Throughout their adolescence, teenagers have been caught in a flood of brainwashing through television shows that have a common theme. An example of such a show is Nickelodeon's hit teenage drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. This television show concentrates all of the excitement and emotions of four years of high school into a 30 minute segment that is aired once a week. One of the main focuses of Degrassi is the social identity of the teenage girl, and how she is portrayed in high school. This is exemplified in the episode "Rock This Town." Overall, the "Rock This Town" episode of the hit series Degrassi enforces the already existing stereotype of the average teenage girl to be one who is overly emotional, shallow, lacking self-sufficiency, and socially inferior.
Hegemony is defined as: “the power or dominance that one social group holds over others” and “a method for gaining and maintaining power.” (Lull, 61) Women are usually portrayed to be inferior and frail, this hegemonic ideal is clearly apparent in “Rock This Town”. At the start of the episode, one of the girls, Manny notices her friend Liberty is dispirited. Analytically, one can assume this reaction could be to a number of situations; for example, a failed exam or problems at home. However, Manny assumes it is because Liberty lacks the stereotypical perfect boyfriend in her life. This enforces the idea that women are nothing without a male counterpart in their life; that socially, its acceptable and expected that women are to be depressed without such a vital component of their social life. The gender dominance is clear in this situation, and the teenage society in the television show encourages the hegemony between men and women.
Liberty’s depression can realistically be attributed to her love life, regardless of Manny’s assumption. The fact is, that Liberty was recently dumped by her boyfriend, and still has not acclimated to the social dynamic that being single creates. Liberty embodies the character trope of the “Weeper who wonders, when she’s dumped, ‘What’s so wrong with me that someone cannot love me?’” (Pozner, 98) Manny’s instinctual solution to Liberty’s depression is to prove to her that she can gain male attraction. Note this is a physical attraction and not a deeper meaningful attraction followed by love. The relationships between males and females in this television show are stereotypically
So far, Liberty has been portrayed in this one specific episode as weepy and frail, specifically because she is lacking a relationship to keep her strong. Manny then decides that Liberty needs a makeover to win over Damien, the boy Manny has picked out for her friend. This situation insinuates that Liberty is not naturally beautiful enough to ensnare herself a male suitor, and that Manny must adorn her friend with makeup and a new dress to catch the eye of a guy who is clearly not interested in Liberty. This enforces the idea that women must change themselves to appeal to men, and then be put on a pedestal to look pretty and be perfect. The matchup between Liberty and the male suitor is based solely on appearance, there is no mention of love or chemistry between the two. This brings up the fact that men necessarily do not need to have feelings for the girl they are pursuing or pursued by.
To further enforce the stereotype that chemistry is not necessary in a budding relationship, Damien clearly is attracted to Manny rather than Liberty. This has no relevance, however, in the setup between Liberty and Damien, and does not phase Manny at all. Liberty feels the lack of spark and lets herself be roped into the never-ending cycle of love hate between her and her ex. Now this is a familiar trend viewed in similar teenage dramas. However, the counter-hegemonic idea is that her ex-boyfriend prefers the comfort of his past relationship to the excitement and spontaneity of his current courtship. This goes against the concept this episode has been fueling so far, that women have to be beautiful and dressed to the nines to gain male attention. However, this occurrence proves that personality can be just as sexy as a low cut dress. This introduces a bit of confusion for the identity of women in the television show, but mirrors society in general.
In conclusion, this episode has revealed that regardless of the idealized hegemony between males and females, that society does not necessarily follow the norms. Single women are viewed as fragile and decrepit, and are encouraged to force about any sort of relationship, regardless of the consequences. But towards the end of the episode, in a sort of twist for drama, the characters counter the clichéd concept of gender roles and character tropes and act more realistically.
Dines, Gail, Jean McMahon Humez, and James Lull. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. Print.
Pozner, Jennifer L. "The Unreal World." Learning Gender. By Amy Kesselman, Lily D. McNair, and Nancy Schniedewind. 4th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2006. 96-99. Print.