Yeah, except preppies wear sweater vests, and boat shoes, and polo shirts in bland neutrals, and that kind of stuff. Whereas Steph is wearing a red bustier, a blue miniskirt, and a big silver belt, with assorted red, white and blue accessories and terrifying amounts of blue eyeshadow, and overall she looks like it’s Halloween and she’s going as Sexed-up Wonder Woman. This outfit is many things, but preppy is not one of them.
As her mother lectures her about giving Degrassi a chance, we hear Mr Lawrence saying, “Don’t you ever pull a stunt like that again!” (His voice is so badly dubbed in that he sounds like he’s speaking over the PA as usual, which is pretty confusing to watch.) Joey is backing out of the principal’s office, apologising insincerely. Before he can leave, Doris calls him over, and says, “This is Liz O’Rourke. She’s joining your class. Maybe you could show her to Mr Raditch’s room?” Joey’s mouth says, “Yeah! Sure!”, but his expression says, “If by ‘Mr Raditch’s room’ you mean my pants.”
He bows elaborately to Liz, and busts out his old catchphrase: “Joey Jeremiah, chairman of the welcoming committee, at your service.” Steph rolls her eyes, but Liz seems kind of amused. As he leads her into the corridor, he tells her, “You’re talking to the number one cool guy here at Degrassi.” “Yeah?” Liz asks, in a voice that suggests she may actually believe him. Perhaps she is not the sharpest pencil in the box.
“Yeah!” he answers, looking understandably surprised that this line worked. “So, um, wanna go out?”
And thus the theme of the episode is established: Teenage Boys Are Horny. Apparently we need a TV show to teach us this.
After the opening credits, it’s another day, and everyone’s arriving at school. The Zit Remedy guys are complaining about how Simon’s a narbo because he’s quit their band to play soccer. So ends a plotline nobody cared about ever. As Liz shuffles angstily by, Joey asks the others what they think of her; Snake calls her weird, and Wheels calls her quiet. Her alleged weirdness is manifest in her short punk haircut and her two layered tank tops, à la Kate in the early seasons of Lost. This is extremely low-level weirdness. 1980s Canada is a tame, tame place.
Liz goes into the school building, giving Joey a sort of spacey smile on her way in, and when she’s gone he asks the other guys, “Do you think she does it? She looks like she does it.” Wow, wearing tank tops will really get you a reputation in Canada. Wheels, whose mullet is getting truly magnificent these days, briefly gets all sensible-feminist and asks what a girl who does it is supposed to look like, but Joey insists he’s heard “stuff” about Liz. Since he has no more details than that, we can only assume it’s Horny Boy wishful thinking.
When the others try to walk off, he calls them back, then asks, “Do you guys ever think about really having sex?” They take this poorly-phrased question in completely good faith, obviously consider lying, then admit that they think about it “a bit”. Joey says he thinks about it all the time, and the others are disgusted and brand him a sick, sex-crazed pervert.
I’m pretty sure that certain aspects of this conversation are not true to how 15-year-old boys actually behave.
Inside the building, Liz walks to the girls’ toilet while everybody stares at her because she is a tank-top-wearing hussy. Over the PA, Mr Lawrence announces that next week is Safety Week, for at least the third time since the show started.
In the library, Arthur is furtively reading an anatomy book, but tries to hide it when Yick appears. I get a horrible sinking feeling that whatever about next week, this week is going to be Profoundly Uncomfortable Teen Sexuality Week at Degrassi. Just like most weeks.
OMG YOU GUYS. Behind them on a bookshelf are not one but two copies of Damon King’s autobiography. A “celebrity” memoir written by a D-lister who picked up a 14-year-old student at the launch of said memoir has to be one of the all-time most inappropriate pieces of reading material ever found in a school library. This is right up there with… most of the other books in the Degrassi library.
Anyway, Yick asks Arthur why he’s acting weird lately, and Arthur immediately… well, I was going to say “spills”, but that’s a very unfortunate choice of word under the circumstances. He admits he’s worried about all the “really weird” dreams he’s been having lately, and that when he wakes up, he “leaks”. (Words cannot express how awkward I feel describing this scene.) Hilariously, Yick practically shouts, “Oh, you mean wet dreams!!!” earning them a death glare from Kathleen.
