to cut it down to 10. Sadly…that meant I had to cut two pretty important characters: Lucy (who was sexually abused by a teacher and became seriously injured during a car crash caused by a drunken Wheels in the Schools Out movie) and, sadly Snake (with the gay brother…he’s also the one that saw Claude’s dead body in the bathroom after he commited suicide). It sucks considering he’s the only remaining old cast member that still has a regular role on the show. But I truthfully found these 10 characters more interesting and memorable.
PS…this is a list of characters that I think have made the biggest impact…not necessarily my personal favorite. Honestly, some of my favorite characters are Maya and Diana because I relate to them more…but I don’t think their impact as been as explosive as the 10 characters on this list!
Let’s do this, broomheads!
10. Stephanie Kaye (played by Nicole Stoffman) During the first two seasons, she was literally the lead female on the show. The very first episode (“Kiss Me, Steph”) was all about her trying to become school president, but in the end, she loses her best friend. Her character was similar to New Generation’s Manny, in that in the beginning of the series, she changed her image and began wearing sexier clothing. This caused her to be mistaken for a sixteen year old, and she almost “goes all the way” with a much older man. During season 2, she has an identity crisis, switching back and forth between dressing sexily and dressing normal, just so she can impress Simon. When she loses Simon to Alexa, and when she finds out that her divorced mother is getting married, she becomes depressed, almost suicidal. But by the end of the episode (“Dog Days”) she gets closer to her little brother Arthur and she is seemingly better. She kinda fades out of the season after that, and by season 3, the actress who portrayed Stephanie leaves and the character transfers to another school, never to be heard of again. But she definitely still left her mark on the show!
9. Derek “Wheels” Wheeler (played by Neil Hope) This is a character that definitely changed during his run on Degrassi. In the first season, we find out he was adopted when his real father shows up. Although he tries to get along with his father, he later decides that he’s not ready for that yet. In season 2, he gets his signature glasses. Season 3 was an especially intense season for Wheels. His adoptive parents are killed in a car crash, which definitely hurts him. And then when he gets sick of living with his grandma, he decides to run away to his biological father…but of course he has to go back home to his grandma. By the last season, Wheels becomes a “bad guy”. He is kicked out of his house, and after stealing money from Joey’s mom while stayed there, he loses his friends. The big moment came during the end movie, when he drives drunk and kills a kid and badly injures Lucy. He is arrested and his character ends the series on a bad note.
8. Joey Jeremiah (played by Pat Mastroianni) I know! I know! He is undoubtably the most memorable and recognizable character from the series. He had at least 10 lines in every episode (even though this show was a repertory ensemble where characters sometimes appeared as nothing more than environment). But his character never had as many personal issues as some other characters. I don’t want to explain why he’s low on the list…I want to explain why he’s in the top 10 to begin with. He was the joker. The class clown and the most popular boy in school. His reputation was jeopardized however when during the season 2 finale (“Pass Tense”), when he finds out that he has to repeat the 8th grade. Also during season 4, he finds out he has the learning disability, dysgraphia, which means he had to start taking special ed glasses. But I think most fans remember him for his complicated “on again off again” relationship with Caitlin Ryan. By the end of the series he and Caitlin are together, but of course Joey ruined that during the movie, when he cheated on Ryan with the “good girl turned bad” Tessa Campinelli, causing Caitlin to say the “F” word and break up with him. Burn! He became a big character during the first 5 seasons of the new series.
7. Shane McKay (played by Billy Parrot) He’s mostly remembered for being the guy that got Spike pregnant. During the first two seasons, all his storylines revolved around that. The writers, I guess, tried to prove that it’s hard for the guy too, and that he has to deal with his parents (who want him to have nothing to do with Spike) and Spike and her demands. But, honestly, he makes this list for his season 3 storyline, when he takes acid at a party, jumps of a bridge, bumps his head and gets in a coma. We soon find out that his brain was messed up and he becomes mentally disabled. His last appearance was his guest appearance in season 4 when he meets up with Spike again in his complicated state. And Parrot does a pretty good job with that, getting all the mannerisms down. But, he disappeared from the Degrassi universe after to that…although his character comes back during the new generation, still mentally disabled (FYI…he’s played by a different actor.)
6. Caitlin Ryan (played by Stacie Mistysyn) Another popular favorite from the season, Ryan definitely had a multitude of issues during the whole series. She was the socially active character who always spoke for equal rights and justice (like Emma in the new series). Her character’s first big storyline was during the very risky season one episode “Rumour Has it”, when she deals with her sexuality. She keeps having love dreams about her teacher Ms. Avery, and she doesn’t understand why. Very risky storyline for kids show if you ask me. During season 2, she is diagnosed with epilepsy and during a slumber party, she has a seizure attack after not taking her medication. She’s mostly remembered for her relationship Joey. During high school, she breaks up with Joey for a socially active prick named Claude, but quickly breaks up with him too when he betrays her. When Claude commits suicide in the next season, Caitlin blames herself and, in a very powerful season, gets comfort from Joey after tearfully showing her guilt. And, of course, like I mentioned in earlier, Joey cheats on her and they again become no more (until the new generation of course…but they break up again by the end of season 4…these two need to cut it out!) And, can I just add something about the actress? Throughout the series, I thought Mistysyn was the strongest, most natural, convincing actress on the show and I’m kinda shocked she didn’t have much of a career after the show ended.
