Essay · Writing

Girl Meets World: An Interesting but Failed Concept

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Twenty years ago ABC Family birthed a cult classic called Boy Meets World. Audience members grew attached to Cory and Shawn’s adventures as the greeted life. 1999 saw the show end after seven seasons dismaying many people but this wasn’t the end of Cory, Shawn, and Topanga. In 2014 Micheal Jacobs pitched an idea to Disney about for a spinoff show: Girl Meets World. It never held a candle to its predecessor. Why did Girl Meets World underperform? The problem isn’t because it’s on Disney Channel, the characters, or generations. Nostalgia’s the reason why Girl Meets World’s invented. Everything wrong with Girl Meets World is summed up with investment.

“But to actually take the children of Cory and Topanga and watch on two levels [as they] grow up and as Cory and Topanga keep growing up, I can’t resist that.” (Entertainment Weekly)

That’s a fine premise but it doesn’t excuse that these writers flattened out favorite characters and didn’t show them grow up. They shoved Cory, Topanga, Shawn, and Eric into the background. They’re no longer the focus, that now being their daughter, but they shouldn’t erase the original characters’ personality. Instead of an equalitarianist Topanga favorited her son and Maya over her own daughter. Topanga would’ve never done that in Boy Meets World she treated everyone the same with few exceptions. Season seven Shawn grew from Broken Bird to secure man, he wouldn’t regress to his broken state in this sequel. Cory wouldn’t channel Mr. Feeney when Cory taught his class, he’d each in his own way. Boy Meets World wasn’t perfect but it knew the basics of character development. I watched the show to see Ryder Strong and Ben Savage not their doppelgangers in Riley and Maya. This show’s problem is that unlike the original, these girls aren’t allowed to make decisions on their own terms. In effect these girls aren’t well-rounded, they’re objects where life happens to them having no autotomy in their situation.

Isadora Smackle and Zay are the race characters of the show, Smackle the girl of Asian descent and Zay the black kid. Smackle’s an autistic genius, Farkle’s rival before they dated, and flirts with other boys whilst dating him. Zay’s there to pair off with Lucas but he has a personality that isn’t mayonnaise. He has a big family he feels lost in, he cherishes his friendships with the group. In different ways he’s resentful toward his ex-girlfriend but manages to forgive her. Farkle receives the least amount of hate of all the protagonists.

Farkle shows consistant growth throughout the show, containing deeper subtleties than Riley and more overt growth than Maya. He’s the catalyst and is a dynamic character allowed to make his own decisions. What do we know about Farkle? He’s a genius, the wealthy son of Minkus and Jennifer of Boy Meets World. He helps Maya in ‘Money’ but wants to do more with the power that money affords him. He’s insecure whether is intellect is enough compared to physicality in ‘Cory and Topanga’ as well as struggle between analyzing his emotions vs feeling them. Farkle is insecure whether or not he’s autistic. He’s selfish in ‘Farkle’s Choice’, condescending in ‘STEM’ and ‘True Maya.’ In ‘Belief’ he’s agnostic but in ‘New Years’ quotes Revelation Scripture. He’s hurt when he discovers his Jewish ancestors’ pain. How does Farkle manage reconciling his scientific with possible theistic beliefs? Farkle outs Riley’s feelings when he sees her despair, by ‘New Years’ he reveals her lie. He betrayed her trust by blackmailing her (Riley outted Maya’s feelings in ‘Texas’ but she didn’t blackmail her friend or plan to do this.) Farkle forced Lucas to decide in ‘Upstate.’ We see that out of all the characters his friends turn to Farkle the most. Farkle tries finds common ground with everyone and usually is the first boy to admit his mistakes. He admits his wrong in ‘STEM,’ asks Smackle permission to hug her, and is the first to apologize to Riley in ‘High School’. He has had all this development but unlike the other protagonists he’s able to use his shortcomings and successes to help other characters. Farkle was bullied and able to use this insight to help Riley and through his undetermined Autism he’s able to accept Smackle. In ‘Christmas Maya’ Farkle gives Zay a type of Dungeons & Dragons game to get to know each other.

Lucas Friar is not a developed character. He has family due to phone conversations with his mother and father (‘Friendship’ and ‘Crazy Hat.’) Pappy Joe is his grandfather but what’s his relationship like them? Maybe Lucas has siblings. He’s theistic in ‘Meets Father’ and ‘Belief’ what’s the extent of his belief? Lucas could be a Wiccan. He’s intelligent, we’ve seen him in class receiving two A’s (‘Meets Father’ and ‘Commonism’). Lucas could’ve cheated avoiding detection. He was held back a grade when he’s expelled possibly because of academics. Is Lucas athletic or like sports? He’s in gym class not doing anything gym related (‘Flaws’). He doesn’t contribute much in his and Riley’s baseball conversation or make the football team while Zay does. (‘New World’ and ‘Permanent Record’) Either Lucas isn’t talented or there wasn’t room for him on the team. Lucas is strong unsure why, “I’m strong as a bull and I don’t know why.” What does Lucas like outside of his friends?

Does he have Lucas have believable flaws?

Lucas struggles with anger issues but nothing supported this. Lucas is aggressive the way teenagers are by getting into fights yet one fight wouldn’t expel him unless the victim was seriously injured. Did Lucas send his victim to the hospital? Overall Lucas doesn’t have anger issues. His friends wouldn’t dismiss this as being protective and his outrages would happen other than at school functions. More importantly Lucas doesn’t struggle this; it isn’t a hindrance. He pushes a bully against a wall and breaks through a window barricade. (‘Flaws’, Rileytown, ‘Secret of Life’) Off screen he kicks a tree in ‘Ski Lodge’ where Zay needs to stop him. He’s immediately calm when an anger addict isn’t capable of this without training. If Lucas wants to move on from his past he has already done so.