Arthur despondently mutters, “I think I’m turning into a sex maniac,” and if they ever made Degrassi merchandise, I hope that line got put on a T-shirt. Yick dives for Arthur’s anatomy book, and looks shocked by what he sees in it, even though he’s only looking at a drawing of a vertebra. Yick is a delicate flower.
Steph’s on her way to Bathroom of Skanky Transformations. Alex runs after her, and tells her that he’s been “thinking about the financial problems of the student council” and he wants to tell her some ideas he’s had. She nods politely, says that’s really nice, and immediately goes to hide in the bathroom because he’s not attractive. He stands outside the door and hangs his head.
Inside the bathroom, Steph finds Spike moping in front of the mirror, and asks what she’s doing. “Getting fat,” says Spike. What, like, right this minute? In a wholly uncharacteristic display of human decency, or maybe just because Spike’s wearing an extremely baggy T-shirt/waistcoat combo, Steph says she can’t see any change in her.
“I can,” Spike insists. “Being pregnant sure changes everything.” Got that, girls? Being pregnant will make you fat, and I guess change some other stuff, too, but mainly IT WILL MAKE YOU FAT.
As Steph changes into her Hideous Skankwear (blue bustier, pink miniskirt, and the communal diamante belt), Spike asks why she’s dressing like that again, and Steph says, “I’m going to make Simon notice me if it kills me.” Which it quite possibly will, if she insists on running around the frozen wastes of Canada half-naked like this.
Just then, there’s a flushing sound and Liz emerges from a cubicle. Spike gives her one of her trademark blank stares. and I really haven’t the remotest idea what she’s trying to express with it, but Steph gives her an impressively obnoxious smirk. Rather than just clocking her, Liz asks what she’s looking at, and Steph is all, “I love your hair. You must tell me who does it.” Kind of a bitchy thing to say when standing right next to Spike, who has the most insane hair of all time, but hey, it’s Steph. Bitchy is kind of her deal.
“Well at least I don’t get dressed in the washroom so Mom doesn’t know how I dress at school,” Liz dronemumbles, and flounces off. “Oh, good comeback!” Steph calls, but her sarcasm is undermined by the fact that it actually was a pretty good comeback.
“What a sleaze,” she says, because you can’t say “slut” on kids’ TV. “I bet she does it.” Then she turns around and remembers that she’s talking to Spike, whose defining characteristic is the fact that she once did it, and her face is literally like the :-O emoticon. “I mean, not like you! You made a mistake, right?” Steph rolls her eyes and turns to go.
Apparently not content with the hole she’s gotten herself into, Steph continues to dig: “I heard something happened where she used to live, to do with sex, and that’s why she moved here.” OK, so theoretically this could be the same extremely vague rumour Joey’s talking about, but it could also be Mean Girl wishful thinking, which says that if you don’t have enough dirt on your enemies you can just make some up.
“Why do people who look different always have stories made up about them?” asks Spike. “I dunno,” says Steph cheerfully, “but I bet it’s true. If you ask me, she dresses very… provocative.” Spike just shakes her head and leaves.
OK, we need to talk about tank tops. If I may be blunt, Steph is showing about three times as much skin as Liz. If anyone in this school is dressing provocatively, and by extension allegedly “looks like she does it”, it is most assuredly Steph (who, lest we forget, previously attempted to do it). So what the hell is it about tank tops, and fairly modest ones by the standards of tank tops, that has everybody treating Liz so weirdly? Is Steph just meant to be the biggest hypocrite of all time, or were ill-fitting bustiers really more acceptable schoolwear than tank tops in those days? I do not understand 1980s Canada at all.
Later, in class, Mr Raditch is going on about some history project the kids have to do… in pairs. As everyone whoever went to school (or watched TV shows about school) knows, pair work is just an excuse for awkward attempts at flirting. Right on cue, as Mr Raditch tells the class to choose their own partners, Joey gives Liz a “How you doin’?? face. Unfortunately, she can’t actually see it because he’s two rows behind her.
