Entertainment Meets Education in "Boy Meets World"

Author : Callum Hart
Publish Date : 2021-04-24


Entertainment Meets Education in "Boy Meets World"

Anyone currently between the ages of 18 and 30 probably watched at least some of the family-oriented sitcom Boy Meets World, which aired from 1993 to 2000, while they were growing up. The show's core cast and brilliantly evolving writing do a fantastic job of creating a funny, heartwarming, and memorable show... not about childhood, but about becoming an adult. This is not the sugar-coated idyllic American family feel-good show it seems to be at first glance; there is a certain philosophical depth to it that is wholly reminiscent of real life.

The first season starts out very mild. We are introduced to 11-year-old best friends Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), as well as Cory's family. His parents, Alan (William Russ) and Amy (Betsy Randle), are good, hardworking middle class people with a nice house in the suburbs and three hearty home-cooked meals on the table everyday. The kind of family every underprivileged child wishes he could have. Cory's older brother Eric (Will Friedle) is portrayed as the typical not-so-smart, girl-obsessed teenage boy. He can be selfish and arrogant, but once in a while we see a glimpse of how much he cares for his younger brother and the rest of his family. Though, like most teenagers, he would never openly admit it. At this point, Cory and Shawn represent the average kid who just wants to skim through life without a care in the world. Their classmates, the nerdy know-it-all Minkus (Lee Norris) and free-spirited flower child Topanga (Danielle Fishel), often find themselves in conflict with the friends over their vastly different views on life and growing up. Oddly enough, perhaps the most lovable character is the Matthews' next door neighbor, Mr. Feeny (William Daniels), who is also the class's sixth grade teacher. Though most of Cory's lessons at this stage are learned from his parents, Feeny also acts as a guiding hand when Cory is faced with a conflict too daunting for a child.

The second season moves the kids from their secure elementary school life into a terrifying new environment wrought with unknown dangers: high school. The first episode showcases what everyone now past their teenage years learned the hard way; no matter how much you think you know about what's to come, you can never plan for every eventuality. Life is full of unknowns. So it comes as no surprise when Cory's seemingly well-thought-out plan to befriend the most powerful bully in the school ends with him facing a beating. Thankfully, he is saved by his young, unorthodox English teacher, Mr. Turner (Anthony Tyler Quinn). High school brings the group - minus Minkus, who is no longer their classmate - new hurdles to jump to attain newfound priorities: popularity, girls, a place for themselves in their new school.

True to real life, we see Cory start to drift away from his parents, with his teachers now becoming the greater influence on his development. But now the lessons are not always so clear-cut as they were in the past. Mr. Turner is very much a free spirit whose philosophies are influenced by his youthful, idealistic way of thinking. He frequently expresses his faith that his students - particularly Cory and Shawn, whom he quickly takes interest in - will come to understand his lessons and the greater meaning behind them in their own ways if left to their own devices. This often puts him in conflict with Mr. Feeny, now the high school principal, and his rugged traditionalism. The two start off on cautiously professional terms, with their conflicting ideologies dividing them. But soon we see them growing closer as the students naturally find the middle ground that can exist between them, with the two often placing friendly wagers on whose method of teaching will prevail in the students' actions.

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The second season finale is a good-sized step toward the more serious issues to be addressed in the coming seasons. Shawn, now becoming more aware of his branding as "trailer trash" and developing a belief that his upbringing has predetermined his life's direction, suddenly finds himself without a home when his mother runs off (taking their trailer with her) and his father goes chasing after her, leaving his 13-year-old son in the hands of the Matthews family. This arrangement does not last long, as the family's more disciplined home begins to feel constricting to Shawn, who likens himself to a stray dog and runs away to find his own place. Mr. Turner, who it has been suggested had a similarly difficult upbringing, takes Shawn in and becomes more of a father figure to him, initially meeting much resistance from the young man's bitter and cavalier attitude.

Shawn remains in Mr. Turner's care for the majority of the third season, with his life somewhat stabilized by Turner's support and Cory's unconditional friendship. We see Cory growing up at an even faster rate than before, as he often finds himself trying to mediate the conflicts of others as well as tackling his own. Topanga, now Cory's devoted girlfriend, provides her own set of views on difficult situations. Perhaps the greatest challenge in this season is surprisingly faced by Eric, who has been little more than a shallow joke of a character up until this point. As a senior in high school, Eric is finally realizing the potential consequences of his carefree attitude toward education. He sees everyone around him, including his closest friends, excitedly moving toward the next chapters in their lives, while he is left behind. He makes a valiant effort to turn things around so that he may attend college, but learns that his change of heart has come too late as he receives rejection after rejection. To temporarily escape from the fallout of this disappointment, Eric embarks on a summer-long cross-country road trip, bringing Cory along with him.

