The beloved Disney Channel show, Girl Meets World, marked the ending of the series with an episode titled “Girl Meets Goodbye.” Tissues were recommended for the inevitable waterworks as fans gathered to watch the end of the show. It was the finale, but no one wanted to say goodbye.
When Girl Meets World first aired on June 27th, 2014 on the Disney Channel, nostalgia-laden Boy Meets World fans were thrilled. Girl Meets World continued the theme of growing and learning throughout adolescence, this time focusing on Riley, the daughter of the dream-team, original series couple Cory and Topanga. Just as Boy Meets World followed Cory Matthews’ introduction to the world around him, Girl Meets World centered around the female protagonist, Riley Matthews, and her experiences decades after the original story.
Each episode of the show was titled “Girl Meets___,” highlighting the moral that was going to be presented and learned in the episode. For example, in “Girl Meets Pluto,” Riley learned that sometimes history can change itself and in “Girl Meets STEM,” Riley learned that girls need to fight against the societal misconception that boys are better at the sciences than girls.
It was episodes like these that set Girl Meets World apart from most other current shows on the Disney Channel. Children’s television is similar to children’s literature in the sense that often, the story is trying to teach children morals and lessons, while at the same time telling the lesson in a way that children would want to listen. The majority of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows perform this goal through the approach of comedy.
Girl Meets World followed Boy Meets World’s example of abandoning the guffaws and allowing the live-audience recorded laughter to die out for a good chunk of the episode so the lesson can be imparted in a direct straight-forward fashion. This is not to say that Girl Meets World did not have a laugh-track of their own—both Girl and Boy Meets World had comedic episodes and were structured in a comedic series format. However, the writers of the show realized that they did not need to keep the laugh-track on in order to keep the attention of their audience. Their goal was not to make the audience laugh. Their goal was to make the audience learn. Just as Cory and Riley learned about the world around them, the audience learned with them.
“Everything we did was in effort to give you the lessons we thought you deserved, we thought that you needed,” Rowan Blanchard, the actress who portrayed Riley Matthews, quoted in a long, heartfelt letter, which she tweeted to her fans when the news of the show’s ending first hit. “I hope and think our show reflects you for how you are: brave, opinionated, audacious, devoted, dynamic, loving, nurturing, and powerful.”
Blanchard continued her letter by rebuking the channel in an effort to impart one final lesson to her fans. “People, more than often adults who have forgotten their power, will tell you differently and I hope that is when you turn to our show, which is now your show. I will continue to fight to not be talked down to by the shows and books and movies that are aimed towards us. I am sorry that this channel is just not able to understand that…But I know what we are capable of.”
The reason for the show’s end is due to a long held rule by the Disney Channel: no series exceeds a maximum of 4 seasons. The rule originally had been that no series would exceed a maximum of 65 episodes, but this rule officially ended in 2004 when Disney Channel ordered more episodes for That’s So Raven. Kim Possible also had exceeded the number of episodes past the original rule, which was why the series appeared to have made a come-back after it was originally meant to end after the movie So The Drama. In fact, if one looks closely at a scene in the Kim Possible: So The Drama movie, there is a sticker on Ron Stoppable’s mirror that states “No on 65,” hinting at the ridiculous rule. While Disney Channel series have grown larger in episodes ordered, the rule still stands that no show lasts past 4 seasons.
With good reason, this rule has angered many Disney Channel watches. The rule forces many shows to have to say goodbye even though they still have a strong fan-base. Shows such as Austin and Ally, Gravity Falls, Jessie, Wizards of Waverly Place, Phineas and Ferb, Hannah Montana and more—all shows that had gained large fan-bases of their generations—all came to an end after 4 seasons. Unfortunately, Girl Meets World was no exception.
When it was announced that Girl Meets World was ending, petitions all over the internet spread, trying to convince Freeform—previously known as ABC Family—another channel run by Disney, to pick up the series. Boy Meets World was able to run as long as it did because it was shown on ABC, specifically a part of the network’s TGIF lineup. Some other shows that were a part of the TGIF line-up on ABC were Sister, Sister, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Full House, and Family Matters. This gave these shows the time needed to help the characters grow up and allow the audience to view the transition. Sister, Sister started off when the girls were in middle school and followed them through college. Full House enabled the audience to watch the show since DJ and Stephanie Tanner were little girls to when they hit high school and further. Boy Meets World began when Cory Matthews was in middle school and followed him through college. This special time of TGIF on ABC enabled the audience members to grow attached to the characters, and this was especially true for 90s kids who grew up alongside these characters.
However, since Girl Meets World aired on Disney Channel, audience members were unable to have the same experience as they had with shows in the TGIF lineup. Series creator Michael Jacobs stated that they were very aware of this 4 seasons rule, however, and wrote the series accordingly with that rule in mind. “We signed up to do four years,” he said. “Whatever Disney Channel’s business model is, we always tailored the show for four years. We wanted to basically do the seven years of Boy Meets World in four years of Girl Meets World.”
However, as prepared as Jacobs was for this finale, he also felt that “Girl Meets Goodbye” had come too soon. “Hopefully there’s another venue out there that realizes there’s an audience that loves this,” Jacobs said. “There are many stories to tell…The last thing we’d want is to overstay our welcome, but I think we died prematurely here.”
Two episodes before the finale aired, fans watched a unique episode titled “World Meets Girl,” a behind-the-scenes look on the series. What the episode really highlighted was the importance of the show’s fan-base. During the backstage tour, the cast pointed out a wall full of letters and drawings that had been sent in by fans. Later, the camera was turned to the audience, and instead of fans asking the cast questions, cast members asked the fans questions about themselves. Throughout the series, Riley and her best friend Maya spent time sitting by Riley’s bay-window, a safe-space in where all important and meaningful ideas and milestones were discussed. The cast encouraged a collection of best friends to sit at the bay-window and have their own meaningful conversation, the spotlight shining on them.
These characters were inspirations for many people. Riley and her friends held good morals and had bright personalities. Unlike many other children’s television shows nowadays, the adults in the series were respected and seen as confidantes. They were as beloved to the fans as the kids themselves. It was a show which allowed my generation to sit with the younger one and genuinely enjoy the half-hour of watching together. It was a show kids were genuinely able to learn and grow from.
Sabrina Carpenter, who played the role of Maya Heart (spoiler: turned Maya Hunter), tweeted, “To everyone who watched our show and felt something, thank you. To everyone that grew up watching Boy Meets World and decided to give our story for a new generation a chance, thank you. And to the little girls reading this, You can do whatever you put your mind to. You’re gonna meet the world now, and I think you’ll love it.”
In a time when women are being disrespected, Girl Meets World allowed children to grow up believing that they should always have courage and strength in who they are. The show encouraged girls to feel powerful and made their fans to feel unique. Even though Girl Meets World came and went too soon, I hope they accomplished what they had aimed to from the start. I hope girls walked away from this show truly believing that they can “take on the world.”