Linda Schuyler & Stefan Brogren Address Degrassi Controversy

If you are a Degrassi fan, the name Florida Family Association should probably sound familiar. This conservative organization has been criticizing Degrassi for years because of the show’s many LGBT characters. They have lead various email campaigns in an attempt to get companies to stop advertising during episodes of Degrassi.

Degrassi producers Linda Schuyler and Stefan Brogren addressed the controversy in separate interviews this past week. A major storyline in season 12 involves a split along religious lines over LGBT issues. Many fans have speculated that this storyline is in response to the FFA.

On that topic, Stefan Brogren said, “The truth is, there’s a lot of kids out there who hold very deeply onto their faith, and that can cause problems within the teen community.” Degrassi seems committed to portraying the religious characters fairly (both of them are regulars), as opposed to instantly making them the “bad guy.” Of course, Degrassi will also continue giving storylines to Adam, one of the first teenage transgender characters in TV history. “It’s something that we wanted to address for a couple of years,” Stefan told The Toronto Star, “but we really didn’t know how. We didn’t know what the stats were. But we’ve become aware of how many young people are dealing with questions about their gender.”

Ultimately, it’s clear that the producers and writers are aware of the FFA controversy, but that only seems to make them more passionate about accurately portraying LGBT characters on the show. “We’re continuing to challenge people in their tolerance and understanding of sexual identity,” Linda Schuyler said in a recent interview. “[The FFA] have that narrow mindset, and then they say they are against bullying. It’s just insane. They were quite active, writing to our broadcasters, asking them to pull ads from our show. Fortunately, neither broadcaster responded.

Source:
Q&A: Degrassi producer Linda Schuyler on what to expect this school year
Degrassi, Then and Now


Degrassi Fans: How Degrassi Has Impacted Our Lives

Last week, I asked the Degrassi community to send in your stories about how Degrassi has impacted you. As someone who has watched Degrassi since the age of 12, I know how much this show means to me. I watched Degrassi throughout high school and university. It taught me so many important life lessons when I was younger, and I love watching how it continues to inspire the next generation as well. It seems that many of you feel the same way. Here are a couple of the amazing responses we received from Degrassians all around the world:

Grade 9 student Andrea talks about how My Body Is a Cage led to an unlikely friendship and made her re-evaluate some of her actions:

Last year when I was beginning high school I just wanted to fit in, and we had this trasgender kid who came to our school. He was bullied on all the time and I didn’t want to be unpopular, so I would tease him. Then I was flipping through the channels one day when I stumbled across TeenNick and they were doing My Body Is A Cage…at first I just continued watching because I thought the older brother was hot. Then they showed all the issues, and how hard it is to be a trans kid. I felt so bad for the way I had treated the poor kid at our school. After that Degrassi has also become my favorite show and it’s just so amazing because it deals with so many issues. And after that I also stopped teasing the kid and began talking to him. I’m now about to be a 10th grader and me and him are bestfriends. I also may not be the most popular kid at school but I don’t care because I made the right decision.

19-year-old New Jersey resident Colleen has been watching Degrassi since she was 9 years old. She sent us a beautiful email, talking about how Degrassi has respectfully portrayed young people living with mental illness:

As I got older Degrassi was not just a show I watched to prove that I was mature or a show I watched to see cute boys or be entertained, it was a show I watched because the characters were real and relatable and it taught me so much. Like back in season 4 with Craig’s bipolar story line – it really hit home for me because my cousin is bipolar. A few years later, Craig’s storyline became even more important to me. During my sophomore year of high school I started not getting a lot of sleep. I was becoming very irritable and not acting like myself. I would have so many thoughts going on at once, and would not be able to concentrate along with getting very angry which was very out of character for me. It turned out that I was bipolar. If Degrassi was any other TV show, Rick Murray would have been depicted as the character to be bipolar, but instead they choose Craig who was a beloved character (even though some people might not have thought so with the whole Ashley/Manny thing). Degrassi showed that you anyone can suffer bipolar disorder, and live a normal life, and not be some school shooter or murder. It was hard and still can be to have a mental illness that was so misunderstood, but the fact that I knew other people, like Jake Epstein’s character, were getting by with this disorder gave me hope that everything would get better. Degrassi gave a face to my illness, and played a part in educating people about the truth behind it – that people who are bipolar have a treatable illness and are not horrible people.

Knowing that Degrassi is willing to talk about subjects that most other shows wont in an honest and real fashion is why I love this show. And I am so happy that it helps so many different people feel better about whatever problem it is they may be dealing with, as well as educating others about those problems. Now I give talks to teens about my struggles and overcoming them, and I am in school studying social work to hopefully one day play a part in helping others in working through their issues and accepting themselves. And I have Degrassi to thank for giving me hope when I needed it most and giving me the strength to be the best and make it through.

Thank you for these amazing responses! You can still send your stories to DegrassiTalks@gmail.com.


