Boy meets world is a television series that features Cory Matthews, a young boy in sixth grade and his struggles of growing up. The series also stars Cory’s two best friends, Shawn and Topanga. In season one – episode four, Cory must work on a group project with a partner that is assigned to him, thus Topanga is introduced. Topanga is portrayed as the atypical girl, “weird” in the eyes of the other students. She typically goes against the norms of society, doing what she feels is right and not what society tells her she should do, however this leads her classmates to make fun of her and call her names. Moreover, she is a dominating female, often telling Cory what to do and taking the lead. This represents an occluded preferred reading because although Topanga is bending the stereotypical feminine behaviours, her actions are seen as unwanted and abnormal, therefore making her an anti-model.
In the first scene (2:30 – 3:15) Topanga and Cory are named partners and Topanga checks to see if their energies converge. Cory’s reaction to ask to switch partners reveals to the audience that Topanga’s actions are not the norm and one should not strive to be like her. This sets the background for the second scene (8:40 – 9:35), where Cory and Topanga are working on the project. Topanga performs an interpretive dance as a suggestion for their presentation. Cory is not willing to do this in front of his classmates because he think they will make fun of him, further solidifying the ideology of Topanga’s weirdness. Cory goes on to say “You’re gonna be one of those girls who doesn’t shave her legs, aren’t you?” This statement represents the idea that a girl must look presentable, which means shaving their legs and if a girl does not adhere to this idea, she is strange. Topanga’s response of “I haven’t decided yet,” proves that she does not go along with the norms of society.
In the final scene (19:54 – 21), Topanga and Cory are in the school hallway and Topanga is about to kiss Cory. As a sixth grade boy, he is reluctant, yet Topanga points out that it would be interesting if his first kiss was when he thought he looked “weird.” This notion represents the idea that people should not like you when you are weird looking and that it is looks that matter more than personality. Topanga furthers her thoughts by saying “it’s not what you look like on the outside that matters, it’s what kind of person you are.” In today’s society with plastic surgery and the media so readily available, people are always striving to look their best, her statement goes against the norm of looks being the dominant method of judging a person. Furthermore, the scene concluded by Topanga pushing Cory up against a locker and kissing him. This is rarely seen in a typical chick flick or romance movie, because it is usually the women who want the men to make the first move. Topanga’s dominance over Cory is stereotypically seen as unwanted because a woman is supposed to be submissive to the man and allow him to take the lead.
The messages in this episode of Boy Meets World reveal an occluded preferred reading because the ideologies of feminism are hidden behind the negative reactions to Topanga’s behaviour. The audience is taught that Topanga is an anti-model, and to strive to be like her is to be abnormal. While most young girls are interested in fitting in, looking pretty and boys chasing them, whereas Topanga is only interested in being herself. The idea of being yourself is also seen as atypical because one should do all they can to fit the dominant hegemony.
Cory’s Alternative Friends. Boy Meets World. ABC. 15 Oct. 1993. Television