And now, Scary-Crayon presents...
Boy Meets World and the greatness of Trini
by: Wes

Regular readers of Scary-Crayon will note that -- at least compared to our earlier days and even earlier this year -- there's been a relative shortage of content on the site lately. There are a lot of reasons for that, many of which will be discussed in future articles, but one of them has to do with my rediscovery of "Boy Meets World". I remember really enjoying the show as a kid and even through high school, only to abruptly stop "Boy Meets World", pre-suck erawatching during my freshman year of college. Until very recently, I had no idea how the series ended. I also had no idea how much the show started to suck somewhere around the midpoint of the third season. And another thing of which I had no idea -- or rather, never fully realized until reacquainting myself with "Boy Meets World"? Just how passively one can watch television.

See, elsewhere on the site, most notably in my profanity-laden screed against J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, I've pointed out that books are not intrinsically more intellectually gratifying than other media. Yes, books require readers to actively turn their pages -- as opposed to simply staring at pictures and listening to sounds that progress on their own -- but this does not mean that the content of books is necessarily more stimulating than visual media. Page-turning is not a challenging activity. Personally, I find such selections as Waking Life, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and even Madballs: Gross Jokes to be more thought-provoking than the first Potter book, and in fact I get a great deal out of most of the television programs I watch. If a program is shallow, moronic, or otherwise insulting to my intelligence, I turn it off, condemn it in a scathing commentary piece, or -- at the very least -- openly voice my displeasure with the show and in so doing remind myself of what really makes a show good. Yes, I sat through seasons six and seven of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" out of fan loyalty, but I make no excuses for them: they were bloody awful. I watched "Birds of Prey" in its entirety, and while I did ultimately find it sort of endearing, it was a terrible show. But I watched these in later years, when I had become an active television viewer.

Apparently this wasn't always the case with me, because I don't ever recall questioning "Boy Meets World" back in the day. Even now, I have to grant that the show was excellent when it started out. The title was actually appropriate, as the show not only depicted young Cory Matthews dealing with the kinds of problems that kids really do face, but also included analogous issues that the older characters had to confront. The episodes were also wonderfully organized. For example, one show began with Cory and his friends discussing which superhero they would want to be their father, whereupon Cory selected Superman. The episode went on to show Cory getting a small gig painting shutters for Mr. Feeny in order to buy a hardcore watergun and participate in the block water war. But when Cory accidentally ended up ruining the paint job on the Matthews' fence and was barred from attending the war until he repainted the fence, his father ultimately stepped in to fix it so that he could go play with his friends -- prompting Cory to reflect upon all of the sacrifices that his dad made in order to support their family and allow him to maintain a happy childhood. In a strong contender for the feel-good TV moment of 1993, Cory concluded that his dad is Superman.

A classic "Boy Meets World" clip.

Other noteworthy episodes focused on Cory's budding relationship with Topanga Lawrence. Her entire character would later be retconned into an outwardly "perfect" and comparatively uninteresting overachiever, but she started out as a hippie pariah who stuck to a vegetarian diet, practiced interpretive dance, and called her parents by their first names. These initial shows with hippie Topanga -- or, in the second and third seasons, a slightly less freakish but still mostly average Topanga -- were neat because they showed the development of a mutual friendship and attraction between two people who came from largely different social circles. As you see in the clip to the left, it was cute. Very cute.

Or at least it was at first, because I'm almost certain that the show jumped the shark when Cory and Topanga officially got together. When they became an item, the show went from being "Boy Meets World" to "Boy Runs Around in Circles in Ridiculous Zany TV Sitcom Suburb". Rather than having only recently become friends, Cory and Topanga's relationship -- which was largely representative of all of the growth that the characters had experienced thus far -- was retconned such that they had practically proposed to each other from the womb. As noted, Topanga suddenly mutated from a sincere oddball into an annoying cross between Kelly Kapowski and Jessie Spano. Save Shawn and Eric, the latter of whom inexplicably went batshit crazy shortly thereafter, other characters' exploits were marginalized so that the writers could focus on placing Cory and Topanga in wacky husband/wife type scenarios even though they were still in high school. Depending upon the episode and the writers' whims, Shawn's personality pingponged between cool, together dude and deeply troubled, desperate individual who pines for love and seeks acceptance from underground cults. Remember how we discussed passive and active viewing earlier? This is the kind of stuff that only a passive viewer could tolerate without comment. Only Feeny more or less retained his original personality, and his presence there didn't even make sense because nobody has the same teacher from kindergarten through college.

My philosophy classes were never like this.

And while we're talking about Feeny, there's no way an active viewer could fail to realize that George Feeny is a terrible teacher. He devotes his attention almost exclusively to Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric, and yet despite his best efforts they remain goofy, ridiculous idiots -- not that it matters in the zany land of make-believe, where undergraduate philosophy classes consist of a bunch of name-dropping and pretentious bullshitting and in-your-face professorial bullying. (Seriously, is this what people think philosophy courses entail? Let me know in the blog.) I've included this particular clip more because of its relevance (or lack thereof) to me and because it illustrates the kind of wackiness that sapped "Boy Meets World" of all sincerity in the later seasons, but note the grade that Shawn receives on his paper: an F. Later, when Feeny asks to read it, he notes that it consists of one single sentence -- which means that, even though he's taught Shawn for at least the past six years, Feeny has failed to imbue his pupil with knowledge of basic punctuation rules. (It's also possible that the "single sentence" reference is intended to be a philosophy in-joke -- I admittedly wouldn't know, since most of my reading was in translation and I imagine that a translator would insert periods where appropriate -- but somehow this clip makes me doubt that the episode's writers have set foot anywhere near a philosophy class.)

