Girl Meets World

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w4NsIfC6mc&feature=player_detailpage#t=1s

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

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One thought on “Girl Meets World

  1. There are many different ways of analysing this show. Your analysis was good, but just be careful when determining the difference between behaviours that are taken for granted such that society treats it as normal, and society rule breaking behaviours.

    Starting with your opening argument, I feel that your analysis would be more successful for conducting a dramatistic analysis. According to Sellnow, a feminist perspective “focuses on the taken for granted as normal roles and rules for men and women in society”(89). When Topanga checks if Cory and her energies converge and when she performs an interpretive dance, are acts of rule breaking behaviour. If Cory, a boy, were to engage in these acts it would still be an act of rule breaking behaviour according to the norms of society. These acts aren’t “taken for granted” behaviours because they aren’t normal everyday behaviours, they are behaviours that break society norms. On the plus side, I agree that the idea of a girl not shaving her legs makes her strange, or even unattractive. This is an act that is taken for granted by men because shaving legs is something only women do in order to please men. It gives the ideas of why should women shave their legs when it is common to see men with beards, or mustaches. It shows inequality because facial hair can be considered sexy, but in no way is hairy legs sexy.

    Your argument for the final scene was your most successful argument because you focused on how the “taken for granted” role of being who you genuinely are is more important than what you look like on the outside. The conclusion of the final scene also had a strong argument. I really liked how you referred a typical chick flick with Topanga making a move on Cory. In society it is expected that men should always make the first move, and that women should wait for men to make the first move. Making the first move is a common thing for men, but not for women. This proves the hegemony that men and women oppress women because, as a woman myself, find it abnormal for a woman to make the first move. These arguments make it evident to a reader/audience that Topanga’s character is an anti-model by showing how she gets made fun of by her classmates and how she challenges society norms by making the first move on Cory.

    Sellnow, Deanna D. “Feminist Perspectives.” The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. 89. Print.

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