Media Responses to the FFA Controversy

The FFA/Degrassi controversy is continuing to make headlines this week. Various media outlets have commented on the situation, showing their support for Degrassi, and giving their thoughts on why this is still an issue. The Much Music article in particular, written by Much contributor Allison, goes beyond the FFA controversy and discusses the impact Degrassi has had on generations of young people. Here is some of what Xtra, Perez Hilton, and even Much Music had to say.

Xtra: Conservative group slams transgender plot line
During the two-part transgender episode, the organization Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) ran a public-service announcement and an online educational program on its website.
All I can say is thank goodness that for every rightwing bigot out there, there is also someone with an open mind and a willingness to educate people on different lifestyles and the struggles that many of us go through.

Perez Hilton: Boo! Florida Family Association Boycotts Degrassi Due To Gay/Transgender Characters
We continue to thank you for supporting an important cause and helping spread awareness/understanding about gay and transgender issues, Teen Nick!
As for the Florida Family Association, we can only hope that one of these days they’ll come to their senses and realize that they’ve been acting out of ignorance. Such a shame!

Much Music: Sex, Drugs, and Degrassi: Why We Need To Keep The TV On
In its 30 years on air it would seem that Degrassi has covered every topic imaginable. From the death of parents to the death of classmates, domestic abuse, homelessness, bullying and more, it was difficult to believe that any waters had been left unchartered by the Epitome production company. That was until the tenth season of the new generation hit MuchMusic and Teen Nick last fall and viewers met Adam Torres, played by the brilliant Jordy Todosey, the first transgender character on youth programming. Suddenly, Degrassi was once again reminding viewers and critics why the longevity, praise and loyalty that had followed the little show from Toronto was more than warranted – Degrassi was and is the institution that gives a voice to the voiceless in mainstream media.
The outpouring of support and acceptance of Adam’s character has been undeniable. When the episode My Body is a Cage aired, viewers discovered that Adam had been born Gracie and transferred to Degrassi as a result of bullying received because of his transgender identity. On the MuchMusic website viewers expressed compassion and understanding for the teenage character, with many relieved to finally see their struggle identified by a character on TV.

How has Degrassi impacted your life? Is there one particular storyline that made you look at things differently? Can you relate to a particular character? Send your story to DegrassiTalks@gmail.com, and we’ll share some of our favourites.


Degrassi Boycotted by FFA; Author Sarah Dessen Responds

Yes, this is happening again Degrassians.

The Florida Family Associations‘ campaign against Degrassi has caught the attention of The Huffington Post as well as author Sarah Dessen.

The FFA continued its email campaign against Degrassi with an email blitz last Tuesday. Their main target is Adam’s storyline, in which “millions of young teens and children witness this irresponsible affirmation of a transgender lifestyle.” Once again, they are going after Degrassi’s advertisers. However, this time, they are clearly aware of the intense support from Degrassi fans. Choosing not to publically post articles, the FFA instead is simply emailing their supporters. They recently sent out an email which said: “Many large main stream companies have since stopped advertising on Degrassi. However, this article will not include the names of the dropped advertisers to prevent the very active proponents of Degrassi from launching a reverse email campaign as they did with Kodak and State Farm.”

This blatant promotion of intolerance, hate and ignorance has already caught the attention of the Huffington Post. They interviewed David Canton (the founder of the FFA) who said “How many high schools have a gay first-string quarterback who becomes lovers with someone else on the team? This relationship is extremely unlikely and they shouldn’t open this to dialogue … And I think that it is statistically improbable that you will have a female-to-male transgender who is in love with a lesbian or bisexual in a school setting.” Because apparently Degrassi is guilty of promoting acceptance and inclusion. Liz Owen, the Director of Communications for PFLAG offered support for Degrassi, telling THP that “the episode acknowledges that there are trans people out there and, due to bullying and harassment in a school setting, they really have a hard time … Our message boards got overwhelmingly positive feedback, from trans kids saying how much it helped them to kids saying that, while they didn’t have any transgender kids in their school, they would act positively if they did.

Best selling author Sarah Dessen also responded to the controversy, after she found herself a target of the protest. Apparently her publisher had bought advertising time during Degrassi, and Dessen suddenly discovered that she had 1,060 new emails. Despite the fact that Dessen has little control over where and when her ad airs, she found that many of these emails were personally attacking her. Dessen took to her blog to react, saying:

I will say this, though. I don’t watch Degrassi, it came along after my time. But I believe in equal rights for ALL people, regardless of race, sex, or sexual orientation. If that makes me “depraved” and “lacking integrity” (both things I have been accused of today, more than once) then, well, okay. I’ll take it. I was raised to stand by what I believe, and I believe in equality. You don’t have to agree with me. That’s what’s great about this world. But you don’t have to be nasty about it, either.

I encourage you all to read Sarah Dessen’s full blog entry on the controversy right here!