Lucas has no story goals or character growth. He wants to be a veterinarian because he helped birth a calf (‘Meets Boy’, ‘Texas’, and ‘Goodbye). He’s with an animal twice: a horse  in ‘Friendship’ and livestock in ‘Texas.’ This is a career goal not a story goal. The girls want to grow up, Smackle wants better emotional understanding. What does Lucas want? Lucas is the only character that never changes. One thing changes about Lucas and that’s the fact he’s not the new boy. If he had anger problems, moving past them would make a good goal to work towards. Lucas is the love interest nothing else.

The parents consider him as their daughters’ suitor and nothing else, Cory chases Lucas out of Riley’s bedroom more than the other boys, Katy and Topanga demand he tell them his choice. Auggie says that Lucas is Riley’s interest not his sister, his friends call him Mr. Perfect only discussing romance with him. Any girl given more than five minutes of screen time develops a crush on him. No one treats him as a regular boy in the show. The reason why I cared that Cory and Topanga were a couple was because they were characters in their own right. Topanga was more than the love interest, she was control, an intellect, a feminist. She grew jealous of Cory and Shawn’s friendship but understood the value of a best friend. Can we say the same thing about Lucas? I feel for Lucas because he need to choose between two great girls but I feel nothing for him as a character.

Fans hate Riley because she’s the fictional version of Yoko Ono standing in the way of their non-canon pairing. The mistress has historical implications, men in Tang and Song China brought let their mistresses live with their families. Fifth century Aspasia became condemned when Pericules divorced his wife for her. Woman are punished for adultery while men don’t face the same consequences. Neither Riley nor Maya are the mistress both stepped back for each other. Riley and Lucas didn’t date until ‘First Date;’ Maya didn’t interfere. When they became an item in ‘Texas’ Riley never interfered either. It’s Lucas that intrudes on the girls’ dates not them. The girls never began a romance without the other’s permission. When Lucas and Riley resume dating Maya didn’t object. Where in the story did either girl cheat?

Riley’s the ability to live her adolescence whereas Maya’s the symbolic latchkey kid having to adult before their time, it’s why we preferred Shawn over Cory. Also, Maya and Shawn received heavier storylines than the primary protagonists. Most adult fans realize that all teenagers are annoying forgiving them for that. I believe the current generation dislikes Riley because they don’t have the luxury of childhood. They’re knowledgeable about the world than my friends and I were. If the 90’s kids grew up knowing the world’s changing this one lives with those consequences in place. Cyberbullying wasn’t an issue for my year like it is now. Adolescent fans gravitated towards Maya for this reason. Since Riley is growing at a slower pace they think she’s stunted forgetting that sometimes slow goings are not inferior to fast ones.

Riley’s the Innocent, sometimes the innocent becomes dependent on others for their well-being where they can become a nuisance. The complaint against their friendship is that they’re co-dependent on each other. This is true but we saw the same thing happen with Cory and Shawn in Boy Meets World. Like those two, Maya and Riley represent a balance, called by the writers an astronaut on a horse. Maya is reality, Riley’s the escapist. The latter gives the former hope that life will turn out well. There’s another dynamic that the younger audience doesn’t see much:

Riley isn’t naïve like the way she’s perceived. Riley is definitely blinded by her immediate surroundings but she was never blind toward expanded issues. Maya’s the opposite: she’s street smart and had to deal with how her small world was so fucked up. Her father left her, her mother works constantly. Later on it’s her who wants to stay stagnant and not go to high school or not discuss their Lucas problems. It’s Riley that wants to understand secularism by continuously asking questions, while it later annoys Maya, Maya never gives her an answer for the first two acts.  It’s Riley who wanted to change Halloween to help children infected with Malaria and Maya who’s so insistent on a protection squad when Riley doesn’t need protection. And at time Maya focusing on the micro and Riley the macro can be good, it helps balance them out.

Maya isn’t disadvantaged as portrayed in the show. Furthermore, Maya was never broken in the show only her family was.

After her identity arc characters kept mentioning that Maya came from a bad place. When Maya’s dissected she isn’t disadvantaged. Maya isn’t poverty-stricken but her father’s absence left her emotionally crippled. Before Shawn came into her life Maya lived a well off lifestyle. Katy Hart’s an actress working as a waitress which alone it can’t afford an apartment that nice if Maya’s room is any indication. Working overtime wouldn’t afford admittance into a good school (‘Christmas Maya’). This income cannot buy Hot Topic or Urban Outfitter clothes. Shawn did struggle his father taught him to ride a bike in a toy store, he wore the same clothes to school occasionally. Maya’s family doesn’t live in a harsh neighborhood, it’s not Hispanic save for two troubled ethic girls (‘True Maya’, ‘Permanent Record’). Shawn lived in a trailer park where we saw its eclectic residents, with his marriage to Katy their family now has a shared income. Maya’s not disadvantaged here except her family doesn’t have as much as the Matthews.

Maya’s emotionally disadvantaged because of her father’s absence. Studies show that when a parent abandons their own it’s detrimental on the child. Children receive less education, promiscuity’s noted, attachment is affected, self-worth and legal issues can happen. Maya says in the Pilot that she has no one to help her with her homework. In ‘World of Terror 3’ Maya doesn’t believe that she deserves good marks in her studies. In ‘Meets Father’ she tells the Matthews that her father started a new family excluding her. In ‘Master Plan’ it’s clear the Maya blames her mother for her father’s abandonment, ‘Forgiveness Project’ shows that Maya blames herself more. Kermit leaving Maya caused her to become distant at times. Maya feels that she’s not good enough to be Riley’s friend in the Pilot. In ‘Money’ she feels inadequate compared to Minkuses’ wealth. We could argue that this is another reason why she spends Christmases with the Matthews; she wants to see a “perfect” family.

