When ‘Degrassi’ first entered our lives, my friends and I were in high school and spent many a Friday evening gathered around my bestie’s TV as she was the only one with access to that channel. Being teenagers with hormones, we immediately decided who was whose boyfriends and we all wanted Craig. I mean, Craig was IT for anyone who watched back then and yes, he’s cute and the bad boy you just want to fix but alas I didn’t get him. I got Jimmy. However, as the years went on and I stayed on top of watching as everyone else sort of got actual social lives outside of the small screen, I became enamored with James Tiberius Yorke, known to fans simply as J.T.
To me, J.T. represents that cute kid that is always overlooked because they, well, aren’t as developed as the other boys in school. Why crush on the kid when that guy over there has a fucking mustache? It makes me think of the cute kid in sixth grade named Ryan who was kind of just there and never on anyone’s radar. However, Ryan was far from the class clown that J.T. was. Anyone who can make me laugh is a winner in my book, so J.T. had me there, but where he also got me was his relationship with Liberty Van Zandt.
It’s widely known in the ‘Degrassi’ fandom that the Black characters, especially the girls, don’t get a lot of fucking storylines. Liberty and Jimmy are the exceptions to that rule and we could go on and on…and on about how colorism played a huge part in that but I’ll save that for another day. Right now, let’s just focus on J.T. and Liberty’s romance because as a nerdy-ass Black girl, that relationship was fucking crucial to me. It picked up where Shawn and Angela of ‘Boy Meets World’ left off for me, and while neither got a happy ending (writers, what the fuck?) they both meant the world to me as both a mixed kid and as someone who always crushed on someone who looked like Shawn and J.T.
J.T.’s crush and eventual relationship with Liberty gave me a sliver of hope that one day, that could be me. One day, the cute, funny guy would give me a chance. Of course, I wished for a way better ending to my love story than theirs as J.T. was shanked on his way to reconcile with Liberty, with her being the one to find him dead. So I’m a HUGE TV fan. Like, I care about more TV characters than I do people I’m related to. I have cried a hell of a lot more over fictional deaths than I have real ones, but I think J.T.’s death rocked me the most.
I was in college (yes, that’s how cool I was in college…I was watching ‘Degrassi’ on a Friday night), and alone in my dorm (yup, COOL) and knew all season long that one of these damn kids wasn’t going to make it. Never did I imagine it’d be the sweetest of the bunch. I’ll go to my own grave saying it should’ve been Toby because really…who needs Toby around? No one. Alas, J.T. was gone, but never forgotten as I watched up until his death during the first quarantine of 2020, and shit, that death still hurt as much then as it did the first time around. If you haven’t noticed, my favorite ‘Degrassi’ characters don’t always fare well…Jimmy, J.T….
When the ‘Degrassi’ obsession started, Craig was the misunderstood boy we all wanted but as time wore on, J.T.’s humor and love of a girl I saw myself in won me over and made him stand out above the rest.