5. Erica Farrell (played by Angela Deiseach) Yup, that’s right. I’m only putting one half of the famous twin sisters from the show. During the junior high years, a casual viewer (or even a regular watcher) couldn’t even tell Erica and Heather apart. The producers tried giving them different haircuts to set them apart, but that didn’t work. It wasn’t until season 4, when one of the twins is finally given some drama. Over the summer, Erica loses her virginity. But when school starts, she soon realizes she’s pregnant. In short, despite the fact that her sister and many of her classmates are against it, Erica decides to get an abortion. She later earns her sister’s support and Heather helps Erica out at the clinic amidst some nasty protestors. During the rest of the season, Erica deals with backlash, and gets into a pretty intense physical fight with Liz. The “abortion” storyline was definitely one the more important issues the show covered.
4. Kathleen Mead (played by Rebecca Haines) I honestly consider this “the Craig” of the old series. She was seriously the most cursed character on the show. She’s not a character that many people discuss (probably because she doesn’t make much of an appearance in the new series), but when I first watched the old series, I was surprised at how much shit she went through. During season 1, she’s nothing more than a homophobic
bitch prude who did nothing but make Caitlin’s life miserable. But then in season 2, we find out that her mother is an alcoholic and she pretty much takes care of herself (since his dad is always out working). Then during season 3, she develops an eating disorder and faints in the school hallway after anorexia/bulimia infected her. And then during season 4, she gets into a relationship with Scott, who ends up beating her. It goes so far, she even get a broken arm and ends up pressing charges against him. In her last big episode of the series (“The All Nighter”), during a sleepover, a highMelanie (her best friend (maybe even only) throughout the series) blurts out all the issues Kathleen had to go through, which Kathleen cries over. In the end of the episode, Kathleen bitterly ends her friendship with Melanie and we pretty much never hear from her again. A very interesting, and underrated character who showcased some of the more intense issues the show offered.
3. Christine “Spike” Nelson (played by Amanda Stepto) Of course this list wouldn’t leave out the character that’s the reason why the new generation exists. During season one (“It’s Late”), Spike and Shane have sex, and soon Spike finds out she’s pregnant. Throughout the series, her storyline dealt with her pregnancy and being a teen mom. During season 2, she is kicked out of the school because of her pregnancy, but she is allowed back in season 3 after she gives birth to baby Emma. Honestly, after that, her role isn’t as big as a lot older watchers probably remember, but we see her struggling to balance school and Emma at the same time. She also has trouble maintaining relationships. She dates Patrick for a while, before breaking up with him. And then during the last season, Spike asks Snake out to the dance (“Three’s A Crowd”), but sadly lets him go after discovering that he really likes Michelle (another intense character I’m sad I had to leave off the list). That episode is a personal favorite of mine because it was the first episode in a while that didn’t focus a lot on Spike and her motherhood. Despite the fact she had a kid, she was still a normal teenage girl who liked boys (also, it’s funny how Spike and Snake end up getting married). Spike appears in the new series as Emma’s mom (their last appearance to this date was “Degrassi Takes Manhattan”.)
2. Dwayne Myers (played by Darrin Brown) During the first 4 seasons, he was just resident bully who made Joey’s life a living hell. However, in the season premiere of season 5 (“Bad Blood”), he finds out that he got HIV from a girl he met over the summer. Although it was 1990, AIDS was still a hot topic during the time and there was still a lot of confusion surrounding the issue. So the fact that the show portrayed it on the show was big. Even bigger, there was a misconception that only gay men had AIDS. But Dwayne was straight and got it from a girl, thus breaking more barriers and unocvering the truth about the virus. When the whole school finds out by season’s end, he becomes distressed, but he still bravely shows up to the school dance and has one last Degrassi dance with the friend who stood by him, Tabi. He appeared to be alive and healthy during the reunion ten years later, maintaining his illness. Definitely an important character.
1. Claude Tanner (played by David Armin-Parcells) OK, here’s my thinking on this one. The best and most memorable episode in the show was “Showtime”, the episode where Claude shoots himself in the boy’s bathroom. So, clearly, the number one spot should go to Claude. Although he didn’t appear much during the series’ run, he still made a huge impact in the lives of Degrassi students. Before he kills himself, he was clearly feeling depressed over his parents and Caitlin not wanting him back. For the talent show auditions, he performs a very melodramatic and dark poem, but he’s laughed off the stage. The next day he kills himself. He is the first and only character to successfully (ugh, weird choice of words) commit suicide and he was and still is a big deal in the Degrassi community. So I give the number one spot to the character that showed us the epidemic of youths committing suicide. His story is as relevant now as it was then and I think all Degrassi fans (new and old) need to give this episode a watch.
So I have uncovered twenty characters from the best teen dramas in the world! Are you still bummed I left off Snake…or did I convince you otherwise? And where’s Nancy in all this?! Leave your comments! Rate it even if you hate it. Thanks for reading!