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Friday, June 28, 2013

Degrassi: All The Way With Stephanie Kaye!

Many of you reading these upcoming entries this weekend might not be aware that this is a long weekend for us here in Canada, and frankly, I'm not even sure that I am aware that this is a long weekend, mainly because I happen to be working every single day of it.

(Though weirdly enough, I'm off the 4th of July. Strange.)

Anyway, this weekend is the Canada Day weekend. Nearly one hundred and forty-six years ago, on the first of July, 1867, a nation was founded and given the name of Canada. And, I am a proud resident of Canada, have been for thirty-two years, and cannot see myself living anywhere else in the world. I truly do love this country, and I actively encourage everyone who is outside of Canada to come and pay us a visit. There's lots to see and do from Vancouver, British Columbia to St. John's, Newfoundland, and everywhere in between.

Wow. I should really be a Canadian ambassador. Or at the very least make a travel ad for Canada.

So, because I am a proud Canadian, I have decided to make this entire long weekend all about Canada and Canadian topics.

From Friday, June 28 until Monday, July 1, every topic will be coated with a Canadian flavour (and I'm not talking about a combination of maple syrup, bacon, and poutine sauce either). The text will be entirely in red (the quintessential Canadian colour), and the topics will be one hundred per cent Canadian themed.

So, for those of you taking notes at home, the “What's On TV This Friday Night”, “Saturday Smorgasbord”, “Sunday Jukebox”, and “Monday Matinee” will have a Canadian twist to them. So, I hope you're all excited, eh, because it's “aboot” time I showed all the “hosers” out there some real Canadian content!

(Okay, I'll stop now.)

So, for the first topic of the day, I will be featuring a Canadian show that I have already done a blog entry on a little over a year ago. If memory serves me, it was in March 2012.

Here's the opening titles of the program in question.

Yes, we're going back to high school life in the Canadian 1980s as we're opening up the signed yearbooks of “Degrassi Junior High”. Debuting on CBC in 1987, the show managed to last a total of three seasons before ending its run in 1989. But, that was not the end of the Degrassi franchise. Later in 1989, the show changed its name to “Degrassi High” as the main characters transitioned from junior high to high school, and managed a run of two more seasons before wrapping up in 1991. The following year brought us the reunion movie “School's Out”, and since 2001, the show has found a new audience as “Degrassi: The Next Generation”, which originally aired on CTV, and now airs on MuchMusic.

Obviously in this blog entry, we're going to be going back to how it all began, as I have the fondest memories of the original series.

But, which character will I focus on? Truth is that there were several possibilities that I could have chosen.

Now, I immediately eliminated Snake, Joey, and Wheels, as they were the subject of the first blog entry that I did on the Degrassi series. Spike was a tempting choice, as she not only gave birth on the original series, but in the revamped series, her daughter Emma was one of the main characters for several seasons. But, I don't think I could do her justice in a blog entry.

Then I thought of Kathleen, the schoolgirl who treated all her friends like garbage because her mom was an alcoholic, her boyfriend was abusive, and she developed an eating disorder. But I passed on her, as she was probably the most damaged Degrassi character ever.

And, don't even get me started on Caitlin. The girl may have been one of Degrassi's sweethearts, and Kevin Smith's crush, but the gal was a major train wreck.

Of course, some may argue that the Degrassi alumni that I chose for this week's blog topic is just as much of a train wreck as Caitlin...maybe even more so. But, you have to admit that when I tell you exactly what this character went through, she would be a perfect character sketch for “learning things the hard way”, and “having to start all over again from the ground up”,

Today's featured Degrassi character is Stephanie Kobalewsky. Of course, you may remember her better by the name she used while a student at Degrassi Junior High, as well as the slogan that she used while she was running for a school election.

All the way with Stephanie Kaye! All the way with Stephanie Kaye!”

Stephanie Kaye was played by then fifteen-year-old actress Nicole Stoffman, and while Nicole only stayed on Degrassi for a relatively short time, she is now reportedly a successful jazz musician in Toronto, Ontario. I think it might be kind of cool to see if I can find Nicole performing some stuff online, just to see how she's doing today.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, I came up empty. All I could find was a clip of the Degrassi reunion that the CBC talk show Jonovision did a few years ago. At least I found something.

When we were first introduced to Stephanie, she was walking down the path leading to Degrassi on the very first day of grade eight. Much to Stephanie's disdain, her younger brother Arthur was also attending Degrassi as a brand new seventh grader, and Stephanie made it perfectly clear to Arthur that he was not to associate with her at school. Ever.

Yes, Stephanie Kaye was essentially the very definition of the phrase “mean girl”.

But, Stephanie also had a lot going on within her personal life that may have explained her sudden shift in behaviour. Her parents were divorced, and she was not very happy over the fact that her mother and father seemed to be moving on with other people. Stephanie tried to get over that pain by making a personal declaration to herself that eighth grade was going to be the best year of her entire life.

And, she had a great plan to make that happen. She had her sights set on winning the title of class president of Degrassi Junior High. And, with her best friend Voula by her side designing campaign posters and writing Stephanie's speeches, Stephanie really couldn't lose.

