It’s time to look at another old Degrassi episode! This one is about Emma getting her first period and, I kid you not, the episode description is “Emma gets a surprise visit from a new friend.” It’s likely that nothing in the actual episode will live up to that.
Aside from that plotline where Emma meets a new acquaintance who decides to hang with her on a monthly basis, this episode also has Ashley feeling smothered by Jimmy “Drake” Brooks. She ends up almost breaking up with him, but then she feels bad when she sees him hurt. He ends up clinging to her and telling her that he loves her as she stands there stiffly, reflecting on the fact that a big part of her wanted to just dump him. Periods and boys you weren’t actually interested in! The worst parts of junior high, together at last!
Then and Now
The one thing I really remember from this episode is the classroom scene with Emma. When her period ruins the white skirt she was wearing, she has to do a book report in conspicuously oversized gym shorts. When guys keep asking what’s with the outfit, she says, “I just got my period for the first time. Menstruation? You may have heard of it. Happens to, oh, 50% of the population. Perfectly natural. Nothing to be ashamed of.” The guys shut up and Sean is really impressed. I am ashamed to admit it, but when I was young this scene didn’t work for me at all. In fact, I actually asked my mom why Sean would like her after that and my mom had to point out that it was because Emma handled the situation very well.
Looking back, I love this. The entire episode is about, as Emma’s mom puts it, how you should never feel embarrassed just for being female. In an earlier scene Emma and her mother are harassed by a man at the mall and Emma says she feels mortified. Her mom responds, “See? This is the problem. You’re embarrassed because of what he said. Seriously, Emma, don’t ever let a guy make you feel bad just for being female.” Emma relates this lesson to getting her period and in the end, after she and Paige discuss the fact that getting pads from the school office is a huge drag, she starts a petition to get a dispenser in the girl’s bathroom. That’s the kind of thing that will get you laughed out of school, but Emma is still doing what she knows is right and really listening to her mom’s advice.
[Side note: One of the bathrooms on my college campus had an empty tampon dispenser with a sign on it that said “If you need feminine products, ask the front desk.” Some amazing classmate of mine wrote “Because that’s not super-awkward” underneath. The administration did not respond appropriately to this critique.]
“Never let someone make you feel embarrassed just for being female” is such an amazing lesson for a kids’ show to have. It’s not the kind of prepackaged “it’s perfectly normal” that you’re so used to hearing it just rolls off your back. Instead they actually point out a huge societal problem, give examples and tell girls to assert themselves on a daily basis even if it makes other people uncomfortable.
The Good Ship Lifestyle
I was never that into Emma/Sean as a kid, but I absolutely love that one of the things that first made him really into her was seeing her be assertive and confident. I am retroactively mad that she ends up with Spinner instead!
This episode pretty much perfect sums up Jimmy/Ashley. On the surface there’s not a problem, but she’s really not into it at all. And yet they hang out all the time (without her enjoying it) and have obnoxiously cute locker decorations and say “I love you” to each other. They’re not good for each other, but as a TV couple they’re refreshingly realistic.
I’ve Got Something in My Eye…
Emma’s mom standing up to the man who harassed her is amazing. They really don’t hold back with how gross and unapologetic he is and the fact that Emma’s reaction is to be embarrassed that her mom stood up for herself breaks my heart.
They’re Here, They’re Queer
After weeks of Paige being my favorite monster, we get to see her be a human this week. She runs into Emma in the bathroom and gives her a pad so that she doesn’t have to ask the office for one. She is downright decent as she assures Emma that nothing will change– and I will note that they have this entire conversation while Paige is peeing, because I think that is hilarious.
Paige tells Emma that she should be happy that now she’ll get boobs and then says: “They’re…actually really great.” The smile on Paige’s face as she thinks about how great boobs are is priceless. I think we can all agree it was not a big twist when they revealed that Paige is bisexual.
Since it would be silly to let Paige go a week without trying to emotionally destroy someone for no reason, in the end when Emma asks her to sign her petition, Paige calls out, “Hey, Sean, want to sign Emma’s petition for tampons?” I love her dedication to trying to ruin relationships.
In addition to all the Paige glory, we also get a mention of Ashley’s dad. Toby is mad at her for wanting to break up with Jimmy and accuses her of being “just like our parents, one hint of trouble and they walk.” Ashley responds, “My dad’s gay. It’s not exactly one hint of trouble.” Good point.
The cold open has Jimmy and Ashley walking with their arms around each other and discussing how they’re going to have a lobster dinner with Jimmy’s parents. And Terri is just there. When Jimmy says that lobsters are easy to cook because you just throw them in a pot, Terri says, “And then they die. Slowly. Screaming.” You can tell she is so done with rich people and so done with couples who third wheel her. I think we’ve all been there on both counts.
Most Valuable Actor
Christina Schmidt as Terri. Not a big part in this episode, but she nails every line she has and gets to look exasperated listening to Ashley’s problems.
Biggest Drama Bomb
The ending. It has Jimmy clinging to Ashley and saying, “I love you” as she stands there silently. You just feel so bad for both of them.
-The incredibly on-the-nose episode title comes from a song by Damn Yankees.
-Manny reveals that she was born in the Philippines.
-There’s a doodle that says “I love JT” in the bathroom stall Emma was in. What up, Liberty?