15: The Two Extremes of Orphaned Teens

When it comes to television orphans, you have two extremes: you can be a Joey Potter or a Derek Wheeler. 

Minus the parents*, Joey Potter has a charmed existence. Her mother died of cancer when she was younger and her dad's in jail for being a drug dealing douchebag, but once that's all gotten out of the way, life isn't too bad for Old Jo, because everybody loves you when you're Joey Potter. 

The two main heartthrobs of the show? They both wanna date you!
The guy who cheated on your friend and broke her heart? When he meets you he'll fall head over heads and Lloyd Dobbler outside your window!
You've got girl next door charms? It's a good thing you can also pull out a mean "I Hate Myself for Loving You" rendition! 
Somebody vandalizes your mural? He gets expelled and someone buys you a wall!
Strict creative writing professor who all the other female students crush on? He gives you an A and some lip action!
Get mugged by a drug addict? God can't have that! The mugger gets hit by a car seconds later!
Get attacked in the library? You know martial arts! (Seriously where did that come from? This is not Sherlock Holmes). 
The ridiculous series finale? That blonde bitch who once tried to steal your bff dies, but you have a glorious writing career in New York with the love of your life and there's even a hit television show about you! You're so great, Joey Potter!

The Joey Potter formula entails being the underdog character for about a season so that you seem to deserve all the crazy great stuff that happens for the rest of series (as long as you remember to always tuck your hair behind your ears and do an awkward half smile). 

Considering this is a television show aimed at children/teens as opposed to Oz or the Wire, Derek Wheeler has the saddest, most agonizing plot line ever. I honestly believe that the creators of Degrassi had a bully named Derek and this was their means of revenge. I can't think of any other explanation. 

Get awesome adoptive parents? They die in a car crash!
Traumatized over their death? Practically fail out of school!
Move in with your grandparents? Get kicked out for disobedience!
Try to find your bio dad? A creepy old guy molests you on the way there!
Finally meet up with you dad? He tells you that he doesn't want you around!
Lose all your friends? Yup, pretty much all of them.
Finally have fun at a graduation party? Drunk drive to get some snacks, kill a baby and blind your only friend.
Get out of jail and appear on the New Generation of Degrassi? Only in Canada, the American version edits you out of the episode.

Derek Wheeler: could live get any worse? 

But there is a middle ground. A place between Joey "how come no one at this beauty pageant cares that i'm butchering 'on my own' " Potter and Derek "throw me a goddamn bone" Wheeler? 

A place of Hey Arnold! Where it doesn't matter that you're a football head who lives in a rundown boarding house in the ghetto. It doesn't matter that your parents disappeared in the jungle and your hat doesn't fit your head. It doesn't matter that Lila will never like like you and Helga will make fun of you everyday, because you still manage to be the nicest, most generous and beloved person at P.S. 118 who sees the good in everyone. 

So I guess these are the three paths that can be taken:

1. The Joey Potter also known as "Life Can Only Get Better"
2. The Derek Wheeler a.k.a. "Things Can Only Get Worse"
3. The Arnold a.k.a "Things Won't Change. This Is A Cartoon; You're Always Gonna Be In Grade 4" 

*pun intended!


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