Hehehe… I finally figured out a way to both fangirl and teach valuable writing lessons about one of my all-time favorite binge-worthy TV shows. That’s right, today I’ll be tackling the lessons I’ve learned about storytelling from the hit 90s show, Boy Meets World.
Lesson 1: How to Write Long-Term Relationships
Every 90s kid knows that Cory and ‘Pangers are goals, but how did the writers of Boy Meets World achieve crafting a couple that derived from such unrealistic circumstances and making it not only believable to viewers, but made them believe a relationship like that was attainable?
Insta-Love from Childhood Doesn’t Equal A Perfect Relationship
Y’all, even though Cory and Topanga are “goals”, their relationship isn’t perfect. I can think of two or three times when they ran into issues and temporarily broke up. Anyone remember Lauren from the ski lodge? Prime example.
After watching the entire series a few times through, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason Cory and Topanga made for such a “perfect” couple was that they embodied characteristics of what makes a couple a perfect team: Patience. Healthy compromise. Apologizing when needed. And, most importantly, a willingness to fight for their relationship.
One of my favorite quotes from the series is:
Shawn to Cory: You okay?–Boy Meets World | Episode “Starry night”, 1998
Cory: Yeah, sure. It’s an interesting feeling though.
Shawn: What, to know it’s over?
Cory: To be the only one in the world who knows it’s not.
Y’ALL. I’m all up in my feelings every time I watch that episode.
This one scene sums up as to why Cory and Topanga are so appealing to the show’s audience. Young adult viewers who watch the show are so used to a society with a 50% divorce rate that they’re looking for tangible proof that love can still be worth fighting for for the long term. The ups, downs, and “’til death do us part” mindset of Cory and Topanga’s relationship more than satisfy this craving.
Society, please take note of this. We need less abusive, manipulative relationships in media and more relationships where both sides of the couple work at serving one another to the best of their ability.
Even if the couple you’re writing didn’t meet in Kindergarten like these two lovebirds, the same rules can apply.
Lesson 2: How to Write a Mentor Figure
Fe-he-hee-nay! AKA the BEST teacher figure ever portrayed in media. Well, at least in my opinion.
So, what makes Mr. George Feeny a stand-out mentor in media, and how can we craft mentor figures of equal caliber?
Write Adult Authority Figures Who Aren’t Stupid
I’m looking at you, modern Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. With the exception of the mom and dad from Good Luck Charlie, it’s safe to say that most adults (mostly parents) are portrayed as moronic in television shows aimed at young adults. Need I mention Timmy Turner’s parents in The Fairly Odd Parents? *Facepalm*
A fact you may not have heard before is that when William Daniels was asked to play Mr. Feeny, he initially hesitated about playing a teacher, penning in his memoir:
…I told him [Michael Jacobs] I didn’t want to play a high school teacher who’s made to look foolish for the sake of some cheap laughs.William Daniels, from There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others, 2017
I’m not sure how Jacobs, Boy Meets World‘s creator, intended to portray teachers before Daniels’ interjection, but I wholeheartedly believe Daniels’ stubborn stance greatly influenced the creation of Mr. Feeny’s legacy at John Adams High and beyond.
The reason why George Feeny is such an iconic character is that, like I mentioned in the example about relationships, he was written to show young viewers why receiving an education matters, beyond just the curriculum taught in John Adams High. Every episode where Mr. Feeny was featured, Cory, his brother Eric, or their friends learned valuable life lessons from Mr. Feeny, even after they graduated from John Adams and enrolled at Pennbrook University.
Adult characters should not just be written in to cause conflict with the younger characters, but to guide, aid, and encourage the generations beneath them.
Lesson 3: Why Secondary Characters’ Character Arcs Matter
My fiance, Josh, and I are currently making our way through Boy Meets World on Disney+, and one thing I’ve told him over and over is that Cory is often the most least interesting character. Not to say that Cory is a boring character, but compared to other characters, his character ARC is much milder than others. Hence, and this is just my opinion here, is why the show is called Boy Meets World.
The show is delivered through Cory’s perspective of meeting the world, so it often feels to me (and maybe other viewers) that the “world” (aka the people around him) is much more vivid than Cory himself. I’ve thought about it a lot, and two of the biggest influencers in Cory’s “world” are his best friend, Shawn, and his older brother, Eric. Each of these character arcs help weave in vital themes into the overall story arc of Boy Meets World.
Themes Contrived Through Secondary Characters
Even though Shawn Hunter isn’t my favorite character in the show, I’ll admit that his character arc is the most well-written. Shawn is a character that comes from a broken, poverty-stricken home, who was raised by irresponsible parents, and often self-sabotages because he feels he can’t escape the “societal trap” he was born into. Shawn experiences a menagerie of highs and lows throughout the series, and often guided by Cory and Mr. Feeny, eventually finds his own path in the world where he can thrive.
The writers of Boy Meets World tapped into a specific need within its target audience with the creation and character arc of Shawn Hunter. How many kids did you go to school with that remind you of Shawn? Heck, maybe you grew up in a similar way. Just as Cory was written as an average kid that comes from a stable, middle-class household, Shawn was written as the antithesis, becoming the relatable character for viewers who come from similar circumstances. As viewers begin to see themselves in Shawn, they in turn are influenced by the way he navigates the highs and lows of growing up “in the trailer park” and are hopefully inspired by the way he learns to beat the societal odds of his situation and make something of himself.
Eric is by far my favorite character, mostly due to the fact that he’s hilarious. Nevertheless, Eric also has a compelling character arc that I’m sure high school and college-age kids can relate to.
Eric is the certified goofball of the series, often portrayed as dimwitted and naive. However, throughout the series, Eric runs into many situations that force him to grow up and make responsible decisions, such as when he wanted to date a young woman with a child, or decided that he couldn’t adopt Tommy (an orphaned boy). Eric also faces the harsh realities of the real world when he goes straight into the workforce after high school and learns that he could pursue more opportunities for himself if he goes to college. He then begins to slowly but surely grow up and take responsibility for his future, a lesson kids in the show’s target audience need to learn.
This, my friend, is the entire purpose of a character arc: To demonstrate to readers an issue that can be overcome by the willingness to change one’s circumstances and power on to reach their desired goal.
Boy Meets World has taught me the following about storytelling:
- Lesson 1: How to Write Long-Term Relationships
- Lesson 2: How to Write a Mentor Figure
- Lesson 3: Why Secondary Characters’ Character Arcs Matter
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
Are you a fan of Boy Meets World? What other lessons has the show taught you about storytelling? Let me know in the comments!
Oh, and before you leave,
My next book is releasing on October 24th, and ARC Team sign-ups are open until September 30th! Apply for the team by pressing the button below and filling out the form! ❤
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.