One of the biggest events in TV this year was
Boy Meets World was a show aimed at pre-teens and teenagers. Because it fell on the cleaner side (not quite Saved by the Bell but far from The O.C. or Beverly Hills, 90210), people underestimated how smart it could be in addressing real issues facing teenagers today. The characters of Boy Meets World faced their first loves and heartbreaks. They struggled to find their identity and place in the world, and along the way, they learned some pretty important lessons. Read on for six times that Boy Meets World was truly wise.
1. Even if a couple is meant to be together, sometimes they need to break up and spend time apart so they can become independent and strong on their own.
From the beginning of Boy Meets World, it is clear that Cory and Topanga are meant to be together. The show breaks them up on several occasions, though, only to be brought back together. In “The Grass is Always Greener,” Cory and Topanga are comfortable in their relationship, but they are young and are still finding themselves. Cory decides to tag along with Shawn to a party at another high school where, rumor has it, there is a hot French girl. Cory is mistaken for Shawn Hunter, and because of Shawn’s reputation, Cory starts getting a lot of attention from other girls at the party.
Cory: No, Shawn, it’s not just the girls. It’s the way I’m feeling tonight. Not knowing what’s gonna happen from moment to moment. It is so exciting. Thanks for letting me be you, buddy.
Shawn: You’re not being me, you’re being you.
Cory: Yeah, but everyone here thinks I’m Shawn Hunter.
Shawn: Sure, but you’re not doing anything Cory Matthews wouldn’t.
Cory: Well, whoever I am is having a pretty good time.
As it turns out, the rumored hot French girl is actually Topanga in a beret. Topanga and Cory confront each other about pretending to be other people, and they realize that they did it because they are in such a rut in their relationship.
Cory: You know, when you and I started going out, everything was so exciting for me, you know? I mean, like, every day was something different.
Topanga: There’s just no mystery anymore.
Cory: Yeah. And I see Eric and Shawn going on their dates, you know, so psyched, wondering what’s gonna happen.
Topanga: We’ve forgotten what that feels like.
Cory: Yeah. And then, you know, I ask myself how I feel about you, and I feel like I still care about you as much as I always have. You know, and that’ll never change.
Topanga: We are breaking up, aren’t we?
Cory: No! No. We’re not. We’re never gonna break up.
Topanga: Cory, maybe the people who end up hating each other are the people who waited too long to break up.
Cory: So are you saying you want to break up with me?
Topanga: I’m saying I wanna keep caring about you as much as I care about you now.
Cory: Then we should break up right away so we can still stay great friends.
Topanga: Which we’ve always been.
Cory: Yeah. Yeah, and that’ll never change, right?
2. Sexual assault is about power, and victim blaming is misguided and wrong.
In “Everybody Loves Stuart,” a popular teacher named Stuart hits on Topanga, and when she says she is uncomfortable and wants him to leave, he tells her that isn’t what she really wants. The only reason why Stuart stops is because Cory walks in. After Topanga tells Cory what happened, Cory confronts Stuart at the student union and punches him. The dean of the university holds a hearing to determine if Cory will be kicked out of school, and Stuart blames the situation on Topanga.
Mr. Feeny: How did you know what dormitory Topanga was in?
Stuart: She told me. She told me she lived in the McKay dorms. She offered it to me unprompted. Isn’t that right, Topanga?
Topanga: Yes, that’s true, but that wasn’t-
Stuart: Thank you.
Mr. Feeny: Did you really think it was proper I mean, I’m talking about simple, human propriety to be in a young female student’s bedroom?
Stuart: A dorm room. Also serves as a living room or a TV room or a study. It was not a bedroom when I was in there.
Mr. Feeny: Stuart, do you believe as a college professor that it’s okay to be alone in a dorm room with a young female student?
Stuart: The door was open. I even asked her roommate to stay. In fact, it was Topanga who shooed Angela away, isn’t that right, Topanga?
Topanga: She was on her way to the student union. I didn’t feel-
Stuart: Thank you.
When Cory explains why he hit Stuart, he specifically talks about the power dynamic and how Stuart abused that and then lorded his power as a teacher over Cory.
