Or, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Part of Myself that I Probably Shouldn’t Mention Out Loud”
As you’ve probably noticed by now, my life and pop culture are inextricably linked. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I live and breathe the stuff, but it’s certainly part of my everyday experience. It seems sensible, then, that I would associate certain media with specific moments or periods in my life–Rushmore with my freshman year of high school, Damien Rice with a broken relationship in 2005, Coldplay with the war against depression throughout my post-adolescence, et cetera, et cetera. It’s usually media of some depth, with some goal. For Rushmore, it’s minimalism and finding beauty in simplicity. For Damien Rice, it’s about heartbreak and where we go when we find it. And for Coldplay, it’s a reminder that really, truly, no matter what the circumstance, everything’s not lost.
So why, then, is Boy Meets World such an important part of my relationship with pop culture?
On surface level, Boy Meets World is just like any other family friendly sitcom that aired in the mid to late 90s. It’s an extended coming of age story with just enough heart to touch you without making you feel sick. There are laughs, and obligatory lessons, and cute boys and pretty girls to keep the older kids interested. And at the end of the day, there’s a mentor who knows everything, understands everything, and will guide you through everything.
But think about it. Really, really think about it. This show wasn’t so squeaky clean in the end. The Scream parody genuinely horrified me as a junior high school student, and I know it did the same to other kids my age. The episode in which Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel) very nearly have sex before getting married pissed off my parents, though I couldn’t understand why. (I get it now, guys.) Shawn (Rider Strong) clearly endures abuse from multiple parties, Savage’s older brother Fred guest stars as a lecherous professor, and don’t even get me started about the cult episode.
This is going to sound weird, maybe maudlin, even stupid. But the reason I appreciate Boy Meets World now more than ever is simply this: it grew with its audience. When the show began, I was only in elementary school; by the time it drew to a close, I was entering adolescence and scared to death. The show was there, every Friday night, to remind me that any given kid has what it takes to handle being bullied, rejected, ignored, or disrespected. Cory wasn’t suave, Shawn wasn’t stable, Eric wasn’t smart, and Topanga was strange. But somehow, they made it. So why couldn’t I?
This was a show you watched with your parents and siblings, then took to school with you on Monday morning. These were characters you felt you intimately knew. This was a place where you thought you could thrive because they did. The environment was warm, the people were friendly, and the stakes were never too high. Even now, as an adult, re-watching favorite episodes, I know all of this is true. And so does everybody else I know. So why shouldn’t it figure into our collective consciousness, our recollections of our collective adolescence? It does. And it deserves to.