My girl on the TV show

“I’m all about Manny Santos and her sinful affair with Craig.” Kevin Smith

Most people who know me know of my affection for neurotic, self-absorbed romantic Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City. A few people know, but don’t understand, my bond with misunderstood former bad girl Manny Santos. Most online quizzes peg me as more like Emma, Manny’s on-again, off-again best friend. I know I’m more sanctimonious schoolgirl than sparkly sexpot. Still, there’s something about Manny that resonates with me.

At the beginning of Degrassi the Next Generation, Manny was the petite, bubbly id to Emma’s more practical superego. With a bright smile and tender warmth, she was everyone’s little sister, if a little repressed by her strict Filipino parents. Then the pressure to be popular as well as a long-time unrequited crush on It Boy Craig Manning soon turned Manny into the stereotypical naughty girl. She went from sticker-covered binders and pigtails to low riding jeans with visible thongs. Manny had realized her beauty and took to using it to get male attention. She became involved with shady Sully but in a familiar turn of events, hooked up with Craig while he was with Ashley. She then settled for being Craig’s other girl until she realized Craig had played them both. By then, she had lost her childhood friends so she was on her own with a bad reputation to keep her company. In a controversial episode never aired in the US(and which I can’t wait to see on DVD next spring), Manny discovered she was pregnant by Craig. Their short-lived reconciliation ended when she decided to have an abortion. Manny seemed doomed to be a loner.

Perhaps it is this that made me care about Manny, the way she was cast out. While I would never pursue someone who was taken, there have been people who remained under my skin for years and therefore had a hold on me. I have definitely done stupid things over men and suffered the criticism of others. Like Manny, my own friendships have undergone tumultuous evolution. Today I am blessed by an enduring bond with my best friends from middle and high school but it wasn’t always so rosy. Even my adult friendships have weathered conflicts, misunderstanding, even some competition and envy. Finally, Manny’s troubles with sex and relationships is something universal and not age-specific. I cringe every time I see the label “slut” in reference to Manny. As comfortable as I am with my own choices, it is strange that those old adolescent slurs still linger, if only in my own mind.

What may be the final season of Degrassi is a month from premiering. Rumor has it that Manny will take some risque photos in hopes of an acting career and that a reconciliation with Craig is imminent. No matter what plot twists come about, Manny is my girl.

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