For this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, I have decided to cover my favorite character from my favorite teen show growing up, Degrassi: The Next Generation. As I have been rewatching some of the show lately and that has inspired me to discuss Manny Santos! She was a main character in the series from its inception through the eighth season, with a subsequent appearance for the tv movie that wrapped up season ten. In the beginning, she was the sweet and adorable bubbly best friend of Emma Nelson. This leads to her being seen often in the very beginning, as Emma is the truly Next Generation of the title, being the daughter of one of the characters of the original Degrassi series is the next generation of the direct plot!
Manny has one of the most iconic makeovers in season three, where she decides that she is sick of being cute and wants to instead be hot. This makeover changes her life in ways that she could never have foretold. It is this makeover that begins to get boys in school to see her as a girl they want to date, rather than simply as a sweet girl. Her first date with Craig in the previous season went poorly because he thought she was too young, and this makeover certainly changed his view of her. It would lead to their relationship rekindling when Craig and Ashley broke up. Ultimately, Craig would get right back together with Ashley, but his connection with Manny is not severed. This comes to a head in the iconic Christmas special episode, where Manny wanted him to choose, and he picked her but could not break up with Ashley. He ends the episode alone when the girls figure out that he had been lying to both of them. This is also the event that begins the school believing that Manny is a slut, I hate that word but it is often used when speaking of Manny.
Later, she would find out she was pregnant in the epic and controversial episode “Accidents Will Happen.” Due to the subject matter and that Manny decided to have an abortion, after considering keeping the baby with Craig, the episode was banned for years in the US. I actually had to find a way to read the script and then watch the episode online, because I could not wait for The N (the American network that aired the show) to come around to airing it! I think the episode gives an honest portrayal of what it would be like to be in ninth grade finding out that you were pregnant and struggling with a decision. Ultimately, Manny made a decision that she felt was right for herself, and as a young girl, it was one many would likely make in her position.
Later on, she would have several relationships. JT would be her boyfriend in late season three and early season four. She would date Spinner in season four after his split with Paige. These were short-term relationships that do not become the focal point of her character, as at this point she is more focused on her friendships. She is a great friend to Emma, Darcy, and Liberty in many ways, even if they are not as good to her. Emma routinely argues with and judges Manny harshly, even though they always make up. Darcy is highly judgmental of Manny due to her sexual history and Darcy’s religious nature. Even Liberty can join in judging Manny but is much more understanding when she herself is pregnant with JT’s child, ultimately giving the baby up for adoption.
Manny is there for Emma through her relationship struggles and her issues with her parents time and again. Manny even moved in with Emma and her parents after getting kicked out by her parents for the incident with Peter filming her flashing the camera! He preyed on her insecurity and Emma initially was angry with Manny before forgiving her. This was also a point when we see Manny making plans for her future, having gotten the acting bug after starring in a Kevin Smith movie! It is also around this time that we see Manny and Craig finally get back together. Their relationship is actually quite good this time around, up until his issues with cocaine become apparent. That is what leads to their final breakup.
Manny finds her ultimate relationship with Jay Hogart of all people. While this begins as surprising, when they got together for real (not just to shock her parents as it began) they are shown to be a well-matched couple! By the end of Manny’s story arc on the series, we see her pursuing her acting career and making great strides while also being in a healthy relationship with Jay, which is all that we could have wanted for her! I feel that most fans have always rooted for Manny, just as I did, so it is great to see her end up in a healthy relationship and pursuing her career goals!
I hope you have enjoyed this discussion with Manny Santos. Were you a Degrassi fan? Did you love or hate Manny? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Manny. I found the image on https://degrassi.fandom.com/wiki/Manny_Santos.
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- Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001)