“Degrassi: Next Class” fails queer women with misguided Zoe and Grace storyline

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Whatever it takes, I know I can make it through this review. Welcome to Degrassi: Next Class, the latest reincarnation of your favorite Canadian show that never ends (you can thank the Family Channel and Netflix for that). So, why do we care this year? Zoe Rivas (Ana Golja) and Grace Cardinal (Nikki Gould). Assuming that you watched this summer’s Degrassi movie, Don’t Look Back, you know that Zoe and Grace got their lady kisses on and left things pretty open-ended. Well now that school is back in session, what did we get? A case of the sad baby gays and some major eye rolling. But we also got Zoe, whom I’m pretty sure the writers can’t take away from us too. And on that note, let’s dissect this bad boy.

Us gays stick together, so it’s no surprise that from the opening credits alone you can tell Zoe and Tristan are going to be tight all season long. So tight that he asks her to be his campaign manager in his run for school president, which he wins after his opponent (and ex) is disqualified. Friends in high places, Zoe!

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As for Grace, she’s in a band with her friend Maya and the new kid, Jonah. I feel like I must point out that they play the kind of music that really should be hurting Grace’s soul, but what do they care? They’re chasing the dream, man! Anyway, apparently all this band stuff would explain why Grace has been too busy to return Zoe’s texts. At least, that’s what she tells Zoe when they bump into each other at a pool party. All the kids on this show are never not doing something on their phones, but okay. It’s totally fine, though, because they’re “still friends.” Zoe might have missed that line, too busy staring like a smitten kitten.

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By the next episode, Zoe is asking Grace to be her assignment partner. To move the plot forward, she agrees. Tristan thinks it’s the perfect opportunity for Zoe to make her feelings known. Umm, didn’t the movie cover that? No? Well, it’s the perfect check-in point for Zoe’s character development. “I don’t even know if I’m gay!” But, more importantly, she doesn’t know if Grace likes girls. And if she doesn’t, what if she also doesn’t want Zoe in her life after knowing the truth? Helpful Tristan puts her at ease:

“Look at her. That hair. Those piercings. There is no way she’s doing that to attract boys.”

Take in those words. Recall them later when the Degrassi writers hit us with a revolutionary plot twist.

Back to the storyline: Zoe and Grace are clutching hands because they’re BFFs and assignment partners (as you do). And staying with Tristan’s line of thought, Zoe can’t help but point out Grace’s very distinctive look and ask what she thinks she’ll look like in the future, i.e. do you think you’ll still look this gay?

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Then out of nowhere, Grace pulls away and takes off. What happened? Zoe’s baffled. Was it the handholding? The flirting? Obviously, you can’t wait until the next day to confront your crush when you think she’s mad at you, so Zoe decides to visit Grace at home after school. Grace’s mom has no idea who she is, which, ouch, but still lies and says Grace isn’t home. Yeah, except we all totally saw you hiding behind the curtains, Grace!

Things had to come to a head, and they do the next day in the school bathroom, where Zoe justifiably starts ripping into Grace. That is until Grace starts coughing up blood.

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Guys, Grace has cystic fibrosis. After taking her home, Grace’s mom tells Zoe that Grace will likely live well into her 30s and maybe even past 50 because of new medical advancements. Again, this is one of those moments to reflect on because I don’t see how this would not influence some of the decisions we’ll discuss later on in this recap and even in seasons to come.

So what do you do after having such a bombshell dropped on you? You take the girl you’re crushing on up on the school roof and WebMD the shit out of her. And when that doesn’t work, invite her to commit suicide. Ugh, teenagers. To Zoe’s credit, it’s all more well-intentioned than it sounds. But it’s still all a bit much for Grace.

“This is why I don’t do relationships. Hard to commit when you’re one lung infection away from the end.”

Oh, Grace.

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