Well, that is...until she tried to change everything about herself.

You see, Degrassi's dress code was admittedly kind of lax back in 1987, so it wasn't uncommon for Stephanie to change out of the conservative outfits she left home in and put on the saucy, naughty outfits that she put on to flirt with all the boys at Degrassi. saucy and naughty as a fifteen-year-old could be, that is.

Needless to say, Stephanie's dress sense turned off a lot of the female voters of Degrassi...but the male contingency was all over her. Things really intensified when Stephanie promised to give every boy at Degrassi a kiss if they would vote for her, so Stephanie sucked face with such classy males with the names of Joey Jeremiah, Wheels, and BLT.

(That's right...there was a character on Degrassi named after a sandwich. Hey, I didn't pick the names.)

And, when it came time for Stephanie to issue a thank you speech to everyone who helped her in her campaign, Stephanie decided that she would thank Joey Jeremiah – the man who was only using her to get smooches and pecks, over Voula – the girl who was her best friend since elementary school. And that betrayal caused Voula to drop Stephanie as a friend.

However, while Stephanie grieved the loss of her friendship for all of, oh, seven minutes, she did end up winning the election. Perhaps the prestige of becoming school president would more than make up for the fact that her selfish behaviour had cost her a close friendship.

It's just too bad that her presidency at Degrassi Junior High was almost as infamous as that of Richard Nixon's presidency of the United States of America. And, what was really amusing was that in both the cases of Nixon and Kaye, both suffered the ultimate indignity of impeachment (or, at least in Stephanie's case, near-impeachment)!

But before that, let's see some of the things that Stephanie did while she was president of Degrassi...

  • She got so drunk at Lucy's house before the school's first dance of the year that she couldn't finish her speech at the dance and almost threw up on stage!
  • She gets involved in a relationship with Wheels that ends up being one disaster right after another, including her own mother putting two and two together after she ends up selling Wheels some condoms! Whoops!
  • She almost ends up getting into some serious trouble after lying about her age to go on a date with an older man.
  • Stephanie knowingly causes a rift between best friends Joey and Wheels when she uses Joey to make Wheels jealous.
  • Stephanie freezes out the seventh graders out of the student council on purpose, just so she can appoint Joey as sports rep, angering seventh grade students Melanie, Kathleen, and Yick, and causing mixed emotions within Arthur.

This leads to the entire seventh grade class (sans Arthur) staging a revolution of sorts, protesting against the lousy job that Stephanie has done as presidency, which is also compounded by the Farrell twins (Erica and Heather) filling Joey in on the real reason why Stephanie is being nice to him, and Wheels telling Stephanie that he is no longer interested in her. It is probably the most defining moment in Stephanie's life. For the viewer, I can see how some might suggest that Stephanie was asking for it all along. For me though, I think that Stephanie's reaction to losing everything around her was karmic retribution. It's the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And, frankly, Stephanie didn't do that.

However, if there was one positive to it all, it was that she gained a whole new appreciation for Arthur. And, beginning from that day on, Stephanie no longer treated Arthur as if he were a virus, and Stephanie made a promise to Arthur and to herself that she would turn over a new leaf for the second term (or second season).

Yeah, that promise lasted all of five seconds.

Mind you, Stephanie TRIED to honour her own promise. She removed all the sexy clothes from her closet, and gave them away to Alexa...only for Stephanie to demand them back when new student Simon started paying more attention to Alexa instead of her. And, even when Alexa returned the clothes to Stephanie because her mother made her get rid of them, Stephanie was still unable to steal Simon away from Alexa, making her feel very self-conscious.

Add in the fact that she was at the center of a custody battle between her parents, and that her mother was set to marry another man after just sixty days of dating, and Stephanie was feeling like she just wanted to throw herself off of a bridge.

Truth is that Stephanie REALLY did want to throw herself off of a bridge, and she talked about killing herself constantly, which worried her friends and her brother. But, after a showdown with her mother and the man she was dating, as well as a long talk with Arthur, Stephanie began to feel better about herself. And by the end of Stephanie's eighth grade year, she had made amends with everyone she had hurt the previous term. She agreed to let the seventh graders attend the eighth grade dance (though it was only after the seventh graders threatened to stop decorating for the dance once they learned that Degrassi Junior High was adding a ninth grade curriculum to the school), and she also patched things up with Joey and Wheels by allowing their band “The Zit Remedy” to play at the graduation dance.

And, that dance was the last time we would see Stephanie again. By the beginning of the show's third season, Stephanie decided that she didn't want to come back to Degrassi for ninth grade, and she decided to attend a private school outside of the city instead.

(In reality, Nicole Stoffman had decided to leave the show to take on another acting job.)

But, I think that in many ways, Stephanie Kaye was the perfect idea of a 360 turnaround. She was born as a nice young girl who was thoughtful of others. By eighth grade, she only cared about popularity, and she didn't care who she hurt to get it. When she lost it all, she hit rock bottom. But by the end of her time at Degrassi, she was more or less the person she was before she entered Degrassi.

Stephanie Kaye went all the way and back again...and I think the journey just may have been worth it in the end.

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