By: Madelyn Glymour, Contributor
It’s been a while since I’ve so desperately wanted to slap a fictional character. Seriously, Cory. When your wife–who is a lawyer, who has a job and works all day just like you do, who also has to deal with being married to you on top of all that–makes you dinner, just like she does every night, you do not freaking complain about the dinner. You certainly don’t keep complaining about it the next day. If you dislike the food so much, make your own damn dinner. In fact, even if you like the food, make dinner once in a while. That’s just what decent people do.
This spectacularly ill-conceived plotline was meant to illustrate the tension between two things society generally considers to be virtues: honesty on the one hand, and kindness on the other. It failed because the correct answer was so immediately obvious that a five-year-old could see it. In fact, a five-year-old did see it; “Girl Meets the Truth” resolves its three plots by bringing in Auggie to teach Cory, Riley, and Maya about the difference between necessary hard truths and common courtesy.
Right, the other plots. In one, Maya took a locket from a lost-and-found because it had a picture of a happy family in it, and Maya just so desperately wants a happy family, because Maya is New Shawn. Riley, who is a horrible buzzkill, is adamant that she should take it back. In the other plot, Riley tells Farkle that he was really good in their school play to avoid hurting his feelings by telling him that he was horrible, and the encouragement goes to his head. In the end, Farkle tries out for the next play and is roundly rejected, and Maya returns the locket just as the family in the picture are showing up to look for it.
Look, there are times when it’s genuinely difficult to know whether it’s right to tell the truth. None of the stories on “The Truth” was a time like that. Of course you don’t tell Farkle he’s an acting genius. Of course you don’t tell your wife her chicken tastes like 65-million-year-old pterodactyl meat. The only plot with a shred of ambiguity to it was Maya’s (of course), and ultimately that plot had less to do with honesty than it did with empathy.
I get that it’s a kid’s show. I really do. But kid’s shows can have interesting moral dilemmas. They can have nuance. They can have the self-awareness to think, “Hey. It’s 2014, and I’m about to make an episode of television in which one of the major plotlines revolves around a man berating his wife for not cooking him the kind of dinner he wants,” and then they can decide to not do that.
Get it the hell together, Girl Meets World.
No, But Seriously, There Are Good Things About This Show
…and those things are all named Maya. I should honestly give up and rename this section, “Things Maya Did This Week.” I of course enjoyed her distaste for everything Farkle-related, but my favorite moment of the episode is probably when Riley tells her, “You won’t do well in the slammer,” and Maya replies, affronted, “I will so!” I also liked her reaction to the pigeon following her around, especially considering the show later implies that the pigeon is God. I mean, I think that’s what the show was implying. From now on, it’s my head canon: In the universe of Girl Meets World, God is a pigeon that follows Maya around.
How Cory Matthews Failed as a Teacher This Week
Beyond the usual failure to notice the perfectly audible conversations his students are having during his lecture (seriously, Maya and Riley sit in the first freaking row, how do you not notice that?), Cory seems to have forgone even pretending to teach history this week in favor of rambling on vaguely about The Truth. Apparently, if you don’t tell the truth, it upsets the universe. The universe cares about you. You don’t want to upset the universe, do you? Also, there’s the fiasco of a school play that the episode opens with. I don’t know for sure that Cory was the teacher in charge of that, but I’d lay money on it. (And then Cory could give me a moralistic lecture about gambling.)
Meanwhile, 21 Years Ago…
Season 1, Episode 5 – “Killer Bee.” Originally aired October 22, 1993. Cory signs up for the Geography Bee, hoping to win the grand prize—getting to be bat boy for the opening game of the World Series. He loses the Bee, but ends up gaining a new appreciation for learning for its own sake. Meanwhile, Eric discovers, to his horror, that his parents are going to the same concert he is. This is another strong Feeny episode, and probably the strongest Eric episode we’ve had yet. On the other hand, this episode shows its age more than maybe any of the others, because a big chunk of the plot and the jokes relies on the Cold War having only ended a few years before. Cory didn’t know the Berlin Wall had fallen; who wants to bet Riley doesn’t know the Berlin Wall existed?
Mostly, I was struck by how little this episode talked down to the viewer. When I watched the first season of Boy Meets World for the first time, I didn’t know about the Berlin Wall or East Germany. I probably didn’t know the meaning of every word Mr. Feeny said, either. But the show trusted that I would keep up and be entertained regardless, and as it turned out, I was.