This week has been full of rumors on social media about the cancellation of Disney Channel favorite Girl Meets World. Among those rumors are talks of the show transitioning from Disney Channel to another network such as Freeform (note: nothing has been even remotely confirmed by anyone who would actually know the answers to such questions). Many fans hope that a network move would allow the show to tackle more adult topics and to have a little more freedom than it does on a channel like Disney who needs its shows to be relatable to a younger audience. Fans of the show’s predecessor, Boy Meets World, hope to see it grow from a kids show into something more like the original. The issue with Girl Meets World is that there may not be a place on television that allows it to become the true coming of age story that everyone wants it to be.
The problems with Girl Meets World remaining on Disney Channel stem from one fact: the characters on this show are no longer kids and therefore may no longer fit on a kid’s network. A peck on the lips is a legitimate kiss for a middle schooler, but at what point does that become unrealistic? Having everyone from your class over to solve the mystery of a missing fish is fun when you’re twelve, but is absurd to a fifteen-year-old. A show with middle school characters can get away with not talking about sex, sexuality, anxiety, and body image, but can a show about high school students? Would that show even be accurate or relatable? Girl Meets World has prided itself (and rightfully so) as a series willing to talk about real issues, as seen by its episodes discussing bullying, religion, broken homes, women in STEM, identity and even autism. How can they continue to do this if the show remains on a channel that has subject limitations based on the young ages of its typical audience?
Unfortunately, the answer for Girl Meets World is not to just transition networks. While ten years ago, shows sincerely enjoyed by all ages, like Boy Meets World, were extremely popular, they rarely exist today (and they especially don’t exist on Freeform, as seen by the network’s decision to change the name from ABC Family). Instead of family-centered sitcoms like T.G.I.F. (may you rest in peace), television now has its scandalous (pun intended) Shondaland-filled T.G.I.T. It is important to note that this is not a criticism of the decisions of any of the networks mentioned, but a question of whether or not there is a current television network where Girl Meets World would actually fit. The occurrences of a show an entire family watches and enjoys together, particularly one that both helps parents teach their children about the world and makes young adults feel like they are not alone, are few and far between. Perhaps this is due to the current generation of television viewership’s need for instant gratification, constant excitement, or persistent drama. Whatever the case may be, it seems as if networks flee from the simplicity of a real-life coming of age story and instead create stories filled with passion, lust, and spectacle but little heart. Television has left us with little room for a middle ground. Regrettably, that middle ground might be the one place Girl Meets World could truly belong.
In order for Girl Meets World to thrive and make the same impact Boy Meets World did, it needs to find its home at the intersection of genuine and bold, where it is simultaneously entertaining and real. In a world that is full of division, pain, and fear, the need for a spot on the small-screen that is hopeful and sincere without being inauthentic is particularly great. Unfortunately, I am not sure such a place exists on television today.