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Episode 26: “Girl Meets STEM”
This episode of Girl Meets World speaks on girls losing interest in science during the middle school years, explores possible reasons why, and introduces the idea of being a feminist at a young age.
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
Topic 1: Dropping the Marble (Riley, Farkle and Topanga)
It’s a rare thing to see the main cast out of Cory’s history class, but rather than put them with Harper, they are with the science teacher Mr. Norton (Jeff Doucette). Someone who present a simple experiment for the students’ mid-term. All the that must be done, between the classes male|female partner split, is someone drops the marble, and the following day figure out what the marble is.
Now, for most of the class, the girl drops the marble and the boy handles the science. All but Riley does this. For, when it comes to Riley, she takes offense to the idea that she should drop the marble, and Farkle figure out the science, so they both can get an A. What doesn’t help the situation is Farkle’s condescending tone toward Riley during all this. Thus leading to Riley starting a small civil war among the class of girls and calling them over to her house for a pep talk.
During this talk, which is a bit of a “edutainment” moment, Topanga tries to push the girls into thinking being trying to be liked, shoes, and things of that nature. She wants them to become leaders and directors of the shoe companies they like, invest time and interest into STEM, and for the girls to stick up for themselves. Leading to the following day, the girls splitting Cory’s class in half and the boys seemingly dumbfounded.
Topic 2: Take Some Initiative and Stop Being Lazy (Lucas, Maya, Ava and Auggie)
As Riley commands the girls to not play second to the boys, there is an interesting parallel between Auggie and Maya. In the episode, both show a lack of initiative, and find their lives stagnant, and frustrating to others, because of it. For Maya, her lack of interest in taking initiative in science frustrates Riley and Topanga. After all, Maya can be quite brilliant when dedicated to something, but when she lacks interest she is as lazy as they come. An issue also for Auggie when it comes to soccer.
During a game against Ava’s soccer team, he let 29 goals happen. This, on top of getting a trophy for participation, which matches the winners, infuriates Ava, and highly upsets Topanga. However, for both Auggie and Ava, they find little wrong their lack of effort, mostly because they want things to be fun. Otherwise, they don’t want to do it.
When it comes to Auggie though, Ava isn’t like Riley. She pushes Auggie to practice, do something, and get dirty. Leading him to become good enough to want him on her team and as for Maya? Well…
Topic 3: Feminist (Riley and Farkle)
With lines clearly split down the middle, it seems Riley has really caused a fuss. One which the boys don’t understand, so it becomes even more infuriating for the majority of the girls. To the point they seem to no longer become complacent to the ways the boys talk and make decisions, they notice more and speak up on what they want and like to do now. One of the sillier examples would be Yogi and his girlfriend, and how she likes to pick him up, but the more serious example is Zay assuming Sarah didn’t care about doing the experiment which isn’t true. You see, Sarah wants to be liked and this leads her to not speak up for herself. So when she was just so naturally assigned to dropping the marble, she didn’t make a fuss. However, after Riley and Topanga opening her mind up, she speaks up for herself now.
Leading to, ultimately, the boys coming up to speed and recognizing they need to be an equal team with girls in order to solve the project. Which, in the end, was Mr. Norton’s true experiment for, like Cory, he likes to mix in his subject matter with life lessons. Of which this one dealt with the girls standing up for themselves and the boys learning to treat, and look at girls, equally.
Leaving us with Riley firmly calling herself a feminist, and perhaps presenting an introduction to the word for some viewers.
Being a feminist, and feminism in general, has been an increasingly bigger topic in media. One which has led to some celebrities claiming the word proudly, some distancing themselves from it due to the negative perceptions with the word, and largely the main voices out there being grown women. With Riley proclaiming herself as a feminist though, and showing what a feminist may do to help foster equality, Disney has done something progressive. Which it has done many times in the past, like with That’s So Raven in terms of the topic of body weight and race, but arguably between then and now there haven’t been many times Disney didn’t keep things conservative. However, with Riley’s proclamation comes representation, and example, and a definition. Something which the viewers can look to and to heed from. Further pushing the feeling that one could only hope Girl Meets World doesn’t remain an anomaly on the station, but simply a taste of what is to come.
I liked that while Riley was pointing out the inequality in class, the boys, be it Farkle, Zay, or Lucas, both presented the wrong thing to do, as well as the right thing to do. For it provided an example for the male viewers of what situations to avoid, and what not to say if they find themselves in them, and also presented a way they can help create equality in their classroom, and be feminist themselves.
Though it may seem minor, since Ava isn’t a seen on a regular basis, I must admit I loved the fact she was so much better than Auggie at sports. Reason being, when it comes to the older kids dynamic, we don’t see Riley or Maya really better at anything than Lucas, Zay, or Farkle. Riley is more mature, at times, and the girls have more emotional intelligence, but outside of special episodes like this, we don’t get to see that often. So Ava being better than Auggie at sports was a win for the girls of this program.
I loved that Topanga had no love for participation trophies, and the writers sort of bashed the idea that children get them for just showing and sometimes doing like Auggie. Which is just being there on the field, but doing absolutely nothing. A problem which, from what it seems the writers wanted to be a takeaway, is a big problem. For, basically, you are rewarding showing up and not putting in the work. A bad idea to place in the mind of kids, for then it makes getting them dedicated in something which is difficult harder as they get older.
Lastly, while Ava is still a piece of work, you have to admire the friendship between her and Auggie. For as much as she can be mean to the boy, you can tell it is only because she hasn’t reached that point in development to say how she feels about him in a constructive way. Which isn’t to say she loves him, though I do think they are cute together, but more so to explain why she treats him like crap sometimes. If anything, it is because she wants him to be better. Hence why she would be so tough on him on the field, yet hug him when he did something right. Slowly, but surely, she is learning how to do positive reinforcement, and how to mold Auggie in her own way. Making it so these two kids sort of represent what Riley said to Farkle. She said that, as his friend, if he sees she is interested in something, or perhaps not good at something (I can’t remember), he should help her become better. Which is exactly what Ava did for Auggie.
On The Fence
It still sort of bothers me that Zay is still sort of like Sarah, and the majority of Riley’s classmates. He is there, speaks every once in a while, but doesn’t feel like he is part of the core group. Which is mostly a problem with me because he had such a strong, and storied, friendship with Lucas, yet the two barely interact. Granted, in this episode, maybe he did not want to get in the way of Maya working with Lucas, but you’d think from the beginning he’d want to work with his best friend. Especially since it seems everyone more so interacts with Zay as Lucas’ friend, as opposed to their own.