Girl Meets World: Growing up under the watchful eyes of 90s TV
“Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good.” – Mr. Feeny
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in an attempt to avoid all of the political ads saturating the airwaves, you’ve probably seen the TVLine.com article from last week about Disney developing a ‘Boy Meets World’ sequel series cleverly titled ‘Girl Meets World,’ which would star Cory and Topanga’s pre-teen daughter.
If you, like me, were a child growing up in the 90s, you probably have very strong feelings regarding Cory, Shawn, Topanga, Angela, Eric and their always ready with a life lesson teacher/professor/neighbor/life coach Mr. Feeny.
You’ve probably seen every episode, remember Minkus and Mr. Turner just as easily as you can recall your own childhood nemesis/friends and teachers, and have fond memories of the future reality episode in which Eric wrote his manifesto (“Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself.”) and changed his name to Plays With Squirrels.
You, like me, grew up with these characters and equate them with a time in your life in which you had no worries except what you were going to do after school. They taught you how to get through your first breakup, how to deal with grief, how to survive some of life’s hardest moments and that no matter what happens, real friends will always have your back and will expect nothing in return.
A Golden Era
‘Boys Meets World’ premiered during the golden TGIF era of television. There’s really no equivalent in today’s television landscape. TV shows aren’t made like they were in the 90s. Today, shows are all about the high-stakes drama – the sex, the drugs, the rock n’ roll. At the risk of sounding like a 1950s propaganda film, the TV shows of my youth were better because they were wholesome and family oriented.
When I was a pre-teen, aside from that one hour a week when my mother let me (God only knows why) watch ‘Melrose Place’ with her (don’t worry, she and I have since discussed this lapse in judgement), I spent my days
chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool with family-oriented shows like ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,’ ‘Step by Step,’ ‘Full House,’ ‘Family Matters,’ and of course, ‘Boy Meets World.’
All of these shows helped shape me to be the standup, law-abiding, (semi) moral person that I am today. I was influenced by shows that always had happy endings and ended with life lessons. And each and every one of them, while tame – and in some cases, lame – by today’s standards of shock TV, hold a dear place in my heart.
I can still remember the lyrics to the ‘Growing Pains’ theme song and I still reference shows like ‘Kenan and Kel’ (“Who loves orange soda? Kel loves orange soda!”). These shows are childhood memories that remain untainted by adulthood and the harsh reality of the real world. These shows remain unspoiled and unmarked by the grime that is life. They’re the shows of my youth and they should remain that way.
The Dark Ages
A few weeks ago, ‘New Girl’ aired an episode in which Jess made friends with the new, younger neighbors across the hall. She used catchphrases like, “Did I do that?” and “How rude!?”, both from shows that aired and were popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Not one member of the younger group knew the references and thought Jess made them up herself.
While I challenge the practicality of this – they were supposed to be in their early 20s and both ‘Family Matters’ and ‘Full House’ ran well into the mid to late 90s, giving them plenty of time to experience the Winslows and the Tanners – it hit me that children growing up today will experience these shows on programs like Nick at Nite the way I experienced ‘Laverne and Shirley,’ ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and ‘Welcome Back, Kotter.’ And though this realization may have triggered the beginning of my own quarter-life crisis, it also gave me reason to look back on and reflect upon how time has changed the world we live in.
So much of what makes up the current television landscape is useless, unimagined, uninspired dribble. Americans are always trying to remake or adapt movies and TV shows from other countries with little success. Sometimes we strike gold – the first few seasons of ‘The Office,’ for example – but 90 percent of the time we fall flat on our collective faces. Are we really that hard up for fresh ideas that we have to bring back and remake shows and franchises that ended over a decade ago?
Does the world really need another ‘Star Wars’ film? Did we need another ‘Men in Black?’ Have we learned nothing from ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?’ We don’t need to adapt shows, we don’t need to remake movies, we don’t need to continue adding on to franchises that hit the peak of their popularity over 25 years ago. We need people with keen insights on what it means to be a child, a teenager, a mid-twenties gal in the year 2012 to tell new stories about what it means to live now.
A Bright Future
I know that the world is a lot different than it was when I was growing up. The world was safer back then. We didn’t have cell phones. We went home when the street lights came on or when our parents literally screamed out the front door that it was time for dinner. We rode bicycles and built forts. The video games we had were about two pixelated Italian plumbers trying to rescue a princess. We lived in a more wholesome and family-oriented society, and that was reflected in our movies and our television sets.
I accept that we’re living in a different era, a different landscape than we were 20 years ago, but the children of today should be able to look back 20 years from now and remember fondly their own set of memories, their own TV shows separate from the previous generation’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support a new generation of teenagers being introduced to the timeless stories of adolescence through the eyes of Buffy Summers and Pacey Witter. I want them to fall in love with these characters and these shows and be affected and influenced by them the way that I was. I know that so much of what I watched (and read) growing up has shaped and molded me into the person I am today. Who I would be without Rory Gilmore, I’m afraid to ask. But those children and young adults coming of age in today’s world deserve to have their own childhood with memories original to them, not just the half-cooked remains of a show, of an idea, of an era they themselves have no memories of or attachment to.
We had our time. We had our Mr. Feeny. Don’t they deserve their own?
Note: Photo courtesy of ABC.