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Thursday, July 09, 2015

Spike and Emma - The Mother and Daughter of Degrassi

Is it just me, or has MTV Canada suddenly turned into the Degrassi channel?

I ask this question because I had a day off recently and the heat and humidity in the air made it dang near impossible to go outside for any longer than a few minutes at a time without feeling uncomfortable, so I stayed in my air conditioned comfort zone and watched some television.

I knew that MTV had stopped playing music videos some fifteen years ago, so when my channel surfing exercise happened to stop on MTV, I didn't expect there to be much music playing at all.

But imagine my surprise when I was looking at the program guide and I saw that every second or third program was "Degrassi Junior High", "Degrassi High", Degrassi: The Next Generation", and "Degrassi".  I was actually shocked that they didn't include "The Kids of Degrassi Street" in that mix.  Seriously, other than the occasional showing of "Catfish", "Teen Mom", and really old reruns of "Breaker High", the network is all Degrassi, all the time.

Oh, the once mighty has fallen.

But let's look at the bright side to all of this.  Degrassi - whether you liked it or not - is one of Canada's longest running television shows.  The original series ran for four seasons from 1987-1991, and had a wrap-up television movie entitled "School's Out" in 1992.  Nine years later, the second reboot of the series began, and as of 2015 has just concluded its fourteenth season. 

And I can definitely see why Degrassi has so much staying power.  It's a show that a lot of teenagers could relate to because the students of Degrassi Junior High - which later became Degrassi High - which later became Degrassi Community School - all had the same problems we did (only theirs were often more dramatic).  The show tackled lots of issues that some deemed controversial, such as drug abuse, teenage sex, censorship, and violence, and I certainly appreciated the fact that the show tackled these issues head on, rather than trying to candy coat them to a dumbed down audience.

While I have to admit that I liked the original series better than the revamp, there are merits to both versions.  And in this edition of the blog, I thought I would put the focus on two stars of the Degrassi universe.  One was a featured player in the original Degrassi, and the other was a star in the new generation.

But these two people are linked together, forever bonded by one careless moment in 1987 in which the original Degrassi character became pregnant with the new Degrassi character.  Who knew that both girls would have such an impact on their respective classes?

This is the story of Christine "Spike" Nelson and her daughter Emma Nelson.

Now, by all accounts, Spike was a fantastic student at Degrassi Junior High and was widely regarded as a role model for her classmates.  She certainly got better grades than Joey Jeremiah or Wheels, and she was quite popular, having befriended the Degrassi twins, Erica and Heather, Caitlin Ryan, and Lucy Fernandez.

And you have to admit that she had the very best hair in the whole school.  Though you know those holes in the ozone layer that were found in the early 1990s?  I bet Spike caused them all to appear, and I reckon that she's the reason why Woolco, Zellers, and Shoppers Drug Mart had a hair spray shortage throughout Degrassi's entire run!

Anyway, Spike had a bit of a relationship going on with a guy named Shane, and Spike and Shane decided that at one of Lucy's blowout parties that they would sneak into one of the guest bedrooms know.  It was a moment of pure passion between two eighth graders at Degrassi Junior High.  And neither one ever thought to bring any protection in case something happened.

Well, something did happen.  Spike got pregnant.  And at fourteen years old, she had absolutely no idea what she was going to do.  She herself had been born to a teenage mother, and she knew first hand how hard her own mother struggled to raise her.  Spike even considered giving the baby up for adoption, or even have an abortion, but in her heart, she knew it wasn't the right choice for her.

And Spike had to deal with a lot during her whole pregnancy.  Even though Shane wanted to do what was right, his strict family essentially put an end to the relationship between him and Spike.  And Spike was even temporarily thrown out of Degrassi Junior High because hypersensitive parents believed that Spike set a bad example for the rest of the students.  But Spike fought hard to complete her eighth grade year, and gave birth to Emma the following summer after going into labour at the Degrassi graduation dance.

Of course, being a fifteen year old single mother was no easy task for Spike.  Sure, she did have Shane giving her child support for a little while, but when he did drugs at a Gourmet Scum concert, jumped off a bridge, and suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the fall, Spike was left to raise Emma on her own.  Certainly she did have help from Erica, Heather, and new friend Liz, but she found it hard to balance her life as a mother with a social life and schoolwork.  She nearly flunked ninth grade as a result, but a pep talk from Ms. Avery convinced Spike to enroll in summer school to get her grades up.

And when Spike entered Degrassi High, life had settled down for her.  She did have a bit of a crush on Snake, but at the time, it didn't really work out for her, and she graduated from Degrassi High with no love interest and a three year old daughter.

Who knew that ten years later, that Spike's daughter Emma would become a student at Degrassi herself?

Now, by the time Emma attended seventh grade at Degrassi Community School, the school had become one for grades 7-12.  And Emma had firm friendships with Manny Santos, J.T. Yorke, Toby Isaacs, and Liberty Van Zandt established.  Of course, while Spike had to deal with teen pregnancy, Emma had to deal with some serious issues herself.

Heck, in her very first episode, she met someone in an online chat room and unwisely decided to meet him alone in a hotel room.  When her sixteen year old crush ended up being a thirty something creep, Emma found herself in a very serious situation, but thanks to Toby, Emma was rescued just in time.

Emma also has gotten into trouble for standing up for what she believed in, such as staging a food fight to make a point about GMO's, or embarrassing Mr. Raditch with her environmental campaigns.

Emma also tried to reunite with her father, Shane, but when Emma realized that Shane was still messed up, she realized that there was a good reason why Spike initially kept Shane away - she didn't want Shane to accidentally hurt Emma.

Oh, did I mention that Emma was nearly shot in a school shooting at Degrassi?  Luckily for Emma, Sean Cameron (her on-again, off-again boyfriend for the first six seasons of the show) managed to save her by turning the gun on the gunman himself.

And while Emma managed to avoid getting pregnant in her teen years (though interestingly enough her two friends Manny and Liberty did), she did contract gonorrhea from a guy named Jay Hogart. 

All in all, Emma and Spike did find their happily ever afters.  Spike and Snake rekindled a friendship which eventually blossomed into romance, and they got married in the second season of the Degrassi reboot.  Though Snake did have a brief affair with another teacher at Degrassi, Spike forgave him and as of season fourteen, the two are still married.

And while Emma had a hard time settling down with one guy (I think she had four boyfriends during the whole time she was on the show), she ended up marrying Gavin "Spinner" Mason.  As of 2015, I believe the two are still together, but we don't know for sure as Emma's last appearance on the show was five years ago.

No matter what though, Spike and Emma both had a tumultuous school life...but despite that, they got through it together.  And that makes both of them true Degrassi legends in their own right.

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