When the bell goes and everyone leaves, Liz is glacially slow at packing up to go, so Joey has a chance to catch her alone. He asks if she wants to be partners, and she says sure, and he seems completely astounded. Obviously she hasn’t heard much about him yet. They agree to meet after lunch in the resource centre, which I guess is Canadian for library. This would all seem like good light-hearted fun, except that the background music is all threatening, so you know it’ll all end in trauma and lesson-learning.
Out in the corridor, Steph and the twins are mumbling about some “plan” of hers. But they’re waylaid by Alex, who wants to talk to Steph about holding an art show to raise money. Steph is instantly pissed off, because Alex is still not attractive. Just then Simon approaches, and she fixes Alex with a terrifying stare and tells him to beat it. It wouldn’t be so scary, except for all the blue eyeshadow, which gives her a sort of panto witch vibe.
As Alex gets increasingly agitated about fundraising, Steph completely ignores him and throws all her textbooks in a pile at Simon’s feet, in the hope that he’ll pick them up. Alex immediately crouches down to get them, still talking about the student council, and Simon is just weirded out by the whole thing. After a minute of awkward staring, he shrugs and walks off.
Steph grabs her books from Alex, and she and the twins walk away, turning to give him matching evil stares. “What did I do?” he whimpers. He failed to be attractive, is what.
Out on the steps, Yick and Arthur are eating bananas and talking about penises, and I refuse to believe this is a coincidence. Yick loudly insists that Arthur’s, um, issue is probably normal, and suggests asking Arthur’s dad for advice, but Arthur’s worried he’d think he was a pervert. Yick just shrugs at this, which probably doesn’t do much to ease Arthur’s paranoia.
A few feet away, Liz is looking tortured and eating yogurt, as one does. Spike comes over and tries to make nice, and Liz complains about how judgmental everyone at Degrassi is, then asks if Spike’s really pregnant. Lovely segue. Really smooth. “I’m never gonna get pregnant,” she volunteers. “NEVER.” Well, this is just about the most uncomfortable attempt at befriending ever, but Spike is apparently a glutton for punishment, so she stays to hear Liz whine some more about how popular she was at her old school and how much Degrassi sucks donkey balls. I’m paraphrasing slightly.
Meanwhile, a bunch of random other characters are throwing baseballs to each other, in a blatant attempt to appeal to US audiences. Wheels and Snake complain that Joey’s throwing the ball too fast, or something, and Joey for some reason theorises that his exciting ball-throwing techniques will convince Liz to have sex with him, because that’s what girls like. He then makes a very bad joke about threesomes. I mean, it’s not offensive or anything, it’s just shite.
Everyone laughs at him, and Snake teases him for being a virgin (in the campest voice ever, for some reason), which is pretty odd considering none of them have had, like, any action ever. Joey reacts by attempting to kill Snake with the baseball.
In Ms Avery’s classroom, Melanie is talking to an extremely small non-speaking extra. Well, not so much talking as bombarding her with statistics about menstrual cycle length that the writers clearly copy-pasted from the ‘80s version of Wikipedia, which I guess was just an encyclopaedia. “Melanie, where do you get this stuff?” asks Kathleen, who no doubt disapproves of menstrual cycles on principle.
Melanie looks blank and forgets her line for a second, then answers, “Doctor Sally, of course.” She explains that Doctor Sally has a radio phone-in for teens called “Talking Sax With Sally.”
Kathleen thinks it sounds disgusting, which seems like an extreme reaction to a show about saxophones, but it turns out that Melanie just talks really really Canadian, and the show is about sex. Unfortunately, Yick overhears and shows a little too much interest in the show, and the class instantly decides he has sexual problems. And thus starts a lifetime of psychological scarring for Yick.
In the resource centre, Liz is angsting that she can’t figure out who won the War of 1812. An all-too-common teen problem. Joey just gazes at her and says he really likes her hair. She gets all embarrassed, but he keeps on about he’s “dazzled” by her beauty, which bit of unintentional Twilight foreshadowing eventually gets an awkward, buck-toothed giggle out of her. Aaaaw yeah, he’s totally in there.
