Tweetable Takeaway: Just say no to Farkle, kids.
Airtime: Friday at 8 pm on The Disney Channel
By: Madelyn Glymour, Contributor
This is officially the least fun I’ve ever had watching Girl Meets World. “Girl Meets Farkle’s Choice” combines everything I can’t stand about this show — Farkle, half-baked historical parallels, the mommy-fication of Topanga, Ava Morgansteeeeeeeeeern — and eliminates most of what I find endearing — Maya’s devil-may-care attitude, Maya and Riley’s friendship, Lucas’ social awkwardness. The best that can be said of “Farkle’s Choice” is that it has Jane Lynch in it, but so does Glee, so apparently Jane Lynch does not cover a multitude of sins.
The biggest problem with “Farkle’s Choice,” of course, is right in the name. Farkle-heavy episodes are always a drag, because Farkle is neither particularly likeable nor particularly consistently written. Riley and Maya are both likeable and well characterized; Lucas is at least likeable, and is much more rarely the center of an episode. But “Farkle’s Choice” is worse than, say, “Girl Meets Smackle” or “Girl Meets Flaws,” because it doesn’t just way over-utilize Farkle. It mythologizes him, in a way that’s both baffling and potentially damaging. “Farkle’s Choice” positions Farkle as the gold standard of boyfriends, a kind of ruler against which Riley and Maya (and, by extension, all girls watching the show) should measure potential romantic interests. This isn’t implicit. It’s stated outright: “For the rest of our lives, let’s never settle for anyone less than Farkle.” But you know what? Farkle sets a terrible romantic standard. He’s not just annoying; he’s possessive, controlling, and invasive.
Here’s a list of things that Farkle has done since the beginning of the series:
- Made a stalker watch that tells him where Maya and Riley are at all times.
- Made a second stalker watch, on the understanding that Maya would destroy the first one.
- Engineered a corporate takeover during a low-key class project and forced Maya and Riley out of the companies they helped start.
- Interrupted a school production of Romeo & Juliet to prevent Lucas (as Romeo) from kissing Riley (as Juliet).
- Kind of forcefully kissed Riley for a really long time, well after it had become clear she wasn’t into it.
- Loudly and publicly (in this particular episode, on the televised school announcements), and on multiple occasions, pursued Maya and Riley despite being told repeatedly and clearly that they were not interested.
Farkle repeatedly fails as both a friend and a potential boyfriend, and the fact that he sometimes says and does nice things about and for Maya and Riley in no way erases the fact that he’s self-centered and has zero respect for their boundaries. And no one on the show ever calls him out on that behavior, nor does the narrative. Sure, Farkle is an over-the-top character whose stalkerish tendencies are presented as comic relief, which is why I haven’t taken the show to task for them before, but that leeway goes away when you start telling kids, seriously, that he’s the kind of person you should look for in a significant other. No. No, he isn’t. And now I’m speaking directly to any 12-year-olds out there who might be reading this review: People who are controlling and invasive when they’re pursuing you will be controlling and invasive when they’re dating you. They may tell you that you’re beautiful (“Girl Meets Smackle”) or make romantic gestures (this episode), but that doesn’t make their other behavior okay.
The other huge issue with “Farkle’s Choice” is that the whole concept relies on Riley and Maya acting massively out of character. Riley and Maya are, so Girl Meets World would have us believe, best friends. Not just best friends, but the best friends — the best best friends in the whole wide world. And they both turn on each other instantaneously to win the affections of a boy they didn’t even like at the beginning of the episode, just because he told them each one nice story and scared off some sorta menacing guys in the subway?
Speaking of which, what even was that subway scene? (Besides vaguely racist, of course.) Over and over, Maya has been set up as the most terrifying person on this show. She jumps on people. She threatens them. And if she can’t get them to bend to her will, she gets up and she leaves, dragging Riley behind her. But some guys, like, halfheartedly menace her, and all of the sudden she’s wilting and waiting for Farkle to deal with them?
And to top it all, it wasn’t even funny! Even Girl Meets World‘s most dire half-hours are usually redeemed slightly by a handful of really good lines, or a few bits of absurdist humor. But the jokes in “Farkle’s Choice” almost all fall flat. Most of the time, any chance I had of finding any of the material funny was ruined by how annoyed/angered I was at what was going on around it.
I often find Girl Meets World trying, for one reason or another, but this is perhaps the first time that I’ve found it to be actually harmful. Girl Meets World is a kid’s show, which means I often let it off the hook for things heavy-handedness and way over-the-top humor. But the young age of its audience makes its morals and its themes more important, because it’s a show whose ultimate aim is to teach. Tonight, Girl Meets World was a worse teacher than Cory. And that’s saying something.
Stuff and Nonsense
– To be clear, I don’t mind that Topanga is a mom who does mom stuff. Parenting is important, and if you’re gonna have kids, you should care about and be involved with them. I do care that the only time Topanga has a storyline is when it’s about Auggie. (There have been one or two exceptions — “Girl Meets Popular” and “Girl Meets Brother” spring to mind — but they’re few and far between.) And that she seems to be the only person who cooks or does housework in the family, despite having what is presumably a fairly time-consuming and labor-intensive job as a lawyer.
– “Farkle’s Choice” was the tenth episode produced, but the 19th aired, so not all of the things I listed were things that had happened at the time the episode was written. But his general characterization has remained consistent throughout (at least on this one issue — he’s all over the map in most other ways), and anyway, this whole thing plays just as badly if this episode had aired and then Farkle had created the stalker watch.
– Farkle kept Maya’s broken skateboard because it was there the only time he’d ever seen her cry. Question, to everyone in the world ever: If someone said that to you, would you find it sweet, or would you find it weird? Because I’m pretty sure I’d find it weird.
– The B-plot is mostly boring and grating in the same way that all Topanga-Auggie B-plots are, but I’ll say this for it: I actually kind of liked Ava for a moment there. “I like it when Topanga throws me out.” “Slam the door!”
– Does it really take two whole book club meetings to discuss Murray the Moose?
– Okay, but really, how did this show get Jane Lynch to guest star?
– The only thing about this episode that really worked was the beginning and ending bit about Riley’s inability to speak on camera. Riley’s gibberish was fun, but of course it was Maya’s laughter that made it.
How Cory Matthews Failed as a Teacher This Week
Letting Farkle loudly proposition his daughter in the middle of class is not only bad teaching, it’s out of character — Cory hates it when Riley gets romantically involved with boys; he’s more possessive than Farkle. But more importantly: Cory, if you’re gonna talk about what a great friend Canada is to the U.S., wouldn’t it be cool to, oh, I dunno, actually tell the kids something about Canada? I recognize that you’re a terrible teacher and you clearly know very little about the subject you teach, so if cracking open a book about Canadian history is too difficult for you, then here. Have a Wikipedia link.
This Week’s Blackboard: a blank board. That’s how little learning happened this week.
Meanwhile, 21 Years Ago…
Season one, episode 19 – “Kid Gloves.” Originally aired March 25, 1994. To celebrate his birthday and new-found maturity, Alan gives Cory the silver boxing gloves he won in the Navy, but not knowing the gift’s significance, Cory loses it. But when his attempts to get the gloves back go awry, Cory learns he might not be as mature as he’d thought. This is a sweet episode that I actually remembered very well; perhaps neither the funniest nor the most poignant episode Boy Meets World ever produced, it nevertheless had plenty of humor and meaning to go around. I kind of found Morgan to be the star of the episode, though, in the tag when Alan gives her a toy horse: “Did you win this horse in the Navy?”
Also, this episode contained no stalking!