There was a resounding sigh of disappointment on Wednesday as Disney confirmed what many fans had been dreading–Girl Meets World has been cancelled. After three seasons, the sequel to the ’90s classic Boy Meets World is over. The show began in 2014, and quickly gained a large following, not least because of the strong friendship between the shows protagonist Riley and her best friend Maya. Many young women saw their relationship as having the potential to become something more and found solace in sensing that they might find some kind of representation in an unexpected place. The show also regularly dealt with issues and themes that other kids shows would shy from, including episodes perfectly covering cultural appropriation and diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Nuanced and kind, it’s been a rare gem in Disney Channel’s live action programming.
The show’s success also owes a lot to Rowan Blanchard, who over the two years that Girl Meets World has aired has shown herself to be an incredibly talented writer and has been at the forefront of young actresses who are also outspoken activists, alongside another complete gift to the world–Amandla Stenberg. Earlier this year, Rowan came out as queer on Twitter when she saw a fan discussing her character’s potential sexuality; this was radical in number of ways, not least because of the decades long rumors of Disney disallowing gay stars to be publicly out. This gave the show’s and Rowan’s fans another space to see themselves in media that they’re often left out of.
Girl Meets World itself is a sweet satisfying show about being young, being a woman, and all that comes with that. I was taken aback when I first watched it by how subtly profound it was and how the relationships created seemed so authentic and real. Topics like how it feels to face an Autism and Asperger’s diagnosis are covered with a thoughtfulness and understanding that major network TV could learn from. Hey, being autistic is completely normal, and also, autistic kids are great! Though the Riley and Maya relationship has yet to be fully explored–and with this news is unlikely to be–the show gave so many young queer girls hope and a relationship they recognized and could believe in. I’m sure that for a lot of these fans Riley and Maya were likely their first ship. It’s a shame that in the end Disney couldn’t do something truly radical and give young queer people the actual representation they so desperately need.
We need to protect young women, particularly marginalized young women, women of color, disabled women, trans women, queer women, and all of the complex intersections that these cover. We need to nurture spaces for them to be themselves, places that they can see themselves, people they can see themselves in. In no way was Girl Meets World the pinnacle of this; the show suffered, as most TV shows do, from a lack of inclusion in it’s casting and behind the scenes. But there is something important and special in the way that the show tried to cover things other shows wouldn’t even attempt and something vital and worth recognizing about the way that young women responded to and engaged with it.
It’s a loss to Disney Channel and the innumerable fans of the show that they decided to cancel it without allowing it to fully realize it’s potential. Ironically, the show was nominated for a producer’s guild award for Outstanding Children’s Programming mere hours after the cancellation announcement. The only way forward is to nurture the talents of young marginalized women, give them platform, create spaces that they can speak freely, create art, and shine a spotlight on their great work, so that someday it won’t be a rare occurrence for them to see themselves represented in media that is aimed at them.
I’d highly recommend watching the show if you get the chance and following Rowan Blanchard’s work. I’ll leave you with the words that Rowan Blanchard wrote after finding that the show was cancelled.