When the bell goes, Liz says that they haven’t got much of their project done, so they’d better meet up later and figure out who did win the War of 1812. They can’t meet at Joey’s house, because his grandparents are there and it’s “a total zoo” (Joey’s grandparents must be more exciting than most grandparents). Liz says they can go to her house, and that her mom won’t be there. Joey, with the depth of delusion that only a teenager with a crush can muster, immediately interprets this as “come over to my house and we can bone like it’s going out of fashion”.
He immediately goes to Snake and Wheels and tells them that Liz invited him over “to study”. Nobody considers the possibility that this might actually mean he’s invited over to study, minus the quotation marks. The guys do a Troy-and-Abed-and-Pierce-worthy three-way high-five.
Later, in the hallways, Yick badgers Arthur into calling Doctor Sally’s show that night, but neither of them wants to call from their houses in case their parents hear and decide they’re irredeemable sex monsters. I guess Yick’s parents would tend to be paranoid about that, considering their older son has a swamp sex robot fetish.
Meanwhile Steph has decided to just ask Simon out instead of playing insane mind games. Heather floats the possibility that he might say no because he actually likes Alexa, but Erika thinks this is far-fetched and ridiculous. There’s such a thing as being too supportive, Erika.
Just then, Simon conveniently appears. He is wearing leggings and a giant sweatshirt. Did guys actually wear leggings in the 80s, outside of exercise videos? It’s not a good look. Steph tries to ask him out, but Alex runs over in his sports uniform and cockblocks her yet again by telling him to go get changed for a soccer match that’s about to start. Aaaaugh, the uniform involves hot pants WHYYYY. Steph clops angrily away on her giant high heels, and the twins laugh hysterically, because their friend’s pain is so funny. Well, it is, I guess, but they’re still mean.
After school, Liz gives Joey her address, and he tells her he’ll be over later, then explains with a leer that he’s “got some stuff to do”. And by stuff, he means her. When he’s gone, she calls Spike over and they discuss him. Liz says she thinks he’s sort of funny and sort of nice, which is a pretty ringing endorsement since she hates everything else in the world. Spike, as usual, reacts by looking vaguely troubled.
Meanwhile, Joey runs over to Wheels and asks for the ill-fated condoms he bought for his date with Steph. Wheels reminds him that they used them all as water bombs, which strongly suggests that the guys aren’t really grown-up enough to use them for their actual purpose.
“D’you want to come buy some with me?” Joey asks. Wheels gapes and mumbles that he has to study, which is rapidly becoming his extremely dull catchphrase. He tries to go, but Joey runs after him and asks, “When you and Steph were almost gonna do it, were you a little nervous?” Wheels smiles with the world-weariness of a guy who almost got laid that one time, admits that he was “a lot nervous”, and suggests that maybe Joey shouldn’t do this.
“I’ve got to!” Joey insists. “I’m fourteen! I’m in the eighth grade! I haven’t even had a real date yet.” All solid reasons to keep it in your pants, but I guess he’s using Horny Boy logic again, whereby all facts are arguments in support of having sex.
“What if she doesn’t want to?” Wheels asks, for some reason deciding to be the lone, cranky voice of reason in this episode. “The way she dresses?” Joey responds. So, now tank tops not only mean that you do it, but specifically that you want to do it with Joey Jeremiah. He also points out that she laughs at his jokes, which admittedly you wouldn’t do just because they were funny, but still his evidence is pretty poor, which Wheels is harsh/sensible enough to point out. As he slopes off homewards, Joey yells, “Are you sure you can’t come buy some condoms?”, which is really not the sort of thing most people shout out in public.
Meanwhile, Liz arrives at her home, where everything is extremely messy because they just moved in, and extremely brown because it’s 1987. Her mom’s disembodied, weirdly dubbed voice asks how school was, and Liz monotones that it was boring and “this guy” is coming over later to work on a project.
Liz’s mom actually appears at this point, and she is dressed in some kind of weird red dirndl thing. I can only assume she works at some kind of Oktoberfest theme bar or something. She puts up a token protest against Liz having random boys over unchaperoned, then decides that it’s OK because at least she’s making friends. She would probably retract this if she knew that said friend is a Horny Boy in a crocheted fedora.
