Saturday, September 17, 2016

Remembering "Degrassi Junior High" Episode 32 ("He Ain't Heavy...")

It's been nearly a month since I shared any of the favorite "Degrassi" episodes. This week's show is episode #32 of "Degrassi Junior High" AKA "He Ain't Heavy..." The episode made its debut on 12/05/1998 and it introduced viewers to Snake's older brother, Glen.

Here is the summary:
Snake's older brother comes home and reveals that he is gay, which Snake finds difficult to accept. Joey takes a job as a janitor at CRAZ radio in an attempt to get his band discovered.
For the record, we won't be focusing at all on Joey's subplot here. Just the parts dealing with Snake and his brother.

This episode starts off with an AIDS education class. Because you might as well talk about AIDS when you're going to introduce the first gay character to "Degrassi," right? All of the students were told to randomly shake hands with four other students. The end result, Snake got infected with AIDS.

Not quite. Actually, Snake had a card with a letter "A" on it. For AIDS. He "exposed" four other students to the AIDS virus. And, of course, they had each exposed four other students. In other words, pretty much everyone in the classroom had been potentially "exposed" to AIDS. Fortunately, three of the students had cards with the letter "C" on them. For condoms. So they managed to protect themselves.

Don't get me wrong. It's a clever way of highlighting how a disease can spread through a community. But it's still eye-rollingly obvious to place an AIDS message within a coming out message. Then again, it was the 80s and the height of the AIDS epidemic so I get it.

After class, Snake, Shane, BLT and some other guys went off to play basketball, but not before riffing on each other, talking with stereotypical high-pitched, lisps.

Enter Glen Simpson. He is Snake's beloved older brother that we've never met before. He was a star athlete on the school's football and basketball teams. He was also the valedictorian of his high school class. He's now going to med school -- on a scholarship, no less!

He's left med school for a few days to share some important information with his family. Snake immediately jumps to conclusions. Not the correct conclusion, but he's on the right track: "I know -- You're getting married, right?" "No." Snake: "No? Too Bad. Mom can't wait to have grandchildren."

Snake Simpson: Forever twisting the knife of poorly timed observations...

No, Glen has come home to tell his family that he's gay. He has a boyfriend named Greg and their relationship is getting pretty serious. Serious enough that they now live together.

Snake doesn't take the news very well. He freaks out and pretty much ostracizes his brother for the rest of his visit. Much like Caitlin back in Season 1, Snake is fearful that he might be gay if he has a gay brother. Glen assures him that it doesn't work out that way. You're either gay or not.

Things go badly when Glen comes out to his parents. They tell him to leave and that he's no longer their son. He leaves, but not before getting to see Snake one more time. Snake apologizes for his earlier reaction. He asks when Glen is coming back home. "When I'm welcome."

Which apparently never happened. This is the only time that we met Glen Simpson. Snake is the one "Degrassi" character from the 80s who continues to appear on new episodes of the program. We've seen him get married. We've seen him become a father and stepfather. We've seen him battle leukemia. We've seen him struggle with depression. We've seen him wrestle with various challenges at work and at home.

And yet he's never spoken again about his beloved older brother Glen.

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