Maya doesn’t think anyone will stay in her life after all, “Hope is for suckers.” (‘Hurricane’). In other ways Maya isn’t even crippled in this department. After ‘Forgiveness Project’ she forgets about her father and doesn’t seem to even have any unresolved residue. Shawn struggled with trusting Chet when he returns to his son’s life. Their father-son relationship is only resolved on Chet’s deathbed (‘We’ll Have a Grand Time Then’) affecting him long after Chet’s death. Maya resolves her mother issues quickly which feels unbelievable.

It’s one of the reasons why the identity arc failed Maya never felt like she lost herself. Clothes and improved grades don’t equal an identity crisis. In fact Maya became Riley once in ‘Yearbook’ to bring Riley back, at no other time has she done so. Her rediscovery journey then feels forced because of this. An arc like this would have succeed better with Riley at the center, since the pilot Riley has changed herself throughout the show. Since then Maya’s always been sure of herself often telling Riley that who they are is enough for now. It’s Maya that manages to convince Riley that she is not her parents (‘Cory and Topanga’) when Riley worries she’ll never become successful like them. Riley’s insecurity has led her comparing herself to Maya who has self-confidence for the most part. It’s these insecurities that make me believe the theory that Riley could be depressed.

Maya suffering from Depression would be obvious. With Riley suffering from depression the writers could have had the lesson that depression doesn’t discriminate, someone with a good life isn’t immune from it. Riley wanted to become a cheerleader (‘Brother’ and ‘Rah Rah’). She became Goth and had Harajuku phases, even trying bribery and begging tactics to get a classmate to like her (‘She Doesn’t like Me’). Fan’s perceptions of Riley dumbing herself down could be Riley doing this so she can gain approval of those around her. Riley’s discouraged when she receives a D- in Spanish class proceeding to wear her grade as a scarlet letter (‘Permanent Record’). In ‘Jexica’ and ‘Popular’ her friends tell her that her personas aren’t her. How’s she going to develop her identity if she didn’t experiment? We see her hurt that in that episode even her father (Cory) would reprimand her for that mistake in front of the student body. It hurts her that her goals are dismissed while Maya’s are championed. Riley friends discourage from cheerleading. Though Riley doesn’t have the coordination for this sport; it pains Riley that her friends didn’t believe in her. Topanga treats Maya as a daughter instead of Riley. She calls Maya a warrior and Riley a weirdo in ‘Mr. Squirrels.’

True depression isn’t caused by a single event, but an event can tip the scales into a downward spiral. Fringe fans don’t believe this theory because of the myth that well off people cannot become depressed. Western societies tend to dismiss negative emotions preferring positive ones. “Please don’t cry. There’s someone worse off than you.” The person internalizes similar comments feeling invalidated. They already know that there’s no reason for feeling this way but humans need to reflect on their states to move on. So this person shows the face everyone wants to see, recently this has been called Smiling Depression. When said person can’t internalize anymore those around them don’t believe that they’re genuine. The outside blames the victim for not communicating their needs yet when they previously did so the other person didn’t want to listen. For example, Dylan was responsible for the shooting murders but we cannot forget that loved ones were ignorant to his mental state. The BBC did an excellent mini-documentary on the human side of Depression called Smile where it discusses the feelings a Depressive goes through when stigma is added. Within the confines of the show we see that Riley knows that her feelings, her wants are invalidated compared to Maya’s. In flashbacks we saw Riley holding herself back when she had no need to. When we saw how Farkle met the girls he makes them swear they won’t laugh at his name; Maya laughs yet a smiling Riley doesn’t. “I want to laugh but I promised.” Inferring that from a young age Riley knew/believed her wants and needs didn’t matter. We’ve seen the pressures Riley’s under to maintain her façade of being a happy-go-lucky girl. Her friends—and by extension the audience— expect her to remain simplistic. It makes me feel that not even those around her afford complexity.

Another side to the Depression theory deals with the fact that Riley takes on the role of Caretaker within her group Riley becomes the mother hen. The Caretaker’s goal is to heal others while their fear is that no one will care for them the way that they care for their loved ones. People become annoyed at the Caregiver because their presence can become infringing. Shawn didn’t ask Cory to bring him and Angela back together. Maya didn’t ask Riley to pair Katy with Shawn. Lucas, Maya, and Farkle have all condemned Riley for how she cares for them, she’s “too much.” In ‘Belief’ Maya was tired how Riley would push her spiritual beliefs and questions on Maya. In ‘High School’ Lucas was aggravated because Riley believed he’s get killed on the football team. Though mistaken for letting Lucas ride the bull she learned from that mistake in. Riley didn’t mean Lucas harm by her football comment or her questions in ‘Belief.’ It’s Riley that comforts Farkle in ‘Flaws’ and assures him that he isn’t just his Jewish ancestry. Another problem is that we don’t believe a helper is genuine and instead wants to exploit us. We don’t live in a world where we trust others. We also don’t believe Riley’s caring because she can’t physically protect her beloveds. Maya and Lucas can fight people, Maya threatened Missy in ‘Sneak Attack’ and Lucas offered his services in ‘Rileytown.’ Riley cannot do this so she uses nurturing to protect her friends. The Caretaker’s Shadow is that of a martyr and Riley has succumbed to that. Riley fears that people won’t care for her the way she does for others which has been confirmed. In ‘Bay Window’ Riley assures Maya that none of her friends will leave her yet Riley’s denied this luxury when they leave Riley in high school. Farkle enters the bakery we discover that they blame her for ruining their first day of high school with only Maya comforts Riley at the end of the episode.

