I remember watching reruns of Degrassi growing up. There was, and obviously still is, something so refreshing about the original series, the youth were portrayed in such an honest way, characters and real kids intertwined. Amanda Stepto really did wear her hair the way her character Spike did. Wheels and Rick were so cute (side note: the guy who played Rick lives –er, at one point lived– as a tattoo artist in my city. Cool huh?) Naturally, I started watching Degrassi: The Next Generation from the start. It has been on for 9 seasons and so the characters have rotated. My favourite character right now is Riley.
Riley was introduced in Season 8, but wasn’t seen as a main character until he tries to kiss his friend Peter. He’s a total macho all-around sporty guy, and he always tries to deny and repress his true feelings. When he feels confronted by others, he reacts violently. His aggression ruins all chances for emotional vulnerability, intimacy, friendship, love. Despite many potential vessels of support, he chooses loneliness, his self-hatred further isolating him from others. He’s willing to try anything to just not be gay anymore. Last season, he took steroids, and on lasts night’s episode he seeks the help of a “re-orientation therapist.” He’s seen as obnoxious and arrogant, overly aggressive, by his peers, but manages to retain on friend, Peter. At the end of last night’s back-to-back episode, he finally admits that he’s gay, and comes out to Peter, but I don’t think this is the end of Riley’s personal struggle.
You can watch episodes of Degrassi, season 7 and onwards, on the CTV website here.