The trip succeeds in bonding the two, but the return to real life is a difficult move for Eric. The start of season four leaves both him and his father unemployed, as Alan has decided to find a more satisfying career after decades as a grocer. After a short but troubled time, a tip from Mr. Feeny leads the family to purchase an outdoor sporting goods store from an elderly man who wants to keep the store a family-owned business after his retirement. Alan and Eric pursue the venture as partners, giving Eric his first true glimpse into the adult world. Shawn has been reunited with his parents, and the three try to rebuild their family. Though the newfound bond between them benefits Shawn, his troubled upbringing still haunts him. He finds himself drawn toward dangerous groups: gangs, the mob, and even a cult that prays on teenagers who have lost their sense of self. Shawn's faith, both in himself and in a higher power, gradually begins to reestablish itself when Mr. Turner's life is threatened after a serious motorcycle accident.

We really start to see just how big a heart of gold Cory has when it begins to get him in trouble. Cory's well-intentioned efforts to help others result in more serious consequences. He hurts Topanga by neglecting her sweet sixteen party to help the former school bully, Frankie (Ethan Suplee), bond with his father. And he learns the hard way that some problems are too big for a teenager when he uncovers a dangerous secret- Shawn has been sheltering a classmate from her abusive father, and asks Cory to house her after his parents return from out of town. She appears on Cory's doorstep having been badly beaten, and, despite her wish for them not to get too involved, they decide to place her on a bus to her aunt's house where they believe she will be safe. Cory's parents soon find out, and are wise enough to convince the boys of the need for the four of them to go to the police. Soon after, however, Cory and Shawn show that they have started to develop their own sense of morality after their parents' social differences prevent the families from sharing a simple Thanksgiving dinner. For the first time, we see a deep fault in Cory's parents: their narrow-minded judgments of the different classes. While the "children" put all differences aside and share a happy meal, the adults shamefully ask to join them so that they may learn from their example. By the end of season four, the students begin to pull away from their teachers in much the same way they did from their parents in earlier years. Now, as they begin the last legs of their journey into adulthood, they have become more self-reliant in their decision making, drawing on their own life experiences to make responsible - and sometimes not so responsible - choices.

Season five is a significant growing year, following Cory, Shawn, and Topanga through their senior year of high school and Eric, who has finally taken responsibility for his future after several eye-opening experiences, as he begins his first year of college at Pennbrook University. Shawn has a turbulent reunion with his half-brother, Jack (Matthew Lawrence), who is also attending Pennbrook, and the two of them (plus Eric) move into an apartment together at the insistence of their father. Though Jack's more privileged upbringing on behalf of his step-father and their previous lack of a relationship makes Shawn resentful of him, he gradually learns to let go of those feelings and allow a true - if sometimes strained - bond to develop between them. Shawn also pursues his first and only serious relationship, with a classmate named Angela (Trina McGee-Davis). Several characters deal with some very crucial issues; the topic of sex is seriously addressed for the first time, and Cory is forced to learn a hard lesson about the far-reaching consequences of his poor choices regarding underage drinking.

Meanwhile, Cory and Topanga go through the longest and most dramatic of their many breakups during the course of the series, and grow stronger for it, eventually resulting in her proposing to him during their graduation ceremony. Cory's answer, revealed in the season six premiere, initially causes a great deal of conflict between the couple and their family and friends, most of whom believe they are too young to get married. They decide to elope, but realize that rushing into a marriage in response to the feelings of others would be irresponsible and probably lead to more than a few regrets, and decide to remain engaged until they are ready to make such a serious commitment.

Cory and Shawn become roommates in their college dorm, and Angela and Topanga do the same. Jack and Eric invite a tall and stunning redhead named Rachel (Maitland Ward) to move in with them after they witness her break up with her boyfriend. Though this sometimes makes for an awkward arrangement, particularly when Jack and Eric compete for her attention, Rachel quickly joins the tight group of friends. In addition to the usual difficulties of adjusting to life as college students, the friends go through several trying times. Shawn's final attempt to build a strong



Category :education

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