At long last, the second season of Degrassi: The Next Generation, featuring popular plus-size actress Christina Schmidt, has been released on DVD. And all you really need to know about it is the following:
This is the finest compilation of Classical feminine beauty ever captured on film.
Season Two includes "Mirror in the Bathroom," the famous episode in which Christina's character, Terri MacGregor, reveals that she is a plus-size model. That episode constitutes the high-water mark of the series, and from Christina's performance, to the thoughtful and sensitive script, it is the most successful examination of the plight of timeless beauty in the modern world that we have yet encountered.
During its second season--perhaps to back up the modelling storyline--Degrassi allowed Christina Schmidt to display at least a suggestion of her true beauty. The clothing was more attractive, including a few midriff-baring tops:
the makeup was "model pretty":
And as a result, we see Christina looking absolutely radiant in every scene in which she appears:
Indeed, the screen captures that comprise our first Christina Schmidt gallery are almost all taken from various episodes throughout Season Two.
Miss Schmidt's innumerable fans will be delighted to know that this boxed set also includes a full-length "Extras" DVD, featuring many scenes involving Christina that were never broadcast. But more about that later . . .* * *
In terms of the quality of the actual programs, Season Two falls somewhat short of the standard set by Season One, the storylines of which evolved organically and logically out of the inner natures of the show's lead characters. Several new characters are introduced who do not mesh entirely successfully with the personalities of the original cast. The storylines begin to be issue-driven rather than character-driven (a problem that becomes even more pronounced in subsequent seasons). And most notably, the show begins to exhibit an unmistakably left-leaning political agenda. How viewers react to that last fact will depend on their own moral predispositions, but it is something for parents to consider before purchasing the set for their children. (Fortunately, "Mirror in the Bathroom" is politically neutral--as all treatments of size celebration should be.)
There are flashes of brilliance, though. Apart from Christina's model storyline, several other episodes are rather noteworthy. One program shows the Degrassi school holding a "Heritage Day" to celebrate the students' various ethnic and cultural backgrounds (which is a wonderfully novel and unmodern idea). And in one especially distinguished episode, penned by Aaron Martin (who was demonstrably Degrassi's best scriptwriter), a young student is beset by conflicting emotions following the death of his abusive father. The resolution of this conflict involves a sensitive and heart-rending scene between the boy and Christina's character, Terri, which is viewable as one of the video clips in our interview with Miss Schmidt.
And even though Season Two features considerably fewer episodes directly involving Christina than fans would like, she easily steals every scene in which she appears. Watching the series again, it is easy to see why Miss Schmidt won the Best Supporting Actress award for her portrayal of Terri MacGregor, because the gifted actress always hints at a multiplicity of emotions, and a rich inner life, bubbling just under the surface of her somewhat reserved character.* * *
But to return to an aesthetic point, perhaps the best single reason for obtaining this collection is to view one of the items featured on the "Extras" DVD.
This is a clip involving Christina rehearsing a scene with an actor who is auditioning to play one of the second season's new characters.
The clip is important because, for once, we see Christina "as herself"--not in the wardrobe of her self-conscious character, Terri MacGregor. Dressed according to her own style, Christina sports an off-the-shoulder, short black dress (although covered by a jacket), and looks utterly stunning.
The scene that the two are rehearsing is one of the sequences from Christina's plus-size model episode. The line that the male actor reads is,
"You know what I think? I think you're the most beautiful girl in school."
and it undoubtedly required very little effort for him to get into character in order to deliver this line, because throughout the scene, Christina keeps carelessly running her hand through her hair,
and unwittingly striking a series of "model poses" that would put Linda Evangelista to shame.
And this underscores an important point about the changing depictions of plus-size girls in the media. The journey from the character of the self-conscious Terri MacGregor, to the self-confident Christina Schmidt--from "victim" to "vixen"--is the journey that the media must be encouraged to take, in its representation of full-figured women.
Degrassi made a tremendous leap forward over any previous show by casting a gorgeous actress in the plus-size role--which is something that no series had ever done before. The show could identify Terri as a model, and every viewer would believe it, regardless of how much thin-centric indoctrination they had endured, because of Christina's remarkable look:
But now, what is needed is a character who actually sees herself as beautiful, one who embodies not the self-consciousness of the past generation, as Terri's character bio notes:
but the self-confidence that plus-size girls enjoy today--girls who consider themselves goddesses, and who actually are.
In its second season, Degrassi appeared to be headed in that direction, with its careful, deliberate evolution of the Terri character from self-conscious "satellite" to glamorous model. How regrettable that the show cut that development short, and left Terri's journey incomplete, in favour of other, less compelling storylines. It would still be fascinating to see how Terri's individuation would have progressed, via Christina's deft portrayal.
Otherwise, it remains for another film or television project to pick up where Degrassi left off, and to take the aesthetic restoration of Classical feminine beauty to the next level.
- Degrassi Season Two on DVD