Is it time the next generation moves on?

With my other half not home to make me watch Smash Lab or Fight Quest, I thought it was time I go back to my soap opera, Degrassi the Next Generation. Now in season 7, Emma and Manny are seniors(Manny turned 18 Filipino style with a debut in the hilarious “We got the beat”)and the older kids are wrapping up their first year of college. The new crop of costars has failed to inspire a following, at least in me, and the producers keep claiming this is the last season. It doesn’t help that American cable channel the N always splits the new seasons into chunks and prolonging and sometimes killing any sense of anticipation. Nevertheless, I tuned in to the latest, “Jessie’s Girl.”

Ellie(looking wan; is college in New York and TV in Toronto too much?)continues to put up with her seventh year senior boyfriend Jesse, despite his arrogance as newspaper editor and that annoying way he calls her Frosh. Never mind his history of cheating and his brief fling with her housemate Paige. Ellie, once a strong level-headed journalist, is mush when it comes to her man. (It’s happened to the best of us.) When Jessie hooks up with her mentor, Ellie gets drunk, ruins an opportunity to shine in the press, and considers leaving the paper in hopes of saving the relationship. Yikes!
In the subplot, Mia(the likable Nina Dobrev who deserves better storylines) tries to help the dyslexic sidekick of mean girl holly J. Now Paige, in her Degrassi heydey, was a mean girl but she had a heart. Holly J is truly one dimensional and therefore makes me cringe, and not giggle. Part of the new ensemble, it remains to be seen if they will ever contribute much more to the episodes.
Despite this lukewarm review, I plan to tune in this week as original focal character Emma tries to sex up her image and in hopes that the show has some life left.

Endings aren’t always opera-worthy

Review of “What’s It Feel Like To Be a Ghost”, Part 2, Degrassi the Next Generation
When I sent Nice Guy the text message heard across two zones all those years ago, there was an epic quality to it all. My so-called best friend had turned out to be a spineless jellyfish(or rather I finally admitted he had been that all along) and I put him in his place. Even if it was only my small circle of girlfriends, the crowd cheered. My TV-show heroine Manny Santos had a smaller moment of truth, so many years in the making, but all too brief and dull.

As just-not-that-into-you boyfriend Craig paws her, Manny pulls away and attempts to talk him into a normal date. He, on the other hand, wants to continue his illegal partying. When she tries to do a not-quite-Dr.Phil intervention, Craig shrugs off her efforts. A look crosses her face, one that says she has had enough. But instead of reaming/reading him, as many faithful fans would hope, she merely announces her intention, “I’m dumping your ass” and dashes out. Imagine my crestfallen response. After five years of taking Craig’s bullshit, Manny didn’t even get in a good hard bitch-slap.

Oh I know. My dreams of cocktails thrown in faces and Bette Davis slaps are the stuff of telenovelas and Almodovar movies. They have no place in teen dramas or real life. But one can dream.

Craig Manning must die!

I didn’t see the teen comedy, John Tucker Must Die, but I liked the title. It definitely fits my feelings about one-time Degrassi the Next Generation heartthrob, Craig Manning(played with gusto by Jake Epstein) especially after last night’s mid-season premiere episode, “What’s it feel like to be a ghost?” Craig returns from his tour as a regional rock music champion to his adoring girlfriend Manny, his adoring best friend Ellie, and an adoration for a drug not prescribed for his bipolar disorder. It was a good episode but had a strangely emotional effect on me. Within half an hour, I was pacing the living room like a maniac, livid at a fictional character as if Manny were my best friend or I were in her shoes. It made me wonder: why do I hate Craig? What is it about this character that makes me hope he’s the one to die(the often-publicized hook for this season’s finale)?

I’ll begin with my take on Manny. Manny is one of my favorite characters. She may be the school hottie but this girl has survived abortion, her best friend’s eating disorder, body image issues of her own, her strict Filipino parents’ rejection, and years of drama thanks to Craig. She may not be an honor student but she is feisty and insightful. Craig has treated her badly since seventh grade yet she forgives him constantly. Like that friend’s boyfriend you secretly can’t stand, if you love Manny, you know she loves Craig and therefore deserves the happiness of being with him. After last night’s episode, I hope Manny finally realizes she deserves happiness that doesn’t sacrifice her dignity or health.

On a personal level, I have been in Ellie’s place more so than Manny. Like Ellie, I have been the loyal best friend, the one who provides intellectual connection and emotional depth. In high school, it was Warrior. In college, it was Tiger(and to a certain degree, that hot water polo player.) For all those men, I was the faithful sidekick, only to be dropped for the hot girl. Whenever I see Ellie clamor for Craig’s attention, I am reminded of all the energy I put into my so-called best friends. Forget chemistry. No errand or favor or hours-long conversation got me the guy.

In real life, guys like Craig are to be avoided. I do still notice them(what was Beautiful, if not a better-groomed, non-musician Latino version of Craig?) but I prefer to meet someone who will be my loyal partner.

The Cranny factor

As some of you know, I live for Degrassi. I check in periodically with a sophomore that used to be my student and we jump up and down like we’re the same age over the latest DNG happenings. Never mind that I read the spoilers on the fansites from Canada because I can’t stand the suspense of not knowing the plotlines before I watch the episodes. This week, the moment I have been waiting for finally arrived. No, the Latin or Asian man of my dreams didn’t run into me at church and ask me on a date to dance to house music or have Peruvian food. Cranny has returned.

Cranny is shipper(online term for fans of relationships between fictional characters) jargon for the romantic connection between Craig Manning and Manny Santos. Craig Manning is the artsy bipolar orphan who’s had Manny’s attention for years. Manny is the bad girl turned social misfit who broke up Craig’s first serious relationship. They went from puppy love to an unplanned pregnancy to barely speaking to each other. The last time these two had a significant scene together, Craig, wired from his new meds, told Manny she was the biggest mistake he had ever made. Imagine my surprise when Craig defended Manny when her Girls Gone Wild moment hit the school’s email. These two, like Carrie and Mr. Big, just can’t stay away from each other.

It’s surprising how much of a Cranny fan I am. After all, I hold He’s Just Not That Into You as my new personal life survival handbook. Craig has spent years just not that into Manny. I have had moments of wishing she’d find someone better. But when these two are given the chance to be together: chispas y fuego. They have chemistry for days. Sure he’s a lanky white boy with thin hair and she’s a curvy Pinay. But when they’re good, they’re great. They complement one another and share a warm, friendly rapport. They have the dynamic sparks I still seek. Is the Cranny factor the stuff of tv teen melodrama or a real phenomenon?

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.