There’s also the other side of the depression theory: her physical health was affected as well. When trying out for the cheerleading team in ‘Rah Rah’ Riley says that she’s tired. The first time is due to the athletic strain of the situation, the second time the audience sees a tonal shift. After Maya tells Riley the sign doesn’t mean she made the team Riley’s expression falls. “I’m just tired, Maya” refers to the mental taxing her endeavor had on Riley. Earlier we saw her friends ring bells as reminder that she should quit. We see her parents don’t want their daughter trying out for the team. It’s no wonder she is tired. The second time we see this tiredness is an inference in ‘Rileytown.’ The beginning scene shows Riley feigning illness to avoid school. Maya doesn’t buy this but after the show ran its course the audience can assume that Riley’s selflessness, and worry can lead to her becoming physically sick. Thirdly, Riley’s tiredness comes around in ‘Texas’ where Riley’s lays on Topanga’s lap wondering if she made the right decision with Lucas, Maya, and Charlie. Topanga comforts her by saying she won’t leave her daughter then Riley says she’s tired. In the next scene its morning where Topanga and Riley are unmoved from their position. This show’s us that Riley’s lethargy runs deeper than we suspect. Lastly is the episode ‘High School’ where Riley said she didn’t cry all night the night prior. When Maya says that that’s good Riley continues with “Because I fell asleep before I could.” This line was played for laughs but we learn that this incident wasn’t the only time where Riley cried herself to sleep, there were other times before then. All of this combined make me feel that Riley might be showing the signs of depression.

Maya’s liked more is because she’s already discovered herself she knows who she is and figured out her talents. Maya’s an artist but we don’t see her doing art much in the show. Her ability is shown in ‘Meets Boy’ and we see her in art class a few times. Examples include ‘New Teacher,’ ‘Creativity,’ ‘Triangle.’ Her ability is never mentioned again after ‘Upstate.’ She had a piece in a gallery, a flash forward scene reveals she’ll intern at a gallery (‘Bay Window’). She loves fashion though not as much as Riley. Shawn had multiple interests such as writing, languages, including the made up one called Woman-ese. He loved cross dressing in the episode ‘Chick like Me,’ traveling later becoming a writer for the Rolling Stones magazine. He’s able to use his street smarts to help an abused girl. What do we know about Maya’s interests? What are Maya’s outside interests besides art. Despite these views Maya is less developed than Riley is. Everything with Riley’s character contains more subtlety. Riley’s the only character within the show that the audience sees a myriad of interests outside her friends. This character loves to learn, managing to get straight A’s in school—Riley’s scatterbrained focusing on intuitive knowledge more than a cerebral knowledge. Riley’s philosophic where in ‘Ski Lodge’ she’s contemplating on nature but is dismissed as being a “hopeless romantic.” She’s a theist in ‘Belief’ trying to understand the reasons for secular beliefs. Through ‘Popular’ and ‘Yearbook’ the audience can assume the Riley may love anime and has an appreciation for the Goth aesthetic. In ‘Money’ Riley is shown playing videogames. In ‘1961’ and ‘Creativity’ Riley reads a poem aloud possibly meaning she loves poetry—this could be her talent. Riley is an avid Knicks fan which the audience wouldn’t know if we hadn’t seen her discussion with Lucas.

Most of the fandom hates both Lucas pairings realizing he’s an undeveloped character who can’t be coupled with either girl because of this. We can’t know how he’s really interact with them until he becomes a dynamic character. Lucaya (Lucas/Maya) and Rilucas (Lucas/Riley) are both boring, typical, and forced. Disney has used both types repetitively: any princess with Prince Charming, Meg/Hercules, Never Been Kissed, and Ever After. Lucaya has been used in Star Wars (Hans/Leia), Pride and Prejudice (Elizabeth/Mr. Darcy), Frozen (Anna/Hans).

Another problem is that shipping goggles don’t mean a character is endgame; smoothies, props, and clothes don’t prove anything. If anything the Boot Theory favors Rilucas because she actually kept Lucas’ boot. A poster that says horseman and artist doesn’t mean anything, the poster’s hidden and Maya didn’t ride on with Lucas on the horse. They stare at each other, by that logic Maya and Riley are girlfriends. Lucas called Maya beautiful telling us that they’re physically attractive. Maya knowing Lucas’ name, saying he’s glad he’s her friend isn’t romantic interest, maybe friendship (‘Creativity’). Lucas and Maya’s relationship has grown, no longer feeling the need to banter, but their romance grew because the plot demanded it to.

Lucaya has more screen time but this is film/television production, not proof that the makers had a shipping bias. By the end of any story medium you kill your darlings for a polished product. Both girls were infatuated with Lucas in the Pilot so that theory’s busted and a Tweet where a writer says that people make the wrong choice is a total reach. Said clue would’ve had merit if Lucas made a choice.

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He didn’t choose either of them.