Cory: He made a move on Topanga. On my fiancé. He used his power and authority to take advantage of her, and he told me that there was nothing I could do and that he was never gonna stop. So I did something. I mean, I realize, Dean, that this wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to do, but it was all I could come up with at the time.
3. Nostalgia is fun, but you don’t want to live in the past.
In “I Was a Teenage Spy,” Cory accidentally gets sent back to the 1950s, and he learns that the 1950s wasn’t really a simpler time. There are atomic bomb drills, not to mention the fear of Russian spies and staggering inequality for women in the home and workplace. Shortly after arriving in the past, Cory is ready to get back home to present day.
Cory: You know, I don’t understand it here. Where I’m from, we’re not so worried about bombs and satellites and Russian spies. I mean, there are problems, sure, but most of the people get along. It’s pretty good where I’m from. I mean, better than I thought. Now, all I want to do is go back.
4. Just because someone is a blood relation doesn’t mean they are family. There is the home you are born into and then there is the family that you choose.
This is a recurring lesson with Shawn Hunter, who comes from a broken home. His mother ran off soon after he was born, and his father is in and out of his life sporadically during the course of the show. He lives with Cory’s family, then his teacher Mr. Turner, then his father again, and then his half-brother Jack. When his father dies, he struggles with not having a family like Cory, and in “Family Trees,” Cory’s parents tell Shawn that they want to adopt him. Shawn ultimately declines the offer, but he affirms that the Matthews are like parents to him, a family he chooses.
Shawn: There is one thing you can do for me, though.
Alan: Name it.
Shawn: Yell at me like you yell at Cory and Eric.
Alan: Is that what you want?
Shawn: That’s what I want, really give it to me. Not afraid.
5. Hold onto your individuality and don’t trade it for a sense of belonging.
In “Cult Fiction,” Shawn ends up joining a cult called the Centre out of a desperation for a home and somewhere to belong. The more time he spends at the Centre, the more he depends on the others from the Centre, particularly its leader Mr. Mack. During an intervention, Mr. Feeny and Cory’s parents beg Shawn to see how he is losing his identity and that the acceptance he receives at the Centre is shallow and superficial.
Feeny: Shawn, these aren’t beliefs. This is just a way to escape a life that doesn’t have beliefs.
Shawn: That’s a judgment.
Feeny: You’re damn right it is!
Shawn: What’s wrong with me trying to find something to believe in?
Feeny: Shawn, I’m all for your search for spirituality, okay? But you don’t seem to realize that Mr. Mack is conducting his own search. For lost souls that he can influence and manipulate.
Shawn: He said you’d say that.
Feeny: Yes, I’m sure he has given you a thought for every occasion.
No one can get through to him until Shawn discovers Mr. Turner has been in an accident and goes to visit him at the hospital. Seeing Mr. Turner in that state is so upsetting that he turns to leave, but Cory doesn’t let him.
Shawn: Cory, let me go!
Cory: (Gives Shawn a hug and doesn’t let go) Shawn! This is a hug, okay!? This is a hug! And this is when you hug somebody, when you care about them. And when you want them to know that. Now you cannot leave here, do you hear me? Turner took care of you, he loves you and you love him. Is that real? Or are Mr. Mack and the Centre real? You decide, but you cannot go. We can go.
6. You don’t have to have sex on prom night. In fact, you shouldn’t feel pressured to have sex at all until you are ready.
In “Prom-ises, Prom-ises,” Cory talks to Topanga about the possibility of having sex for the first time on prom night. They both decide together that they will leave it open to how they feel that night.
Cory Matthews: Okay, so after the prom, romance in the air, you and Angela, you’re gonna look in each other’s eyes, and…
Shawn Hunter: Me and Angela? I don’t know. Maybe. What do you think, we sat down and discussed it? How dorky do you think we are? What about you and Topanga?
Cory Matthews: We sat down and discussed it.
Topanga eventually asks Cory to get them a hotel room, but when it comes time to do it, nothing really goes as planned. Instead of going through with it because it’s prom and their friends expect it, they decide to go back to the prom together and wait to have sex until the time is right.