This past Sunday, I sat down in my living room to watch the Grammy’s live. While a standard viewing for the typical millennial, my experience was undeniably quite a culture shock. As I watched, I came to the realization that I have been living like a troll under a bridge for the past several years, unaware of the contemporary world of pop-culture that surrounds me. The artists, celebrities and performers were unrecognizable. The only phrases I could utter as they appeared on camera were “I’m so confused” “What is happening?” and “Wow, when did they get so old?”
When the footage revealed a long shot of Katy Perry performing alongside Dolly Parton and some other chick I don’t know, I squinted my eyes at the screen and said, “Is that P!NK?” But when the camera focused in for P!NK’s close-up, my mind took a second to process that it was, in reality, Katy Perry with a blonde pixie cut. Understand that in my mind, Katy Perry still exists in an ice cream cone dress with blunt-cut bangs and jet black hair styled in a high ponytail.
Though most of the nominees and performers were of trivial importance as far as my interests are concerned, there was one music artist that did matter: Jimmy Brooks, commonly known as Drake.
I have been a dedicated fan and member of the “Degrassi: The Next Generation” cult following community since I was 11 years old. Distinct memories still rest in my mind, flashbacks to 2009 drives with my older sister with the windows down in her 2002 Ford Taurus, speakers blasting Drake’s “Best I’ve Ever Had” from a spinning mix-CD hand-labeled with lime green and magenta sharpie.
I have memories of Drake pre-wheelchair, playing basketball with Spinner before his hair was bleach blond and walking down the halls of Degrassi Community School hand-in-hand with Ashley before she got super dark and emo. I remember when he transformed into Drake and I realized that just his character was paralyzed and he isn’t actually confined to a wheelchair. My eyes filled with unshed tears as I thought back to the days when Aubrey Graham was simply Jimmy Brooks, best friend of Spinner Mason and ex-boyfriend of Ashley Kerwin. He started at the bottom as an eighth grader on an overly dramatic “educational” Canadian TV program that depicted the realities and struggles of adolescence.
I experienced every moment with the students of Degrassi Community School (which expanded to hold grades seven through 12 in the beginning of season two when the Jimmy and his class entered the ninth grade.) Drake played a character in a plot line that encompassed every possible scenario a teenager could encounter, ranging from uncomfortable coming-of-age experiences to accidental pregnancies to eating disorders to the tragic school shooting that ended Jimmy Brooks’ basketball career.
My journey with him on his path from Aubrey Graham to Jimmy Brooks to Drake has been a long ride. My dedication and emotional attachment to Jimmy has transcended far past the walls of Degrassi. I see Drake as a continuation of Jimmy’s life and story, which is probably why it was so special for me to share a live TV moment with current Drake as he accepted his Grammy with pride and dignity. Listening to his speech actually brought me to tears as I thought about how much Jimmy Brooks had to go through to get to this moment. He graduated from the “pit of burning fire” that was Degrassi Community School and as he tossed his cap, he finally was able to step out of his wheel chair, walk towards the future and become Drake.
Jimmy Brooks’ life at Degrassi may have come to an end, but for me, his character lives on and survives through Drake. He may no longer be seen as Jimmy Brooks to the rest of the world, but “Degrassi” reruns will forever keep him alive in my mind as the person who turned Ashley Kerwin emo at the end of the eighth grade. Knowledge of contemporary pop-culture is clearly beyond the scope of my reality. Watching the Grammy’s was the equivalent of replacing my Apple TV with Rick and Morty’s interdimensional cable box. It satisfiesd my curiosity, but I’d never abandon the reality I live in. My mind is frozen in 2010 and I have limited knowledge of what came after. If I was faced with an ultimatum, I would never trade reruns, playing mix-CDs on my Walkman or listening to alternative bands of the past on vinyl and cassette to fully immerse myself in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable world of modern music, entertainment and technology.
Currently Playing: The opening theme song of “Degrassi: The Next Generation”
“Remember to wake up every day and tell yourself that
Whatever it takes, I know I will make it through.”
– A “Degrassi” inspired quote by yours truly.
Celia Rose Smith, a senior, studies Studio Art and English. She is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Le Provocateur.