Hell, even his male friends don’t want him to finish the triangle for his own benefit; they tell him to choose for the greater good of their clique. Lucas’ choice does affect them all but he should want to be with a girl because he wants to. And unlike Cory who wasn’t swayed by his Topanga decision Lucas changes his mind whenever someone suggests an alternative girl. It also doesn’t feel conclusive on Lucas’ end because neither girl represent something different for him. Peeta represented hope for Katniss while Gale represented hatred and uncontrolled passion/action. Lauren was “all the girls [Cory] would never date” and Topanga was starting a new life, a real love. Maya isn’t adventure and Riley isn’t a real love. In Upstate Lucas says he loves the girls the same: both are funny, passionate and caring and their daydreams in ‘Ski Lodge’ prove that by being over the top.

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None of the three ever had the autonomy to begin this relationship in the entirety of season one audiences and characters force the girls into and out of a Lucas relationship. Speculation and canon forces them with Lucas in the Pilot continuing past the season finale. Their entire class insist Riley and Lucas to date with Maya pressing Riley to discuss what happened the night before (‘New World’). Conversely their class force Maya and Lucas together in ‘Yearbook’ by voting them class couple when they hadn’t considered this possibility. As the audience Maya’s red herring’s considered truth but it wasn’t Riley who said this revelation. And the scene prior Katy instructs her daughter that portraying a close person is ill-advised since you rarely see the other clearly. Maya doesn’t know Riley’s feelings and can’t know if Riley’s feelings are brotherly or not. Just as Riley isn’t Maya, Riley can’t know if Maya is in love with Lucas. After her declaration Maya’s forced deeper into the conflict further forcing Riley out, then in ‘New Years’ Farkle forces Riley back in. Maya forced herself out in ‘Upstate’ when she tells Lucas he picks Riley after saying that even if he chose Maya he’d still would be choosing Riley.

Both Lucas sides claim X sees Y better if either, they’re wrong, Pretty Boy is a stereotype; no girl accept him and vice versa. Riley sees Mr. Perfect, Maya sees the lie that there is something more to Lucas. Throughout season one he condemns Maya for her active stance and from two through three he condemns Riley for her caring nature. I can make the argument that Farkle correctly sees Lucas because he the one that calls Lucas on his shit the most. Canon tells us they don’t accept him, Maya inquires about it more by asking Zay yet it’s Riley who confronts Lucas about his past instead of using a third party (‘Secret of Life’). At no other point does anyone explicitly mention this again except for Farkle in ‘Riley town.’ Maya doesn’t believe this vocalizing it more so she can see his darker side. Out of all the characters Farkle is the one that has an accurate view about Lucas. However I hate both couples because they’re unhealthy. I’ll focus on Lucaya more, it’s obvious where Rilucas fails but Lucaya’s a better analysis.

Lucaya is solely speculation when canon shows this is only a physical attraction like all the other pairings. Minor details prove nothing; Maya’s teasing and Lucas indulging her banter don’t signify a romance. He makes it clear that he doesn’t like Maya teasing in ‘Mr. Squirrels’, or actively telling her in ‘Ski Lodge.’ In the Pilot Riley and Lucas both admired Lucas with infatuation. Maya asks Lucas out in ‘First Date’ so he’ll ask out Riley, Shawn did the same for Cory and Topanga in Boy Meets World. Lucas doesn’t accept or know what he likes about her. He tells her that she’s come a long way from her past, and tells Katy did she did a good job raising Maya but doesn’t iterate how. (‘Forgiveness Project’). ‘True Maya’ he says “Maya is Maya” but what does that mean to him?

Maya never met his entire family. She and Riley overheard his father’s conversation (‘Friendship’), the clique all met his grandfather (‘Texas’). Maya overheard his mother’s conversation (‘Friendship’) but this doesn’t mean she met his mother only that she found the conversation a bore. Riley defends Maya by confronting Kermit. She pressures Maya for forgiveness more.

These two don’t better each other. Maya’s constantly urging Lucas to break rules and revert back to himself. Attack Farkle bully (‘Flaws’) yet jump on his back to stop him. After following her in ‘Rules’ she dismisses his suggestion by assuming he’s questioning her authority. Maya wants him to lift Riley’s bed (‘Riley town’) and doesn’t understand why he wouldn’t want an adventurous relationship with her (‘Ski Lodge’).

Conclusion: all Maya does is enable him which isn’t healthy. Like all of the couples Lucaya is physically attractive, in fact Lucas calls Maya beautiful twice and doesn’t have a genuine reason for wanting to be with her. The sole reason Maya gives for her Lucas attraction is that he’s a nice boy and can’t even name why she’s crushing on him when Riley asks. Lucas doesn’t know what he admires about Maya, he just likes that Maya teases him.

Lucaya shares this with Rilucas but both Lucas pairing share a worse troubling aspect that Lucas is emotionally and mentally abusive to both girls. Out of the twelve signs of an emotionally abusive relationship Lucas embodies five of them: Verbal abuse, control of his relationships, isolation/stonewalling, jealousy, and becoming physical. What’s the definition of verbal abuse? Said partner using degrading names or comments to belittle their boyfriend/girlfriend. Throughout season one he’s always telling Maya her active stance is too much for him or ignores that her teasing is her way of showing affection (she’s done this with Farkle and Riley before so Lucas should know this by now.) Season two and three he does the same with Riley saying her caring nature is too much for him such her belief of him in Texas, or her concern over his safety when he wants to try out for the football team. Lucas maintains his control in the Maya/Riley relationships mainly by dragging his game out but also by forcing the girls to be as deceptive as he is. After the campfire he wants Maya to keep their incident a secret from Riley, he doesn’t want to hurt Riley, but he’s begging Maya to lie when earlier she tells him she doesn’t want to keep anymore secrets from her. During the game he forces Maya to lie about her feelings when he eats the card and Maya follows suit. Even the way Lucas stares at Riley during her question makes me hate him more. It doesn’t help that he’s always jealous, another sign of abuse.

