Diversity Aboveground: Girl Meets World and Succeeds

Oct 9, 2015

Rowan Blanchard on Fox 11

Boy Meets World was one of ABC’s most popular TGIF shows from its premiere in 1993 until the very last episode in 2000. Almost 20 years after that first premiere, ABC’s sister channel, Disney,  announced a spin-off, Girl Meets World. While the original series revolved around Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), the new series is about his daughter, Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard). Many questioned whether a series on the Disney Channel would be as humorous, edgy with important social issues, keep the characters real or simply be seen as another 22 minute commercial for their next big thing. The truth discovered by those who watched the new stories is that Girl Meets World may be the most important series currently produced on the channel.

For Girl Meets World, most of the original cast and crew from Boy Meets World returned, including Savage and series creator, Michael Jacobs. Both had involved for every episode of the original series. Cory’s wife, Topanga is again played by Danielle Fishel and 14 other former cast members have also appeared on the new show from time to time. With so many of the original people involved, the feel of the first series has been preserved.

Boy Meets World

Nostalgia often takes the form of beer goggles. The show that you couldn’t live without at age five could be the you can’t possibly stand at 25. Boy Meets World was a show aimed at those the same age as Cory. Since he just started middle school in the first episode, the early humor and situations could be cheesy and a bit pat just like the current seasons of Girl Meets World where Riley is a 7th, then 8th grader. Some of the situations could seem a bit fantastical on the new show but how realistic was it that Cory would have the same teacher in middle school, high school and college or that his little sister, Morgan, disappeared for almost a whole season?

Even in its first season Boy Meets World didn’t shy away from social justice issues. Morgan announces in one episode to her mother, “I don’t like my new dolly, she’s not wearing a pretty dress.” Amy Matthews informs her, “Well, honey, she’s a businesswoman. I mean, this dolly has gone to college, has a good job and doesn’t need Ken to support her.” Later seasons had the first interracial couple in a showed aimed at teenagers.

Shawn and Angela on a date

The new series has also made social issues a priority. from discussing Autism to cultural misappropriation to accepting “no” as a definitive answer. It’s stressed how when something is scary or confusing, then someone should find out more about it before passing judgment on that person or situation. Although the Disney Channel is owned by a large mega-corporation, episodes have also touched on shady business practices and how corporations don’t always make decisions that would be best for that community.

This civic idealism extends behind the scenes as well. Disney Channel has always encouraged its viewers and cast members to give their time and outgrown items to help others. However, Rowan Blanchard has become one of the most outspoken 13 year olds on the internet.

Shawn and Angela

18 years later on Girl Meets World…

“I have made a very big point at making sure my personal feminism includes everyone- and educating myself and discussing these topics have really helped. With as many issues as feminists have succeeded in adopting, many of us seem to have not accepted the fact that police brutality and race issues are our issues, too. The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. While white women are making 78 cents to the dollar, Native American women are making 65 cents, black women are making 64 cents, and Hispanic women are making 54 cents. It is so important to protect trans women and trans youth as they are incredibly at risk when it comes to sexual assault and hate crimes…we are so quick to applaud white women for commenting on race issues/discussions like #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName, but when (a person of color) comments on it- she is told she’s overreacting or being angry. To only acknowledge feminism from a one-sided view when the literal DEFINITION is the equality of the sexes is not feminism at all. We need to be talking about this more. Discussion leads to change.”

The Matthews Family

Blanchard is not just talking either. She’s also mentioned speaking to the writers about new characters and storylines, “I just want our show to cover as many topics as we can because of the position that we’re in. I think it’s important.” Another request she has for their ninth grade year is a gay or lesbian character. Will the Disney Channel have its first LGBTQA teenager?


Some may complain about the crossover gimmicks like Girl Meets World being a part of Monstober but don’t forget the special two-parter where Boy Meets World went to EPCOT.


Cass played by Sophie Stone

Doctor Who is in the midst of a two parter this week. Cass (Sophie Stone) and her crew have a problem with ghosts trying to kill them. It wouldn’t seem that unique except that Cass and her actress happen to be deaf. Cass communicates through British Sign Language and reading lips. Instead of being turned into a minor character or made to be inferior, Cass is portrayed as the smartest of the group and the person that the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) often looks to for bouncing off ideas. She does have an interpreter but he is often more like an extension of her being, like the Ood’s fore-brain.

Stone was the first deaf student to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). This would be like the Yale or Harvard of acting schools. She also co-founded The Deaf and Hearing Ensemble Theater Company.


Samirah al-Abbas

Courtesy of Disney

This week was the release of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. His previous books have included a very diverse cast of different abilities and preferences, including the most widely read homosexual teenager in Young Adult fiction. It led to some big expectations for his newest novel.

While there seem to be possibilities, none of the characters are confirmed as LGBTQA and the main character is yet another male Caucasian, Magnus Chase. However, the other three characters almost make up for it.

Samirah al-Abbas is a Valkyrie and practicing Muslim. Her hijab doubles as an invisibility cloak and she’s promised in an arranged marriage. She also has some other powers inherited from her father being a Norse god.

Blitzen the Dwarf

Courtesy of Disney

Blitzen is a black dwarf of normal height but with a talent for making clothes instead of weapons. This is unusual for a dwarf and he’s suffered from bullying because of it.

Hearthstone is a deaf elf. His “imperfection’ was hated by his parents. His abuse made him take up magic and Blitzen has become a constant companion/interpreter. Yes, it does appear as though those two “got on like a cauldron on fire” as J.K. Rowling described Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. Perhaps future books will confirm it or maybe they are hetero life mates.

Magnus Chase does get brownie points for not having daddy issues and having healing magic. The book does discuss how Norse mythology often makes magic into a taboo feminine trait.


Janet Van Dyne

The Original Wasp

Marvel has changed release dates again. What a surprise, right? Ant-Man and the Wasp will come out in July 2018. Marvel wants everyone to know that the Wasp will be the first heroine with her name in the title of a film, but does it really count when she has to share it?

The film was also an excuse to move Black Panther to February 16, 2018 and Captain Marvel to March 8, 2019.

What’s so special about those dates that Marvel insisted on moving their release schedule around them?

The DuSable Museum of African American History was chartered on February 16, 1961. It’s the oldest surviving museum devoted to African American culture. Of course, the Black Panther is not American but February is also Black History Month in the United States and Canada.

Dude, the '80s!

Monica Rambeau as Captain Marvel

March 8 is International Women’s Day  while March is Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

This way, Marvel will capitalize on the events to market their films. Of course, those months also coincide with almost no competition at the box office but that would mean that all those moves and non-announcements were actually because…Marvel has no faith in these particular projects.

What do you think?

Next week, Black Widow has her first Young Adult book, new Marvel announcements and more!


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