As Degrassi fans, we have all been influenced by the show in one way or another. Whether you’re life has been personally changed by a storyline, or you just enjoy Degrassi for the characters and the drama, we have all seen the impact that this show has had. Adam’s storyline, in particular, has been groundbreaking for teen television. Just like Marco paved the way for more gay characters on TV, I have no doubt that Adam will do the same for the transgender community. As young people, we have an obligation to stand up for our peers and fight for what we believe in. I hope that we can all take this for what it is. There is always going to be negativity in this world, but Degrassi fans will continue to move forward and support this amazing TV show.

I have no doubt that other media outlets will pick up on this soon. I will keep you guys updated, and edit this post as new information becomes available.

EDIT: Unsurprisingly, this story made it to Perez Hilton.


The FFA Controversy & Degrassi’s 30th Anniversary

Here is the Degrassi Etalk segments from last night. First, they talk about the FFA controversy and speak to Adamo about homophobia. Next, they interview various Degrassi cast members about Degrassi’s 30th anniversary!


FFA Continues Homophobic Anti-Degrassi Email Campaign

Yesterday it was reported that the FFAil claimed that Kodak stopped advertising during Degrassi because of the FFAil’s offensive email campaign. Word quickly spread, with Perez Hilton even picking up the story. Kodak soon fought back, sending out this email to Degrassi fansites and other bloggers:

Our new ‘So Kodak’ advertising campaign, featuring Rihanna, Trey Songz, Pitbull and Drake (who–we know!–started his career on Teen Nick), will continue to run on Degrassi. What you’re seeing is a planned pause in our media schedule. We’ll be back on next week, so keep an eye out for us!

Despite their mistake, the FFAil doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. They are continuing their email campaign to Degrassi’s advertisers, encouraging people to visit their website and voice their concerns over Degrassi’s “irresponsible content.” My personal opinion is that this is just a way to get our attention and upset Degrassi’s growing fanbase.

However, this afternoon on Twitter, Stephen Stohn came up with a clever way that we can all fight back. All you have to do is visit FFAil’s Degrassi page and then click on the link that says “Click Here.” Put in your name and email address and change the subject line to something like “Thank you for supporting Degrassi!” Stephen suggests the text be something like this:

My family and I are so supportive of this wonderful series which empowers teens as they face an increasingly complex and diverse world. Thank you for your support of this groundbreaking series which for 30 years has been applauded worldwide for its morals and storytelling.

Send it, and it will go to all of Degrassi’s main advertisers!
As Degrassi is about to be presented with a 30 year tribute at the Gemini Awards tomorrow, I think it’s obvious that only shows that truly mean something are able to survive that long. Degrassi has touched all of us with its honest and thought-provoking storylines. From those of us who have been watching for the full 30 years, to the fans who only just discovered Degrassi this season, Degrassi fans are a passionate and loyal group of people. We will continue to support Degrassi for years to come.


Update: Kodak Takes a Pause in Advertising

Update: Kodak is speaking out, contacting a bunch of us, and confirming what many of us suspected. They were simply taking a pause in advertising this week and will be back next week. That is that.

Update #2: Degrassi made Perez Hilton today at least???

A few right wing news sources are reporting today that Kodak has pulled its ads from Degrassi on TeenNick. This apparently happened after the Florida Family Association began an email campaign to Kodak regarding its sponsorship of Degrassi. The FFA is claiming that Kodak received “thousands of emails” from their supporters. This news comes just days after this article appeared, accusing Degrassi of promoting “irresponsible” behaviour. However, it should be noted that their only “proof” is that they haven’t seen a Kodak ad for Degrassi this past week.

The FFA’s website features an entire page on Degrassi and it’s supposed sins. The language used here is very offensive. According to the organization, “the theme of DeGrassi revolves around Riley Stavros, the high school football team’s first string quarterback and his homosexual lifestyle.” On the website, they list the “irresponsible content” (which mostly focuses on Riley) that they lifted from TeenNick.com. You have to wonder if they even watch Degrassi, seeing as they are simply referring to TeenNick’s website and claiming that Riley is the central character.

When news of this spread today, Degrassi stars and fans were quick to voice their outrage on Twitter:
@Lauren_Collins This is so incredibly sad and disgusting. Thanks for ruining all my Kodak moments with homophobia and fear… http://tinyurl.com/2ufu8h7
@AdamoRuggiero If thats true, 2 words: GROW UP! Gay kids need guidance. And guess what! That could be UR kid. we’re #bornthisway http://tinyurl.com/2ufu8h7
@shenaeSG It’s truly mind boggling how some ppl remain such ignorant,irrational thinkers at this day in age. Kodak makes me sick http://bit.ly/bua0vj

We agree wholeheartedly.
I would take this all with a grain of salt at the moment, seeing as there are very few legit news sources reporting this information. Nonetheless, I know that many of you are furious that Degrassi would be targeted. Sometimes we forget how much hate & ignorance is truly out there. If you want to contact Kodak, you can do so through their website.