At the high school I went to in the South, almost every book we read was about a) the South, b) women, or c) black people (preferably black Southern women). And while sometimes it felt as if my school was trying to make up for something, I definitely appreciated the uniqueness of our reading list and how much it allowed me and my classmates to avoid the writings of dead white men.
Every now and then we’d break the cycle and just read a good ole Southern writer, like William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor. Now, if Flannery O’Connor taught me anything, it’s that good men are hard to find and that, when you find one, someone usually ends up dead, so it’s a damn good thing Degrassi isn’t a gothic Southern novel. Instead, this week’s Degrassi episodes have left us two good men richer than we were a week ago, and that, my friends, is a story that’s truly hard to find.
(There’s a lot to cover this week, so don’t worry, there’s some good Fiona stuff later in this recap – this week was almost an overload of LGBT storylines!)
The set-up for the week is that Adam and another guy, Dave, are competing for a gig on the student radio. After each submitting similar show proposals – “The Man Show with Adam Torres” vs. “Dave Turner Man Hour” – the student body president, Sav, informs them they’ll be duking it out on air. Let the best man win!
Dave, however, complains that he “can’t lose to Adam, of all people” because it would be weird for a transgender guy to host a man show. Dave’s girlfriend counters that Adam’s nice and funny, so Dave better bring his A-game if he wants to defeat him fair and square.
Sav warns them the principal is nervous about turning the airwaves over to students, so they better keep it clean. Which, of course, means that s–t’s about to go down, in three, two…
Adam – bless his heart – does not hear the warning bell that I’m hearing and, without having read the episode summary as I have, clearly has no idea what he’s stepping into. His perpetual innocence is both endearing and unnerving.
Sav turns the radio on as Adam excitedly claims he was born ready to do this show. “Oh, is that how you were born?” Dave asks, and Adam retorts, “How were you born? Short?”
Somehow, this on-air sparring wins them a joint show, “Mano-A-Mano with Dave and Adam.”
Afterward, they both stop off at the bathroom (Adam just to wash his hands), and as they’re standing there, Adam attempts to mimic Dave’s stance at the urinals. Dave notices him staring, freaks out, and practically trips out of the bathroom in his rush to leave.
Later, as Adam waits for Dave to show up to their brainstorming session, he explains to Eli that he only went into the men’s bathroom in hopes that it would help Dave see him as just another dude. In fact, he recently got a stand-to-pee device online and is planning to start using it. Hence, the stance-observing.
Adam also confesses that he doesn’t know how he should be acting after the earlier incident with Dave. Eli suggests ignoring the whole thing, an idea Adam immediately rejects. “If Dave can’t handle this, who can?” he says. “Give him some credit.”
Now this innocence I mentioned? I don’t think it’s just innocence anymore. Adam is willing to believe the best of everyone, even if it means willfully disregarding possible signs of danger and especially if it means giving himself a better chance of being a normal teenage boy. He starts by giving everyone the benefit of the doubt that they’re going to accept him. If you want to prove his belief in you wrong, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Which means Dave is about to get to work.
When Dave shows up, Adam tries to bring up the bathroom incident. Dave deflects, claiming they’re good and there’s nothing to discuss, before high-tailing it… back to the bathroom. Great. Foolish, wonderful, trusting Adam decides to follow. Brainstorm session in the bathroom!
This time, while Dave is washing his hands and Adam is at the urinal, Dave creeps over to try and figure out how Adam is able to stand to pee. Because, you know, Dave peeking at Adam is totally fair, right?
Now, I have two main thoughts on this bathroom storyline. On the one hand, it’s good to see that Degrassi isn’t shying away from the issues Adam is facing in his life, one of which is being able to safely use his bathroom of choice – the men’s room.
On the other hand, though, it’s frustrating to see the whole episode focus around Dave’s fear of sharing a bathroom with Adam, a fear that is most frequently employed by the conservative right as a political tool to make the public view trans people as freaks. Degrassi definitely handles this topic with as much finesse as I could ask for – Dave’s actions throughout the rest of the storyline result in the school’s student body viewing Dave as the unacceptable one. However, I still find myself wishing that they’d shown Adam dealing with some other issue – one that just has to do with Adam, not with the unfounded fears of the radical right – instead.
Back in the bathroom, Dave, unnerved by Adam and his stand-to-pee device, flips out and flees, yet again.
The next day, he barely shows up on time for their radio show. Adam tries to apologize for the day before, but Dave says they should just do the show. Right, Adam responds. “We’re both men, who needs to talk?”
And apparently, who needs to tell their co-host they’re changing the topic and ignoring their brainstorming session from the day before? Not Dave. What he wants to talk about are “bathroom rules.” “Not to get all politically incorrect,” he starts, “but should girls be allowed to use the guys’ bathroom at school?”
He manages to rant on-air for a couple sentences before his use of the slur “tranny” prompts Sav to cut the radio off and Adam to book it out of the recording studio and away from Dave. The rest of the school looks into the studio, horrified. “Not cool, Dave,” Sav says.
Despite his girlfriend’s (and pretty much everyone else’s) disapproval, Dave maintains that what he said on air felt “so right” to say. He continues to mouth off, voicing his surprise that Adam bailed – Dave “thought he could take it.”
When Adam walks up to confront Dave for attacking him on air instead of just talking to him, Dave claims he was simply expressing an opinion, but if it was “too intense” for him, Dave is happy to do the show solo. Adam, looking on the disappointed side of furious, explains that the school’s LGBT Club is now petitioning to get Dave kicked off, so maybe Adam will be the one doing the show solo.
In shock, Dave runs off to find Zane (apparently the leader of the LGBT Club? Who knew!) to ask about the protest. Zane explains that the word “tranny” is hateful language and Dave’s rant on the radio “made it clear… from a power position” that he’s against transgender guys being in the men’s bathroom. Dave, however, continues to insist he didn’t do anything wrong.
I was prepared to do so much more commentary on this episode, Degrassi, but Zane took the words right out of my mouth!