Meet Trini!

But in keeping with the title of the article, we're also here to talk about another significant failing of "Boy Meets World": not enough Trini. Who the hell is Trini, you ask? It's the same question an active viewer would have voiced upon watching the first episode of the third season. In the episode, entitled "My Best Friend's Girl", Cory had finally decided to ask Topanga to be his girlfriend -- but after he failed to do so on several embarrassing occasions, Shawn directly violated the buddy code and asked her out himself. Upset by his best friend's betrayal and uncertainty regarding Topanga's feelings for Shawn, Cory consulted a pre-psychotic breakdown Eric, whereupon he learned that the best way to find out how Topanga really felt would be to talk to her best friend. His eyes aflame with determination, Cory exclaimed, "TRINI!"

And that was pretty much all she got by way of introduction, because in the very next scene -- with which the above clip begins -- Cory was sitting with Trini at Chubbie's as she smacked the holy hell out of a ketchup bottle. They later went out on a "date," but, aside from the revelation that she was apparently Topanga's best friend, the only thing we learned about Trini is that Cory obviously didn't like her very much.

I, on the other hand, adored her -- and still do! -- so much so that when I saw Cory mention her name several weeks ago in the syndicated Disney Channel episode, I responded not with a puzzled expression but with a delighted squeal. True, there have been plenty of sitcoms that employ the tried-and-true "weird" best friend tactic, but usually these characters are kinda mean, incredibly annoying, gross, or all of the above -- see Kimmy Gibbler of "Full House" fame. Trini was different. Although it's possible that she never really had the chance to become too annoying because she only showed up in two episodes, in those appearances she came across as quirky, fun, interesting... and a even little lonely. (Awwww.) She was endearing enough to kinda make you want to slap Cory for being so openly rude to her -- in front of Topanga, no less -- especially when she went out of her way to help the curly-headed ingrate out. Even her fashion sense rocked.

Trini's final appearance.

And yet despite her undeniable awesomeness and supposed BFF connection to the leading lady of "Boy Meets World", Trini apparently only made one other appearance on the show. (I say "apparently" because I distinctly recall seeing an episode in which she stayed over at Topanga's house and ate cookie dough ice cream all night while watching dubbed Godzilla movies in her pajamas. It should be noted, however, that I have privileged access to unaired, unfilmed, and unwritten shows and films courtesy of the stylish 13" TV and abandoned movie theater screen -- respectively, natch -- that I often watch in my dreams.) Again she treated Cory with nothing but kindness, again he made no secret of his dislike for her, and again nobody seemed to take issue with his rudeness. It's actually fairly common in sitcoms. If a main character ever steps on even the untied shoelaces of another main or recurring character, the entire episode focuses on and exaggerates the largely nonexistent rift between the two parties -- but if a main characters treats a guest or one-shot character like shit, nobody bats an eye.

The mistreatment of bit players barely registers with a passive audience, but for an active viewer it can make the main characters significantly less likable. All those times the characters went on about how good a kid Cory was? Rubbish -- because, with few exceptions, Cory was a complete asshole to anyone who didn't make an appearance in the title sequence. There were at least three episodes (and likely more) in which Cory and Shawn stopped speaking to each other for some ridiculous reason, prompting him to prey upon some lonely, pathetic soul by enlisting said wretch as "his new best friend" for the sole purpose of making Shawn jealous. In later seasons, these shows -- and almost all of the college episodes, for that matter -- also featured a surprising and offensive amount of gay jokes that really highlighted the waning maturity of both the characters and the writers by this point in the show's run. But had Trini become a main character on "Boy Meets World", things might have turned out differently.

Or, y'know, maybe not -- I'm really just reaching for a way to end the article, since I could go on about how very good the show used to be and how very very bad it became and how very very very great Trini was for a very very very very long time. But remember how I suggested that the show jumped the shark when Cory and Topanga got together? Note that <3 Trini <3Trini played a significant role in that development, as she was an active participant in Shawn's scheme to unite the two lovebirds. Note also that a major reason for the show's decline in later years stemmed from the main characters' drastic personality changes -- one of which involved Cory becoming a neurotic jerk. But if Trini had stayed, Cory's increasingly unpleasant disposition might at the very least have been tempered, because everyone knows you can't have a main character on a family sitcom treat a recurring character like shit forever (villains notwithstanding). Trini might have kept Topanga grounded as well, since in a sense she served to remind us of the quirky background from which the former vegetarian hippie originally came. But most importantly, had Trini stuck around -- and provided that she wasn't similarly replaced by a zany pod person -- "Boy Meets World" would at least have had one sincere, amusing, and likable character who helped her friends even when they groaned at her approach and suddenly overcame crippling fevers just so that they could get the hell away from her. Even if the world that Cory Matthews made had continued its transformation into a wacky, moronic, retconned wasteland, it would have been better had Trini been a part of it.

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