A decade ago, when I was a tween, I was a massive fan of the Teletoon series 6Teen. It was funny, the characters were diverse, not only in ethnicity, but also in personality, and it took place in a mall—which was once a cool place to hang out with your friends.
The show focused on six mall rat teenagers, set in a crossbreed of the Eaton Centre and the West Edmonton Mall. The show’s storylines hardly ever left the mall—the regular dramas of breakups and friend fights were weaved between the teens’ efforts to keep their jobs and not get in trouble with Ron, the mall’s rent-a-cop.
The creators of the show gave you _Breakfast Club_-like archetypes of the teens you might have met in a Canadian mall in 2004. Nikki the goth, the bisexual of our dreams; Jude the local stoner; Jonesy the jock who wears beach-fashion all year; Wyatt the woke musician; Caitlin the ditsy fashionista; and Jen the athletic “mom” of the group.
Now, I haven’t watched an episode since I was in middle school, but I admit I was intrigued by the years of rumours that the show might make a comeback.
Megan Fahlenblock, the voice actor of Jen tweeted back in May that a reunion episode was in the works. It was later confirmed by the creators and the fandom got excited. What was left to explore? What was going to happen with Nikki and Jonesy’s relationship? Did anyone mature and get a real job? Is Ron still alive?
And now that I’ve watched the new eight-minute episode, which aired online and on Teletoon at Night, I have to say: it was not at all what I was expecting. Spoilers to come, obviously.
So, first off, our characters, now 18, are only two years older than they were 14 years ago, although the new episode took place in 2018. Our young millennials are now gen-Zers.
The episode titled “Vote, Dude” features all the original cast and begins as usual, with some of our friends loitering by their lemonade stand. But about 15 seconds into the episode, we get an unexpected political twist, and instead of a new episode, we get a public service announcement.
And strangely, our show about Canadian teenagers, pivots to American politics.
The teens, now slightly older and hardly wiser are torn when the topic of the American midterm election comes up. They eventually come to the conclusion they should all vote, even if they don’t agree on the politics.
As a fan, this is obviously confusing, because the characters in the show are supposed to be Canadian. I was convinced I misunderstood the entire premise of the show as a kid—did the original show take place in Minnesota? But in another “twist,” their conversation is interrupted by Darth Mall, the manager at Stereo Shack, who reminds them that Canadians can’t vote in the US election. Embarrassed, they have a good laugh because they got “pretty caught up that for a minute.” The episode ends.
Personally, I didn’t mind the American spin, because I got the funny-ish reunion episode I was waiting for. Canadian politics just aren’t as interesting as American politics and despite some of the big issues we are facing in Canada, we aren’t exactly in full-time crisis mode like they are in the States.
The grown up characters and their voting beliefs are on point with their personality. Jonesy is totally the type to wear a MAGA hat without understanding what it means. Wyatt is devastated that anyone would chose not to vote. Even their language has grown. They say “pussy” and “bitch” which would never have happened while it first aired but made them sounds more like teens today. Watching Jude emerge from a smoke-filled lemonade stand warmed a part of my heart I had forgotten about.
“We went into our pockets and paid crew, cast, studio times, and we wrote it ourselves, the writers wrote with us, and then our post studio came on for free, and Corus Entertainment helped find all the old digital archives and at an expense to them came on board,” said Tom McGillis, an executive producer and creator for the show along with his partner Jennifer Pertsch.
He said he was expecting backlash from going political, but that it was important to the creators to do something from their “little perch in Canada” to help influence young Americans to vote in the upcoming midterms—the show had a large American viewership back in the day, and now that age groups needs to vote.
“When I was 18 or 19 I took a pass on our federal election in Canada, and it wasn’t until one of my friends took me aside and said ‘fuck! What is wrong with you? You sit around and whine all the time and then you don’t vote? Not OK,’” said McGillis. “Just go and vote, we don’t care who you vote for, just start voting.”
Despite internet accusations of creating propaganda or using a well-loved cartoon to advance some sort of Canadian political agenda, most people on the internet are amped that the reunion happened and it’s gotten people interested in rewatching the show. So the Canadian network Teletoon Retro is starting to air old episodes with the launch of the reunion.
And whatever feels you might get from watching the PSA, there are still plenty of reasons to watch (or re-watch) the resurgence of the show on TV. 6Teen was ahead of its time with its focus on diversity, low key LGBTQ plots, and imperfections in growing up.
6Teen was always politically charged and always had a message, whether you caught it or not when you were younger. I’m glad they did the reunion, because it’s bringing a wholesome show back into the spotlight. Our generation’s cable TV shows have pretty much disappeared once streaming services were born, but you’re missing out on re-discovering adult jokes as a real adult. The show is still relatable and woke enough to not embarrass its previous audience and I think it’ll find some new fans from a new generation.
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