It also doesn’t help that he’s become physical with Maya. I realize that this is a sitcom, they’re supposed to contain physical comedy, Lucy OBall made her living off of it in I Love Lucy. We’ve seen Lucas force his will on her more. Because Maya and Lucas are unsure of their feelings during the campfire we can’t take this scene as solely romantic. In this exchange Lucas forces Maya to admit why she didn’t want him to ride the bull, Maya says she likes him but this may not mean she’s infatuated with Lucas. Maya will only admit to not wanting to hurt her best friend and his near kiss is to shut her up so she’ll listen. This is not consent and long-term relationships aren’t based on coercion. Let’s imagine that Lucas does have an anger problem, if he rages out he could hurt the girl he’s with. No one, even these characters would deserve that. It gets worse when you consider Maya and Riley’s possible reactions to such a situation. Lucas has the upper hand in body built; he’s taller than both girls, he’s stronger than them. However Maya can physically defend herself to fight back making for an equally abusive relationship. Riley doesn’t have this ability therefore is unable to protect herself from physical attacks. Disney would never go this route but this scenario is plausible. Overall at what point through this entire conflict has he done anything for Riley or Maya?

Lucas doesn’t like and interferes with Riley dating and talking to other boys. He doesn’t like that Charlie or Evan know anything about her. Such as Charlie asking Riley out on a date or knowing her movie snack preferences (‘Texas’, ‘New Years’). Lucas doesn’t like/approve that Riley spent the night talking to Evan. Riley asks if she’s allowed to talk to anyone; Lucas’ response: “Do whatever you want Riley.” Later he says he doesn’t mind and says that “important” ones will be with him. Hell, Josh sees Lucas tell Evan that he doesn’t like him knowing anything. Even for a teenager this doesn’t seem right. 

Throughout season two he chases after Maya more when she’s upset than when Riley’s upset. He leaves Riley an emotional wreck when he leaves her in ‘High School.’ In ‘Bear’ he pays more attention to Maya than his girlfriend Riley. On his date with Maya he ignores her to interrupt Riley’s date making us more sympathetic with Maya kicking him and pouring a smoothie on his head. In their daydreams Lucas easily ignores the girls in their respective fantasies.

But the most telling one is during their New Years’ party where at the end of act two he leaves Maya for Riley, then mid act three ignores Riley for her. Moments before midnight Maya asks if she’s ever said anything nice to him then says she’s glad he’s with tonight. Maya doesn’t say this only to be nice but because she feels the need to achieve some kind of equality with him. (Later on this doesn’t work because he winds up referring to them both as his girlfriends. This could be insinuated as him cheating on them and in ‘Meets Father’ he agrees that his and Maya’s interaction is “a game.”) Just look at the way he reacts to their game in ‘New Years’ for an example.

Fuck, I’m supposed to cheer this guy on when even his classmates call him a creep. No thanks. He’s more of creepy asshole than Charlie. At least Cory took Lauren and Topanga’s feelings into consideration when he told them the truth and he didn’t blame the girl for the kiss since he kissed her back. At least by the end Charlie respects Riley’s feelings that she doesn’t want to date him anymore.

This triangle is overextended without a solution. Farkle outs Riley’s feelings on New Years’ Eve meaning the conflict started in November. Nothing’s mentioned again until graduation five months later. Lucas calls both girls his girlfriends in ‘High School.’ Including summer break this equals eight months. The triangle ends in ‘Ski Lodge’ where it’s either October or November. Adding another three months means a decision’s avoided for a year. Lucas’s triangle lasts thirteen episodes three of them have them try to solve it, ‘Ski Lodge’ arc and ‘New Years.’ Texas and ‘Yearbook’ set the conflict giving us no pay off. ‘Jexica,’ ‘Upstate,’ and ‘Triangle’ have mentions. ‘New Years’ is Farkle taking initiative and ‘Ski Lodge’ ends it. Mr. Feeney’s triangle with the Dean (‘Bee True’) didn’t affect the protagonists or became drawn out.

Plus there’s real tension for Feeney to speed up his affections because if he doesn’t the Dean’s ex-husband will take her back. If Maya sacrificed her love Lucas has no reason to date her because she isn’t fighting for him. There’s no reason to date Riley because fate takes his choice away he negates both when he admits he treasures the intimate moments with both protagonists. Riley never fought for him either except once in ‘Triangle’ and ‘Ski Lodge’. “You’re going to have to fight me for him. I saw him first.” By ‘Ski Lodge’ she’s the first to say that the triangle needs to die. Maya backs down, she doesn’t even say that she’ll fight for him too. The daydreams are the girls imagining a Lucas relationship that doesn’t happen. These scenes played in their minds meaning they never fought for their romance, it didn’t happen. It’s not a triangle when no one side is invested in solving it.

These three never move beyond apathy trying to come across as forlorn and failing. In ‘Legacy’ they discuss that their dynamics will change with the unchosen but they don’t and we never see that. ‘Farkle’s Choice’ handled this conflict better when he needs to decide who he’ll take to an awards ceremony. Farkle had stakes that pressured him with reasons in delaying his decision, he liked having girls fight over him but time’s against him adding further stress. Complicating matters is that Riley and Maya are at odds, pranking, insulting the other, vying for their friend’s attention, something Lucas never saw. Farkle denies the girls as escort because the stakes exist and he realizes his selfishness splinters their friendships apart. Lucas isn’t destroying a friendship; Maya and Riley’s friendship remains intact despite their crushes on him.

