Sunday, July 1, 2012

Girl Meets World

If you haven't noticed on your own, then let me tell you something that you should know...

Re-runs of one of the best shows of the late 20th century have been airing on television pretty regularly for a while now. I didn't know until I got back from summer, but now I can't seem to get myself to watch anything else. You may be thinking Friends, and admittedly that show has been syndicated quite a bit lately, but that's not what I'm talking about. Today I'm writing about a show I can't remember ever not watching. It colored my weekday evenings all through elementary school and to this day I can't help but loving every minute of it - even if I do know the episodes all too well.

You knew what it would be because of the title.
That show is Boy Meets World.

Let me reveal a silly little secret to you: I had a crush on one of the characters.

Sometimes I find it funny discussing this show with my friends because there's such a disconnect on what we took away from it. Some of my friends thought Shawn was cute (I admit I do think so now, but as a little kid I was indifferent). Others thought Jack (Shawn's brother) was the best looking guy on the show (again, I agree. But he was way too old for the littler me).

So I've intrigued you, haven't I? I've taken some of the cutest male characters out of the running.

That's because I liked Cory. And not because he was particularly drop dead handsome (that's a phrase, right?), but because I grew up seeing myself with someone like him. I wanted to be the Topanga Lawrence to some boy's Cory Matthews.

That's the thing. I've grown up with this show. Not exactly in the way I grew up with Harry Potter, watching the characters age at the same rate as me. Because let's face it, the Boy Meets World cast was around my sister's age, 12 years older than me or more.

But when I started watching the show, I began with the earliest episodes, when Cory, Topanga and Shawn were only a few years older than I was.

Every late afternoon, once school was done and I'd come home to wait for my mom to come home from work, I always waited for her arrival with this show. I'd watch these fictional transitions from childhood to adulthood pass before my eyes as I grew up along with them.

And I've continued to watch until now. Now I'm the same age as the oldest versions of the Boy Meets World characters.

I may not have any passionate crushes on the characters now, but I still have such a love affair with this show because to this day, it's the only live action program I associate with my childhood and my near-adulthood.

Boy Meets World is a different kind of show because it lasted so long and traced such an integral moment in its main characters' lives. Shows like Full House or Friends, or anything on TV actually, don't latch onto an incredible moment of transition in the same way that this show did. It's the time from late childhood to teenagehood. It's when we change the mosts.

I think that's why this show has stood the test of time, not just in me, but in my collective generation. My two previous examples have gone from primetime to being lost to returning to television on TV Land. But Boy Meets World went from primetime to the Disney Channel to being lost (temporarily, and never forgotten) to returning to heavy syndication all over the boob tube.

Right now you can see the show on MTV2 and ABC Family (and probably elsewhere, though I'm not sure where). It's managed to latch onto an audience that stays with it not simply because they grew up with it, but because it's a show that changed along with its audience. It constantly strove to match us.

When I liked Cory, I was a silly little girl hoping to find true love as soon as possible. I had my sister, who found her now-husband when she was 13 years old, to look up to. It was hard not to have unrealistic expectations.

But Boy Meets World helped me grow up in the same way the characters did on the show. I went from a ridiculous crush, to a fascination with all of the relationships on the show. And finally to a point of seeing myself in the characters now that I've gone through all the transitions they did in their seven year run.

Yet it's hard for me to look at it objectively. Now that I'm nearing 20, I see those characters as my equals, but I still can't prevent myself from identifying with their 13 or 14 year old selves. They seem ageless to me because for so long I watched them and compared myself to them. An 8 year old to a bunch of 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 year olds.

But regardless of how I relate to these characters, the real greatness in Boy Meets World is that it can be so timeless even though the show itself is such an exercise in tracing time. We are hyperaware that it's a show about these kids growing up, but it's also a show about how things never seem to change, and even when they do it all comes full circle and back to a state of relatability.

So that's why I love Boy Meets World. And why every day at 6 am I still wake up and watch the same characters that I did 10 years ago. And why I don't think I will ever stop.

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