Well, I call that some pretty half-assed parenting. If Liz isn’t actually likely to have sex with randomers as soon as she’s left alone, her mum is making too much fuss about this. If she is likely to have sex with randomers etc., then her mum is making way too little fuss. But it’s either fuss-worthy or it isn’t; just making a small fuss and then being like “Oh well, at least you won’t spend the afternoon alone” is just kind of lousy.
Anyway, her mom leaves for the Swiss maid fetish bar or wherever, and Liz preens in the mirror, which takes very little time because she has minimal makeup and almost no hair.
Meanwhile, Joey’s out trying to buy condoms alone. He’s avoided the rookie mistake of buying them at Steph’s mother’s shop, and is in a big supermarket, trying to blend in, because 14-year-old boys do supermarket shops all the time. He’s doing that thing where you try to cover up your embarrassing purchase with lots of normal ones, such as toilet paper and toothpaste and crisps. As a former shop assistant, I can tell you that this never works, and just makes the staff laugh at you afterwards.
Meanwhile, there’s a special offer being announced over the PA system, and I swear hand on heart that this is what the woman says: “There’s a shiny toilet roll pencil, regularly $2.99, now on sale for only a dollar 99. Remember, it isn’t clean unless it’s shiny clean.”
I… I have no words. And I profoundly do not want to know what a “toilet roll pencil” is.
Having stocked up on assorted grocery items, Joey gets to the condom section. He’s perusing a box of Sheiks when some grandad in a lumberjack shirt looks at him in horror and disgust, so he flings the box into his trolley and then throws in a gigantic box of Tampax to look casual. He then realises this probably won’t help in the embarrassment stakes, and hastily shoves the Tampax back on a random shelf. Heh.
At the checkout, the guy is… I want to say scanning Joey’s purchases, only he isn’t, because I guess they didn’t scan stuff in those days? and I literally don’t know what verb to use instead. He’s [whatever they did before everything had barcodes] Joey’s purchases. Conservative Lumberjack Grandad is behind Joey in the queue, and he and his conservative polyester-clad wife are traumatised all over again by the condoms on the conveyor belt.
The checkout guy picks up the condoms and says they’re supposed to be on special offer. Joey starts panicking, but the guy calls someone over to check for him, and it’s the same woman who busted Lucy and Voula for shoplifting from Sparkly Scarves 'R Us. She seems to have had a sense of humour transplant since then, because she clearly finds Joey’s plight hilarious.
Joey begs the man to just charge him the full price already, but the guy is just screwing with him at this point, and insists, “Come on, it won’t take a minute.” The conservative old-folks look ever more disapproving.
The shop lady comes back and trollfaces that the condoms are indeed marked down. Joey pays and leaves, stopping in the doorway to glower at his hilarious tormentors.
Meanwhile, back in the world’s ickiest subplot, Yick and Arthur are in a phone booth listening to Dr Sally on the radio. In a spectacular coincidence, she’s going on about how sex is a big decision that shouldn’t be rushed into. Arthur turns bright red at the phrase “sexual intercourse” and asks, “Can they say that on the radio?” Clearly, hip-hop had not yet arrived in Canada.
The guys argue over whether or not to call, and eventually Arthur gives in and dials. Dr Sally is now talking about how you can’t tell if a girl is “an easy lay” by the way she dresses, EVEN IF SHE’S A PUNK. I see what you did there, Degrassi writers. Because it was extremely unsubtle.
On a completely unrelated note, Joey arrives at Liz’s house and grins lecherously at it. Yes, even a house can be sexy when you’re a Horny Boy. Before ringing the bell, he opens the box of condoms and stashes one in his shirt pocket, because turning up for a homework session with just one condom is so much less skeevy. He leaves the bag of groceries out of view of the front door and rings the bell.
Liz lets him in and offers him a drink. He’s up for sex with someone he hardly knows, but is totally shocked by the idea of drinking alcohol. Luckily for his delicate sensibilities, she just means a soda.