If we take out this conflict nothing in the story changes except Lucas and Riley would have reconciled faster. And in the end, Lucas sacrifices nothing at the resolution, keeping his friendship with the rejected girl and gaining a romance with the other. Cory’s romances with Topanga and Lauren felt real because he developed a dynamic with both of them in a ‘Heartbreak Cory.’ Instead of that we get characters who don’t know what they want only wanting this because they’re told to want it. The writers were correct in saying that there was no triangle: no one fought for their relationship with Lucas, no one desired it. Without conflict a catch-22 developed: Lucas had no reason in delaying his decision yet no incentive to be with either girl.

At the arc’s resolution fans felt Maya received the worst end of the deal, Josh defined Maya’s feelings when he had no right to. Although protecting Riley is an interesting concept there weren’t clues for a believable outcome, we can’t forget that Maya and Lucas dalliances. ‘Yearbook’s red herring was all we had as a clue. What gives Josh limited credibility is that he had no stakes here where everyone became too emotionally invested in these three. For the second time in this show Maya tells Lucas to pick Riley, here Maya tells Lucas that he picks Maya later telling him to choose Riley and at each suggestion Lucas looks dumfounded. However limited these two are better off than Riley because Maya and Lucas have the option of remaining friends.

Neither girl is Lucas’ first choice in this conflict yet Riley’s further demoted to second choice since Lucas didn’t date Riley because he wanted to he choose Riley because it’ll make Maya happy. Riley’s forced to accept Lucas as her boyfriend despite the fact that she’s unable to process how she feels that she’s the one while Maya remains un-chosen. Why shouldn’t she be with ski lodge boy, why Lucas? Why couldn’t Lucas be with Maya? What works is Riley and Maya discussing their friendship is more important than a boyfriend. An interesting ending is Lucas denied of both girls? After coming to his own conclusion Maya and Riley say he doesn’t deserve him that he waited too long. They would’ve gotten the role of Subject, not Object and strengthens the message that it’s these friends together and no one comes between them. Here’s what Jacobs eventually said about the pairings after ‘Sixteen’:

“If we listened to fans- and we hear about lucaya and riarkle and rilaya all the time, we see what you say- the story we want to tell would be dissipated.”(Michael Jaccobs)

In terms of shipping I prefer Riarkle (Riley and Farkle) and Joshaya (Josh and Maya). The reason is because there’s equality in these relationships. Canon tells the viewers that Riley and Farkle have a platonic love for each other I’m not disputing that. I wouldn’t hate it if they began dating, like Josh with Maya, Farkle treats Riley as his equal. He’s logical intellect balances out Riley’s intuitiveness, if Riley wanted he can give her the romance she wants. Unlike Lucas Farkle remained honest with her while Lucas was deceptive. Out of all the boys Farkle comforts Riley the most like in ‘Permanent Record’ where Riley gets her first D in school. Plus canon and non-canon support their friendship’s natural growth. This growth is also why I support Josh and Maya’s relationship.

Why are there fans that oppose this pairing? One, they claim that Josh is a pedophile abusing Maya, what they’re really saying is, “I hate this pairing because Maya isn’t with Lucas.” I agree they shouldn’t date now since they’re at different stages in their lives but he’s not abusing Maya. Or if fans don’t argue that point they say that Maya and Josh don’t know each other and have only just met. To that I will agree that we haven’t gotten as many episodes with him the writers said that if Josh’s actor wasn’t in his car accident Josh would have played a prominent role earlier on. Initially Josh had a larger role in the triangle before ‘New Years’ when the motor accident changed their story plans.

Ignoring that point Josh and Maya haven’t just met, they’ve each other for years. Josh isn’t some stranger that came in from the streets, being Riley’s uncle he’s known Maya almost as long as the other Matthews have. He’s more than likely met Maya before explaining the familiarity he shows her during home for the holidays. It also explains the awkwardness he felt at the time for Maya, and he calls her by name when a stranger wouldn’t know it yet. Josh is a stranger to the audience because we haven’t seen him in over ten years. What’s more likely is that ‘Home for the Holidays’ was the first time Maya became infatuated with Josh. Josh should be with his own friends not with these teenagers but he can’t leave his family and has no desire to. As a Matthews as long as Maya remains friends with them Josh and Maya can’t escape each other.

Why do I prefer Josh and Maya together? Fans against them argue that Josh is a pedophile abusing Maya.  We have age of consent laws to protect children from exploitation, sixteen is the average age a minor can consent to sex and rape depends on several factors: the jurisdiction, age proximities – even minors have these – and what is considered a sexual act, anywhere from sexting to intercourse. Josh hasn’t broken any laws, when he’s first introduced Josh hadn’t even graduated high school. Three years isn’t significant by ‘Ski Lodge’ and ‘Goodbye’ Josh comes to realize this.

What if Maya and Josh had sex? This is Disney so sex isn’t an issue, at this age the kids have taken Sex Ed but none of them really understand it. They’ll learn the basics about, birth control and condoms, and receive a vague understanding about STD/STI’s. They won’t know the implications with starting a sexual relationship. Josh will see the different relationships like friends with benefits. Condoms break, birth control fails, whatever happens pregnancy is possible leaving Maya with three options: Abortion, adoption, or raising the child herself. If she decides to raise it Maya and Josh are in this new game for eighteen years, even if they decide to part ways they will never be rid of the other since they have a child together. Also Maya is further denied her adolescence if she becomes pregnant. Teenagers are stupid, Maya and her friends wouldn’t see this possibility so we can assume neither Josh nor Maya want to become parents at their respective ages. How will they handle financial burden of these option? Ignoring this Josh has to consider consent laws for both their sakes. Imagine Katy gave her daughter permission to have consensual sex with Josh, she can backtrack on her word and charge Josh with statutory rape. He faces imprisonment and become labelled as a sex offender but Maya suffers more than just legal issues. If Katy charged Josh there will be divisions between the Harts, Hunters, and Matthews. Should he and Maya continue dating? Will Shawn side with his married family or the Matthews who he’s known since infancy? Should Maya side with her mother or with the Matthews? Will they even want her on their team? Will she and Riley remain friends or retain her other friends? If word was leaked Maya could be slut shamed. Josh has likely foreseen these scenarios and is protecting Maya from these possibilities

