Degrassi: Beat It Part 1
By Alex Wilburn
So apparently in addition to Peter Stone, his straight prince charming and protector of secrets, Riley has made two new friends: Taylor Hanson, who, like the real Taylor Hanson, is both homosexually attractive and inexplicably heterosexually oriented; and Str8tBoy, the yardstick upon whom Riley will measure himself. Socially, I mean. God. Anyway, so Taylor and Str8tBoy are eating lunch with Riley and his beard dujour, Fioana, who as we learned a few episodes ago, is not as stupid as Riley thinks. Str8tBoy mocks Riley’s dick for giving Cute Lifeguard the salute but Riley defends he was just daydreaming about Fiona. He asks if they're "sexually active." God, Str8tBoy probably blows up condom balloons in his free time. Fiona dodges the subject and calls Riley a gentlemen. Yeah, not even Riley buys that one.
At wrestling practice Peter is adorably hesitant that Riley is going to hand his ass to him. Oh Peter, we all know Riley would never harm your ass. He asks Peter how to get Fiona to sleep with him, and Peter, being a comfortable person with romantic and emotional maturity, tells him that’s not how it works.
Treading water, per usual, Riley and Str8tBoy speculate who the hottest girl in their swim class is: some girl I’ve never seen before, or the token black girl in the cast, Dante (her name is Chante Black, which is actually terrible, and almost as good, but I heard Dante first and there’s a joke somewhere, I’m sure of this.) Riley asks Cute Lifeguard who’s hotter, I suppose seeing him as someone to emulate: older, fitter, respected. Cute Lifeguard says it’s not his place to say, but Riley keeps pushing. Taylor Hanson, somehow in the loop, is all “Mitch! Cut it out!” but Cute Lifeguard says, “It’s okay, I’m gay.” As Stra8tBoy scoffs in the background a song hums in Riley’s mind, soft and slow. “Something has changed within me... something is not the same...”
Fiona is hanging out in Riley’s bedroom and he kisses her... too long, too hard. It’s not aggressive, but you get the sense that the two of them haven’t even brushed over first base. Fiona pulls away, “This isn’t like you Riley.” “What do you mean? Sure it is?” I’ve been trying to figure out what Fiona’s angle is here. Most girls outside of Hollywood don’t willingly sign up to be beards. I was pretty much convinced there was some game she was playing, simply because her brother, Chace Westwick, is always playing some sexual game. Sometimes with his sister. But Fiona folds, shows her hand…and apparently she’s just a nice person. I know. “I just figured, the way you parade me around school, like you have something to prove... we can keep dating while you figure this stuff out. But Riley, we wouldn’t be doing this if I thought you were straight.” Riley gets scary and tells her to GTFO.
Cut to the locker room. Always.
Gratuitous shot of Riley getting out of the pool all Baywatch and then heading in to towel off with Str8tBoy and Taylor Hanson, who is already clothed, boo. I’m just kidding. I mean, uh, call me Jordan Hudyma. N. E. Way... Cute Lifeguard in uniform, so like nothing, tells the boys he’s going to be doing some water sport thing at their school fair. It’s totally cleaner then it sounds. He pays special attention to Riley, hoping to hang, and it’s played with a certain ambiguity. I can’t tell if Cute Lifeguard knows and is being flirty or else thinks Riley’s straight and could just use a little guidance. Riley pretty much blows him off (read that sentence slowly), telling the guys that Fiona’s out and Dante is it. The boys are like: hot.
Riley runs into Peter in the hallway and tells him that Fiona wouldn’t “put out” so now he has to dump her. And Peter is just so wonderful that I can't help but speculate how this would play out if their positions were reversed. I mean their roles. Peter says with a certain amount of clarity that there’s more to a girl than just sex. More boys should have friends like Peter.
At this fair where everyone loves waters sports the sunbeams are like a golden shower and everyone’s like “I’m so glad for you’re in love.” In a brief montage Riley sees Str8tBoy courting some Str8tGirls with his arrow-like direction in life and Taylor Hanson winning over some winsome whinnies being all “Mmmbop” and them returning with “Dooowap.” Cute Lifeguard approaches Riley with a smile and no shirt and someday Riley will look back on this moment and kick himself in the face. Cute Lifeguards is all “So…looks like everyone’s paired up but us.” And Riley pretty much bites his head of screaming “My genitals work just fine now watch me use them!” He ropes in Dante and the two are having some light fun until he wraps his moose arms around her waiste like some Harlequin-cover bulging stable boy.
Dante isn’t seeing the divine comedy in the smooch and immediately pulls away so he can feel her full inferno. “You think I hook-up with some guy who bounces between two girls in one afternoon! You can go to the 8th Circle of Hell!” Even though we all know Riley really belongs in the 7th. Whatever Dante.
Later Cute Lifeguard finds Riley in the hallway and basically tells him not to sweat the whole girls thing to hard. High school’s tough, and it gets easier. This is really where we get to the theme of things that are both scary and exciting, and we’ll talk a lot more about it next Monday. There are things that can exist until you put a name on them, or kiss your best friend, and there are things that are not allowed to exist as soon as they're literally looking you in the face.
"You remind me of myself at that age." It's exactly what Riley didn't want to hear, because it means there's no getting out of it. Say it out loud and all my dreams are gone. He can't imagine a world where he can walk with this label and still be the school star, just like I couldn't imagine a world where I could go to prom for real. No matter what other shows want you to believe, teenagers don't want to be Proud or Believe In Themselves Because They're Different, they want to be normal.
"No. Are you?" A nice touch. He really didn't know.
Once upon on Degrassi, back when I was in high school, like three months ago, Marco was dating Ellie. Marco knew and Ellie knew and they both wanted something more but they didn't know who to find it with. Marco was gay and didn't think anyone would love him for that and Ellie liked dark make-up and early Liz Phair and didn't think anyone would love her for that. But then Marco me Dylan, who was cute and a senior and out and also captain of the hockey team, which, you know, score. Dylan smiled and Marco smiled and then they went on a date to the movies and Marco got scared so Dylan held his hand but then they ran into his parents and Marco's dad was so embarrassing! But they made it through because it wasn't half as bad as when Emma asked Sean out and then a bird shit on her jacket.The boys made-out and broke-up and went to college and shared an apartment and broke-up again, like we kids do, but Marco always remembered the boy who was worth coming out for. Hey, I'm gay too, it's okay.
Riley socks Cute Lifeguard, Sam, right in the face.
And three girls walk into the hallway just in time to see it all play out.
This season of Degrassi: The Next Generation can be viewed online at TeenNick.com's The Click. Past episodes can be downloaded via iTunes and Amazon.com, and of course season 1 - 8 are available on DVD.
-- ALEX WILBURN
Previously > Struggles in the Canadian Closet