Back in the phone box, the boys are on hold and Dr Sally is soothing somebody’s anxieties about losing their virginity. Arthur is still freaking out in case Melanie recognises his voice. Finally, they’re put through but Arthur is too scared to talk, so Yick grabs the phone, gabbles, “I’vegotafriendwho’stwelveyearsoldhegetsalotofwetdreamsisheapervert?” and hangs up.
The guys start to argue again, but they’re quickly distracted by Dr Sally announcing, in a relaxation-tape voice, that wet dreams are a normal symptom of puberty, “so tell your friend he’s not a pervert, he’s not an animal out of control…” Wait, what? Nobody suggested he was an animal out of control!
Anyway, Arthur doesn’t stop to think about what an odd, disturbing thing she just said, and when she says that wet dreams are “the body’s way of relieving sexual tension”, he and Yick high-five, which is pretty weird all round. I really don’t think guys usually high-five each other about their wet dreams.
At Liz’s house, she’s droning on about the War of 1812, which, in her considered assessment, was “totally dumb”. Eventually she notices that Joey is looking pallid and sweaty, and asks him what’s up. “Liz, do you wanna do it?” he asks. He sure doesn’t mess around. You’d think this was pretty unambiguous, but Liz is all, “Do what?” because this scene wasn’t quite awkward enough already.
“Sex!” says Joey. As ominous synth music plays, he pulls out the condom and sweet-talks the hell out of her: “I want it, you want it, let’s do it.” Liz looks completely disgusted, but Joey throws his last shred of dignity to the winds and actually starts begging. “Please,” he says. “I really want to.” Amazingly, this does not convince her.
Liz gets angry, but the actress who plays her is completely unable to emote, so she monotones at him about how she thought he was different and guys are perverts and she hates him, and she sounds like a robot. She emotionlessly throws him out of the house, and he actually stops to collect his bag of groceries before leaving. Well, I guess they can use the remaining condoms for more water bombs.
Liz sadly goes back in the living room and lies on the couch to ponder the perfidy of Horny Boys.
The camera slowly zooms in on her giant book about the War of 1812, with the discarded condom lying on top of it. I’m not sure what this shot is meant to communicate, except possibly that condoms, like the War of 1812, are totally dumb. Good to know, Degrassi writers!
Also, Liz should really get rid of that before her mother gets home from the Munich Putsch reenactment.
Next morning, the background music is back to being perky again, as it always is, regardless of whatever traumatic shit just went down. Liz is sadly walking to school, dressed in a baggy grey Lonsdale T-shirt and denim pedal-pushers, which I think is meant to indicate that she’s been scared into dressing more conformist, but for all I know maybe grey T-shirts had some scandalous cultural significance back then.
Wheels runs over to Joey and asks how yesterday went. Joey explains, in tones of disbelief, “She didn’t want to do anything.” Well, technically she wanted to work on her history project, but perhaps that doesn’t count. “Is she mad?” asks Wheels.
For some reason, a baby starts crying in the background at this point. No idea why.
Joey looks at Liz, who gives him a punk death glare, and he concludes that she is, in fact, mad. As the chirpy end credit music starts up, Joey moans, “Wheels, you know what’s the worst? I really like her.” The credits roll, and we freeze on his woebegone, unibrowed, pimply face.
OK, so, condoms. There have been three episodes so far where someone tried to have sex. When Wheels and Joey decided to be responsible and buy condoms, they got judged by the elderly and also failed to have any sex whatsoever. Shane didn’t bother with lame-ass things like contraception, and he totally got laid. (I mean, sure he got Spike pregnant and now their lives are sort of fucked up, and the sex apparently wasn’t very good, but I’m pretty sure it still counts as a win according to Horny Boy Logic.)
In conclusion: this show is messed up.
Dubious Lessons of the Week: Wet dreams are normal and should be discussed in detail with friends and local radio presenters. Vertebrae, on the other hand, are shocking. Contrary to apparently popular belief, just because a girl wears a tank top doesn’t mean she will automatically have sex with you. Even if you beg. The War of 1812 was totally dumb. Attempting to have safe sex will only lead to you being judged and embarrassed and, worst of all, sexually frustrated.