Is Josh toying with Maya’s feelings by telling her to wait? No, Zay confronts Josh in ‘Bear’ asking him what his intentions with Maya are. Josh answers that whatever happens is ultimately up to Maya. It’s that scene that made me ship Josh and Maya together: Josh is giving Maya a choice where Lucas never had. We’ve seen a natural growth in their relationship in the eight episodes he’s been in than in her romance with Lucas. Unlike with Lucas, Maya isn’t in love with the idea of a boy she’s falling for the person. Their long game isn’t selfish. Previously Josh said that the two should work on themselves before beginning a relationship. He isn’t stopping Maya from dating other boys just as she’s not stopping him from dating other girls. Riley and Lucas did the same in ‘New World’ neither were ready to date and needed time to process their feelings on the matter. Maya’s feelings haven’t changed that doesn’t mean they won’t, Josh wants Maya confidant about her feelings. When Maya hears that it will be her decision we see her smile that she finally gets a say in a relationship. Maya’s happy Josh isn’t opposed her having friends which initially worried Zay. Multiple times we’ve seen Lucas overly jealous of Maya or Riley interacting with other boys. Josh doesn’t mind this putting him miles ahead of Lucas in that regard. If they date really the only point they’ll have to deal with is if it’s awkward that they saw each other grow up and if the different life stages are still weird for them. Lucas is a year older than both girls since he was a retained a year in school and the Lucas fans don’t care about that. Besides this wasn’t the first Disney Channel show to write an age difference relationship, Ferb from Phineas and Ferb dated Vanessa in the finale movie. There’s a six year age difference between them, though a cartoon we liked them and six years is more significant than three.

In ‘Home for the Holidays’ and ‘Game Night’ Maya’s crush is one-sided with Josh seeing Maya as a child. By ‘Game Night’ we see that he doesn’t seem to mind her flirting like he did before. In ‘Tell-Tale Tot’ when Maya and Riley snuck away to the University Josh starts to see Maya in a new light. She isn’t just his niece’s best friend and realizes that she is perceptive about him. Maya loves how he treats his family, has seen that anxiety over not being successful because he wants Cory to be proud of him. She knows that he wants to stay with his dorm mates but will walk her and Riley home to ensure their safety. Josh does the same in ‘Ski Lodge’ after admitting his feelings for Maya. Instead of ‘Forgiveness Project’ and ‘Creativity’ where Lucas gives Maya vague sweet nothings Josh tells Maya what he likes about her. Despite what she has been though it had given her a “greater capacity to love.” Throughout their conversations here and in ‘Bear’ Josh never let’s go of her hand. I’d rather have this affectionate moment than a near kiss which further put Maya in second place. Josh isn’t ignorant to the fact that Maya’s infatuation may be due to her father’s absence but also acknowledges that may not be the case.

However did Disney hinder Girl Meets World? Yes, in the way that the show can’t tackle the issues Boy Meets World did. Its processor was hosted on Disney but after the show finished its run on ABC Family. That’s how the network got away with showing drinking alcohol or sexual allusions. (‘If You Can’t be With the One You Love’, ‘Prom-ises, Promise’, ‘The Honeymoon’). On Disney the spin off was what Disney needed. Through this show the network allowed the writers to tackle substantial issues like deception in ‘Truth’ and ‘Secret of Life.’ Disney struggled with the films and shows mainly because of changing times and shifting mediums—2d to 3d animation—and weak character motivation, Girl Meets World was a bridge to connect Disney back to its strengths.

Lastly this show failed because it doesn’t know who to market to. Girl Meets World gained inspiration from Boy Meets World but Jacobs himself said he wanted a show that catered to the current generation. Unlike the show Fuller House the characters aged down in this is a next generation story. Us 90s-lings can no longer relate to this show and feel frustration that we don’t see the original characters growing up as well. A shame since adults comprised most of the audience. But since their goal was realized by Disney kids will see the show and the creators’ intended audience—teenagers—might not watch Disney Channel anymore. So now the writers have children who don’t find the show relevant to them and a smaller group of teenagers who’d actually watch the show. Who is Jacobs catering to?

It failed in the nostalgia market due to the writers flattening our beloved characters. It failed to make Disney money with merchandise. Hannah Montana created videogames, clothing, valentines; Girl Meets World generated school supplies. The longer a television/film series continues the more salaries increase to continue making a good product. Film crew need bigger budgets to create an aesthetically pleasing product. Actors shouldn’t be expect—and don’t expect—the same amount in their paychecks. Writers expect more money for their stories. Disney’s a money whore but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to invest in their endeavors. Here’s the irony just as the characters aren’t invested Disney isn’t invested in the show. If Disney can’t be bothered to care why should other companies take on this show?

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2 thoughts on “Girl Meets World: An Interesting but Failed Concept

  1. Good breakdown of what you felt didn’t work. I agree that I don’t think the reboot was all that great, but honestly, reboots rarely are I think, especially this long after the original. I’m not sure if all the reasons you gave are exactly the problem, but I’m sure some of them contributed.

    Like

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