“Degrassi: Next Class” fails queer women with misguided Zoe and Grace storyline

Zig stays for much too long, but when it eventually starts getting late Grace’s mom kicks him out. But not Zoe. Oh no, not Zoe. She can sleep over. Ah, sleepovers. Perhaps the biggest perk of being a teenage lesbian around a clueless parent.

Things progress from there. Of course, Grace’s insecurities flare up too: “I’ve never felt this close to anyone. What if it messes everything up?” I’m trying to understand you, Grace. Even if the writers don’t.

It’s pretty PG (especially compared to the straight kissing on this show), but they do sleep together. And yes, you’re allowed to get angry about how tame and quick what we actually saw was. Hey, the actresses who play them are both older than 18, so no shame.

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Imagine my surprise then when this is what Grace tells Zoe at school immediately afterward: “I’m not gay. I’m sorry. I tried for you. You’re my best friend.” That’s not how that works! That’s not how any of that works!

Zoe panics. No surprise there. This is so not the conversation she thought they would be having.

Zoe: That’s my first time with a girl. Maybe we did it wrong. What part didn’t you like?

Grace: All of it.

Ouch! It’s all so condescending, especially the look of pity painted on Grace’s face.

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Not willing to give them up, Zoe asks Grace to name one guy she’s ever liked. She literally points out the first one that walks through the door: Zig. Where have the signs of this been all season? This is stupid.

Zoe’s reaction is pretty stupid too. To spite Grace, she films herself making out with Zig, who has a girlfriend, and sends the video file to her. But Grace’s biggest concern with this is keeping her friend Maya from finding out her boyfriend cheated on her. If Grace was interested in Zig (and I just don’t see how this season that could be possible), the looks of disgust she throws his way after finding out about the Zoe incident are pretty solid proof that the infatuation is now over. If any of that anger is about him kissing the girl that had been warming her sheets just a short time ago, well, that’s not said.

These 10 episodes have been a trip. Look, if Grace never takes another dip in the lady pond, there’s nothing I can do about that except rant. But if this really is the end of her gay adventures, I’m not giving the Degrassi writers’ room a standing ovation. Oh my, you took some longstanding stereotypes and turned them on their head. How clever of you. Tell me, though, what segment of the population are you trying to speak up for? The teenage girls who just hate being thought of as lesbians because of the way they look? Maybe you should ask them what’s so bad about being thought of as a lesbian. While you’re on that, maybe you should think about not dismissing how important it was and still is for some women to “look like a lesbian.” It wasn’t so long ago that this was our main means of identifying one another. Not to mention that “looking like a lesbian” can be about self-empowerment too. But hey, you connected with the one straight insecure goth girl with shitty music taste actually watching your show, so congrats.

I think that’s enough about Grace. As I mentioned at the start of this thing, we have Zoe. We have her whether you want her or not. And that’s the thing about Zoe–she’s not the nicest or most relatable queer teen you’ll ever meet. But at least she’s actually queer. She’s also just had her heart broken, doesn’t have a lot of close friends and has some rough days ahead with her mom. So what I’m saying is, she needs us. Let’s claim the girl and root for her. She needs all the support she can get because, if not Grace, which of the incredibly straight girls on this show is suddenly going to have an epiphany? Please, just bring somebody else in (there’s already like 25 people as series regulars anyway). I guess we shall see. For now, you can count on me being in your corner, little baby gay Zoe.

Degrassi: New Class is available on Netflix now.