In reference to the Pop Culture series I am currently working on, I couldn’t help myself and just had to write something about Boy Meets World. I watched the series from its inception in 1993 to its end in 2000. Yes, I was 4 years old when the series started, but I do have an older sister and I wanted to do everything she was doing, including watching her TV shows. She and I differ greatly on most things but I am thankful we both agreed on this—it was much better than watching Days of Our Lives, I can tell you that. Did Hope ever get her memory back???
The ABC sitcom which aired on the TGIF lineup during it’s original run is remembered by its relatable characters, situations and lessons that all preteens-college students experience, the focus on family: by blood or by friendships, and the way we all wished we had had a teacher like Mr. Feeny.
Even in the earlier seasons when the main character, Cory Matthews, is a middle schooler and entering a world where he’s not quite a child yet not quite an adult, the show gets real. It brings up issues that we still struggle with today: bullying, social status, and racial discrimination. These themes are carried over into the later seasons in high school and college as well as adding the pressures that these age groups also face: alcohol abuse, sexual expectations and pressures, death of family members, depression, etc. The show was also full of truly touching moments that you knew you’d have to keep some Kleenex near by. Feeny’s Goodbye STILL makes me tear up.
I won’t list every episode of the series but I will point out a few that really touched on some serious issues that aren’t really talked about in current Disney channel shows like they used to be. Links to the episodes listed will be provided if available.
- “Chick Like Me”, Season 4/ Episode 15, air date: January 31, 1997; this episode found Shawn going undercover for the school newspaper, dressed as Veronica, to cover sexual assault in high school.
- “Teacher’s Bet”, Season 1/ Episode 8, air date: November 19, 1993; this episode deals with how racism is still an issue even today. Cory uses the references of past events, citing The Diary of Anne Frank, and the closer to home experience that Eric’s current girlfriend, Linda, faced for being different.
- “Cult Fiction”, Season 4/ Episode 21, air date: April 25, 1997; this episode revolves around Shawn joining a cult to find a version of family, something that he really never had. Along with the warnings of how impressionable kids like Shawn are to things like that, this episode also focuses on Cory’s love for Shawn and how no matter what Cory, his family, and Mr. Turner have always been there for him. The scenes at the hospital will definitely make you cry.
I could go on and on, but the show really connected with its viewers because of its reality. All of us were or knew someone like Cory, Shawn, Topanga, Eric, Angela, Mr. Feeny, or any other cast member. This was the TV family you’d want to join if you ran away in the 90s (eat your heart out, Brady Bunch.)
The show wasn’t groundbreaking in its set up, it followed a standard formula much like, and ironically enough, The Wonder Years–for those out there that have lived under a rock, The Wonder Years starred Fred Savage as Kevin; Fred is the older brother of Ben Savage who starred as Cory in Boy Meets World. However, both shows remind us of what it is like to be a kid, to have friends, to grow up, and to fall in love.
Despite the seriousness of the issues it covered, the show also had elements of fun and slapstick humor. Eric, played by Will Friedle, was the driving force behind much of the hilarity. Cory and Shawn had their singular and combined moments as well, but Eric really sold the goofy older brother schtick. This however never sat well with me. In the earlier seasons Eric was the kind of older brother I always dreamt that I had had. He cared about Cory and had depth to his role whereas in the later seasons, Eric was morphed into a bumbling, goofy, Feeny-dependent idiot. (**Please note that I AM NOT hating on the Eric-Feeny relationship. Both Matthews brothers turned to their teacher and neighbor for sound, grandfatherly advice, and the Eric-Feeny duo made for compelling and silly television. I’m just saying that the writers made it seem like Eric couldn’t really hack it without Feeny around. Remember when Feeny “retired” to Jackson Hole and Eric followed him???) Yes, there were moments in the later seasons where they allowed Eric to show TRUE emotion–the episode arch with Tommy are a little heart-wrenching–but for the most part his character stayed stagnant.
Cory and Shawn were the best friends you revered, or at least I did growing up with few real friends. Their friendship was genuine: they laughed together, they fought and rekindled, they had each other’s backs, they were the brothers they got to choose, and I’d like to believe even in real life that Ben and Rider are actually the same way. I envy their bond. Like I said, I had very few friends that I could really count on. Cory and Shawn had a dynamic that I desperately wanted and still do! I found the Cory to my Topanga in James, but I’m still searching for my Shawn…
Cory and Topanga. HOW COULD ANYONE FORGET?! They were the couple that gave so many of us completely unrealistic expectations for a relationship, but we couldn’t help watch them fall in love; we cried when Topanga left; our hearts shattered when they broke up, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when they got married. Topanga Lawrence was only supposed to be a bit role on the show but audiences and test groups found her so enigmatic they decided to keep her around as Cory’s “girl next door” love interest. They went through the growing pains that all young couples do and went through some peer pressure moments as well. The episode that revolves around Prom Night sticks out particularly to me. The expectations of what happens after prom was wrestled by both teenagers about how they felt, not wanting to let the other down. Ultimately they chose to wait until they were both ready which reminded young viewers that rushing into things just because “everyone else was doing it” isn’t always the best choice and waiting can make things even more special. I mean, c’mon, who could forget Cory and Topanga’s honeymoooOOOn?!
What Boy Meets World taught me has stuck with me. I might not have followed it to the letter. I probably forgot it altogether at some points in my life, but it was always there in the back of my mind, like The Feeny Call being on loop at a low volume. As I get older and become more nostalgic, even though I’m only 27, I look back to this show and realize it did have a LASTING IMPACT on me. Wondering down the road that we call life, is what we’re doing. It’s good to know that I have friends who will stand by me.
With that said, I ask you to comment with your favourite moments, your favourite character and why, or just as a sign that I’m not the only one out there.