Black Representation in Youth Drama – Degrassi Case Study | Black Writers Week


For my visuals – check out the cool chart I made below!

Now we come back to Degrassi Characters.

Black characters in Youth Dramas usually fall into 3 buckets: The Helper, The Token, or the Trauma representation.

Left Picture: Hazel and Paige, Right Picture: Katie and Marisol

The Helper

The Assistant can also be created as “The Magical Negro” or “The Black Best Friend.” In other words, Black characters only exist to help and elevate non -POC story lines. This deprives the audience of a chance to truly understand the different perspectives of the Black teenager. In “Degrassi,” characters like Hazel and Chantay don’t quite get a backstory like the other characters. Hazel serves as Paige’s sidekick, and Chantay is the usual sidekick of the famous crew and has almost no screen time. Even in later seasons, Marisol has no developed storyline and exists to add drama to the mix. Jimmy (aka Drake), while a prominent character, later only exists to attack Spinner’s story line. Not to mention, Spinner was the only best friend to play a role in Jimmy’s shooting, which is how he was paralyzed at first.

For further reading, see Andrea Desiree Lewis’ (Hazel) dive into his painful experience not represented on the set.

Freedom of Degrassi

The Sign

Tokens are when the characters are intended to be the same representation and exist only as such. Liberty, a super-intelligent, wealthy, and somewhat sharp character in “Degrassi” has always served as the hallmark of the Black, nerdy woman. We don’t get much backstory of her and character development compared to a very similar character to Claire Edwards, a white woman, who almost had a season or two entirely dedicated to her being. improvement in character. “Glee” and “Pretty Little Liars” make it famous. Mercedes took the lead and played the “strong black woman” trope but they barely went into her backstory until before she finished the series. Maya St. Germaine of “PLL” primarily exists to help one of the main characters accept her sexuality. Both are tools of a story, rather than the story itself.

Can’t have too many tokens!

Also, there’s this weird quotient scenario that perpetuates the black characters in “Degrassi.” As if once there are three Black characters max, one has to go. Even on Twitter, it’s a joke about how Hazel had to leave the series to make room for Liberty’s brother as the main character.

Black LGBT Characters: Where Are They?

In “Degrassi,” Black LGBT characters don’t exist. In general there is much more distance to go in this representation. Characters like Eric in “Sex Education,” Rue in “Euphoria”and Coop of“ All-American ”helped keep the fire burning down the road.



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