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Degrassi Junior High & Beverly Hills 90210
Teen TV Shows From My Generation
Two of the best TV shows for teenagers came from my generation. We had Degrassi Junior High (which continued as Degrassi High) and Beverly Hills 90210.
Degrassi gave a pretty realistic view of what it was like to be a teenager at the time. Whereas 90210 was more of a fun look into what it would be like to be a teenager of privilege and a part of the popular crowd.
While both shows showed the fun times of being a teenager they also covered the hardships. Each one covered topics such as teenage pregnancy and abusive relationships. Beverly Hills 90210 tended to glaze over topics with a more soap opera approach. While Degrassi was usually more thorough and wasn't afraid to give their main characters true difficulties that they actually had to deal with.
Images Courtesy of:Amazon.com
Degrassi Junior High VS Beverly Hills 90210 - Teenage Pregnancy
The way each series covered the topic of teenage pregnancy, with its main characters, is perfect for showing the differences between the two shows. Spike and Brenda each have sex for the first time with their boyfriends. They are then both shown to be concerned about the possibility of being pregnant.
For Brenda it ends there, it is just a false alarm. She does break up with Dylan because she is not ready to deal with the possible consequences of being in a relationship with him.
With Spike it turns out she got pregnant the first time she had sex. You follow her through the hardships and decisions she has to make when that happens. Should she have an abortion or have the baby? When she decides to have it, should she keep it or give it up for adoption? She decides that she is going to have the baby and keep it.
Then you see her having to deal with the repercussions of making that decision. Such as her classmates who talk about her behind her back (although a lot of it she hears). Parents protest that she should be removed from the school because she was setting a bad example.
They continue to follow what life is like for her when she is raising Emma by herself. They show that once you have a baby you no longer have the carefree teenage years, where you can hang out with your friends whenever you want. You have the responsibilities of taking care of your child.
This is the episode that covers Spike finding out that she is pregnant.
Beach Blanket Brandon in Season 2 - Is the episode where Brenda has her pregnancy scare.
Who Was Your Favorite 90210 Character?
Degrassi and 90210 Take On Abortion
On 90210 Andrea is pregnant and decides to have an abortion. Jesse then breaks up with her because of that decision. He changes his mind about the break up. Then Andrea changes hers about having an abortion, she is now going to have the baby.
Degrassi showed when Erica found out she was pregnant, the struggle she had with deciding what to do. She decided to go through with having an abortion. They did not shy away from showing what that meant.
When other shows have had a character make that decision, it is usually just quickly glossed over. The character just comes back feeling sad. Degrassi actually showed her going to the clinic and the protesters blocking her way. In a later episode they show her classmates harassing her about having an abortion, when they found out what happened.
Degrassi High Video
This is the episode where Erica goes to the clinic to have the abortion done.
Who Was Your Favorite Degrassi Character?
Abusive Relationships on 90210 and Degrassi
In season 5 and 6 of Beverly Hills 90210 we see the progress of an abusive relationship between Donna Martin and Ray Pruitt. He starts out as a nice enough guy, but soon starts isolating Donna from her friends. He becomes jealous over her relationship with David. He is shown pushing her against a wall in one episode. In another they are arguing on a set of stairs and during some pushing and pulling Donna falls down the stairs.
They did a much better job covering this topic then some of the others that they covered, as the level of abuse grows over time. It is not just a one time thing and it is over. However they do not fully commit to it, by having Ray actually hit her. The fall down the stairs could be construed as accidental.
With Degrassi High we see an abusive relationship between Kathleen Mead and Scott Smith. We see the progress of the abuse in this relationship as well. It starts with him belittling her and squeezing her tightly. He looks like he feels guilty, apologizes, and later gives her a gift to make up for it.
When he sees her talking with Luke, about a play for class, he gets jealous. He pulls her aside, starts questioning her, and ends up slamming her against the lockers. Once again he gives her a gift, this time flowers, and she forgives him. When he finds her rehearsing with Luke he has a complete melt down. He verbally abuses her, slaps her across the face, and even slams her head into a desk a few times.
She shows up for school the next day with bruises. He tries to get her to forgive him again, but this time she refuses. In another episode he tries to apologize to get her back, she still refuses. He tries a few more times in another episode and she still does not want to take him back.
He sees her walking home alone he tries again. When she refuses, he slaps her and beats her up again. Knowing she can't deal with him by herself anymore she calls the police and he is arrested. The next time she sees him she tells him if he ever comes near her again she will press charges. This is finally the last time we see Scott.
This is the season that has the abusive relationship between Kathleen and Scott.
This is the season when we are introduced to the character Ray Pruitt. It shows the beginning of their abusive relationship.
This is the continuation and the eventual end of their relationship.
Closer to Real Life
The other major difference between the series was the characters and the people portraying them. On Beverly Hills 90210 the characters were the popular crowd, with only David and Scott being on the outside, at the beginning of the series.
Almost all of the cast looked like they were models and there was very little diversity in the cast. Half of them were at least 5 years older than the characters that they were playing. Some were actually a decade older than their character.
On Degrassi Junior High, and later Degrassi high, they had a wide variety of characters with varying levels of popularity. The people on it were also representative of our multicultural society. The cast were the age of the characters (or at least very close) that they played. While some were indeed considered attractive, they still looked like they could fit in at your school and you would be able to fit in at theirs.
Beverly Hills 90210 was the high school life you wish you had with money, popularity, and good looks. Degrassi had a characters you could identify with and was much closer to the life you actually had.
I loved both shows, just for different reasons. One was more just fun and an escape into a fantasy world. The other felt like spending time with friends and where you just might learn something. If someone wanted a cultural reference for what is was like being a teenager for my generation, I can not think of a better candidate then Degrassi Junior High.
Memorabilia From Degrassi and 90210
There is some fantastic memorabilia available on eBay for both Degrassi and 90210. It would be a great gift for the super fan in your life, or even for yourself.