The Premature Nostalgia Behind Girl Meets World

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June 17 2013 4:16 PM

The Premature Nostalgia Behind Girl Meets World

boy meets world
Ben Savage and Rider Strong in Boy Meets World

Photo by ©Lions Gate Home Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Ever since plans were announced to make a spinoff of the ’90s TV staple Boy Meets World, a large number of young adults have eagerly anticipated the latest attempt to feed their premature nostalgia. The original show—which premiered in 1993 on ABC’s once-successful programming block T.G.I.F. and ran for seven seasons—followed Cory Matthews (and his family, friends, and teachers) from his awkward middle school years right through college.

Aisha Harris Aisha Harris

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

Almost 15 years after the main characters said goodbye, Cory and his middle school sweetheart-turned-wife, Topanga, have a daughter, according to the powers-that-don’t-wish-to-leave-the-show-be. That daughter is at the center of the series’ new incarnation, appropriately titled Girl Meets World. And after months of updates regarding the premise and the casting—including a recent reunion for several of the original cast members—Disney officially picked up the series. It’s set to air sometime in 2014.

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I was squarely in the target age-range for Boy Meets World by the time the series hit its stride—and by now I have probably seen every episode at least three times. So I wasn’t surprised to see all the ecstatic reactions to Girl Meets World news in my Facebook newsfeed. Of course we all want to see what happened to Cory, Topanga, Eric, and Mr. Feeny. Or so the thinking goes.

But I find the whole thing a little depressing. People of my generation revel in our “glorious” pre-teen years as if we’re now active members of the AARP. Just search “90s kids” on Google, and marvel at the websites and videos encouraging people between the ages of 20 and 27 to lose themselves in the cultural landscape of just a few years ago. I’ll admit to succumbing to such fodder from time to time, wistfully recalling the hallmarks of my youth (my first “pet,” a Tamagotchi; the camp-themed classic, Salute Your Shorts). But then I realize the sad absurdity of obsessing about the good ol’ days while still in my 20s. And actively rooting for the spin-off of a show that first premiered 20 years ago is where I draw the line.

I loved Boy Meets World while growing up, and have even caught myself sitting through a few reruns in the last few years when I’ve stumbled upon it on TV. Thanks to a charming cast of characters, including Cory’s best friend Shawn Hunter and Mr. Feeny—the lovable sage who guides his favorite students through the ups and downs of their lives in and out of the classroom—the early episodes still hold up as one of the better offerings of T.G.I.F. in the ’90s. Yes, it was occasionally sappy; there was always a lesson to be learned; and some of the characters (most notably Eric, Cory’s older brother) became cartoonish to the point of irritating buffoonery. But Cory, played by Ben Savage (the younger brother of another kid actor who had his own successful coming-of-age series), was the heart of the show, with a sweet charm he maintained for several seasons.

But the final few years, when the crew went off to college, were strained at best, with Cory and Topanga marrying and turning domestic—and, sadly, kind of boring. By the end of Boy Meets World, the show was well past its expiration date, never recapturing the fresh spark that existed in the earlier seasons. This probably doesn’t matter to the creators: Girl Meets World already has an advantage for the Disney Channel due to its built-in audience of young parents no doubt eager to introduce a show they loved to a new generation of kids who surely have no idea who Cory or Topanga are.

For what it’s worth, Rider Strong, who played Shawn, also seems resistant to falling back into the past; he will not be a regular on the new show. (Though there’s a chance he’ll make a few guest appearances.) And while I admire the choice to capture a female perspective this time around, I don’t think I’ll want to see Cory and Topanga as parents 20 years later, either. Let today’s kids have their own shows. It’s long past time to move on.

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