Heartening Inspiration: Girl Meets Rileytown

A special review, for an immaculately special TV episode.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting to like Girl Meets World. I wasn’t even going to give it a chance because how could it possibly measure up to the greatness we’ve been exposed to in Boy Meets World? How could it come close to the series so many of us have grown up with? I’m proud to have looked past my ridiculous expectations because giving this series a try was one of the most wonderful decisions I’ve made. We could all use a little happy and cheesy fun from time to time. There will never be a series that could possibly top or come close to Boy Meets World, everyone knows this; however, “Girl Meets Rileytown” is an episode unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, I fervently encourage you to give this episode the chance to bring a little light into your life.

Riley Matthews, like all of us is a tiny little weirdo with a world inside her head. And when we’re younger, it’s not always easy to love each and every one of our quirks — especially when we’re mocked because of them. Girl Meets World is full of incredibly gifted stars and this episode gave each of them the opportunity to exhibit a wide range of emotions. I was and still am completely speechless.

We live in a frighteningly negative world where it’s somehow “cool” to be careless and mean. Passionate people are perceived as bizarre and differences aren’t celebrated enough. I hope those who’ve watched this episode allow themselves to be inspired because if we don’t take care of each other and ourselves, we’ll all fall apart.

Girl Meets Rileytown” is perhaps the only episode that’s written so closely in style to Boy Meets World. My biggest issue with the series in general is the amount of colors, and that’s not to say colors are bad, but I always appreciated the rustic feel to Boy Meets World. It felt more natural. However, this episode managed to make me cry more than any episode of Boy Meets World ever has and that’s huge, y’all.

Before I get into discussing the exceptional theme, we need to take some time to commend Rowan Blanchard’s exceptional performances. The storyline can be and is most certainly a triggering one for many, but it’s Blanchard’s prestigious performance that’s taken the series to a whole new level. I felt like I was watching a documentary as opposed to a scripted TV series and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen something so richly organic. Blanchard was great as she mixed her usual effervescent attitude with the sudden spouts of anger, but it’s the way she delivered Riley’s breakdown that effortlessly conveyed the depth of this heartache. Riley’s been in vulnerable positions before, but nothing’s ever forced her to let her walls down the way being bullied has. And as she’s reciting the words that were thrown at her, Blanchard gives her all — making the scene so raw, it was emotionally draining to watch. I had to pause and take a moment. And I had to remind myself that this 13 year old is merely acting. Additionally, Sabrina Carpenter did a riveting job of responding to Blanchard’s defenselessness by showcasing just how much this entire situation is hurting Maya as well. Sometimes it’s tougher to be the person watching it all happen and for someone like Maya who cares so deeply for Riley, the hardest thing ever is not knowing how to take that pain away. Maya’s always stayed strong and you could see her attempt to keep that strength as she’s falling apart.

If you have good friends, you have everything. And if everyone watching this episode could remember to be the kinds of friends Maya, Farkle, Lucas, and Zay are, we’d live in a marvelous little world. There are instances throughout the episode where each person’s reaction speaks volumes on behalf of who the characters are and it’s admirable that this series is intended for teens. The way each of them presented just how much they love Riley for who she is serves as an inspiration on numerous levels. It doesn’t matter how dorky or collected they are because these kids see heart, and at the end of day, it’s the only thing that should ever be taken into consideration.

I’m incredibly proud of the series for not only addressing bullying but cyber-bullying. It’s astonishing how often it happens now because the truth of the matter is not everyone’s been physically bullied, but each of us have personally experienced some sort of an anonymous attack. Here’s the thing with bullying, sometimes it happens so often, we don’t even notice it until later. And sometimes it’s so subtle, you don’t even realize it. It’s not always taunting and death threats — sometimes it’s as simple as being told “the way you see the world isn’t real and you should stop being an optimist.” This is what I constantly hear and it comes from so many different angles it’s exhausting. And here’s the thing, I’m not 13 — I’ve been physically and emotionally bullied when I was younger, but it doesn’t change the fact that even though I’m not bitter, at nearly 25 years old, it still hurts when I’m told I need to come down from “la la land”. Optimism isn’t ingenuousness. I see the world and how cruel it is. My optimism isn’t a result of a perfectly happy life because I’ve experienced things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. My optimism is a choice. And it’s inspiring that there’s a character on television as outrageously positive as Riley Matthews because I want the younger generation to believe that it’s okay to smile despite the trials in life. One of my favorite songs, Martina McBride’s “Anyway” sums up this conception wonderfully.

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing.
And one storm can come and blow it all away.
Build it anyway.

There will always be bad times and unsuccessful ventures, but it’s better to know that you’ve done the right thing even though it’s unappreciated. It takes great courage to be yourself and as long as you’re spreading love, you should be proud of yourself.

Riley’s optimism has always been the core of this series. It’s the constant reminder that hope’s an ever present theme throughout the series, and it’s what saves. It was astonishing to see her confront her bully by showing the entire school who she really is — the beautiful goofball she’s proud to be. Also kudos to the series for choosing not to put a face to the bully because we all know the internet is full of bullies hiding behind an anonymous username. And I’m hoping the younger generations truly take this episode to heart because it’s something I wish I had when I was going through it. There is strength in numbers yes, but no one can ridicule you if you’re living the way you want to. No one can terrorize your view as long as it’s a choice you’ve made for yourself. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with optimism. There’s nothing wrong with being happy even in the midst of terrible things. The world needs to be sprinkled with kindness and it’s people like Riley Matthews who are destined to do that. We’ve all heard it countless times before but a bully is just someone who’s unhappy with themselves.

It’s funny because some bullies seem to believe that optimists need to grow up and at the same time, they’re constantly wishing they could be a child again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can be happy in the midst of troubles and loads of responsibilities. You can have that childlike spirit continuously live inside of you even as you grow older. It is a choice to dance around alone in your bedroom singing into a hairbrush or roaming the halls of an empty school pretending you’ve just won an award. We’re all dorks. We all get excited over little things and we’ve all got a world inside of us. Heck, sometimes I pretend I live in Pemberley during the 1800s when I’m having my morning tea. I dare you to tell me that doesn’t make me cool because frankly, I think that’s way cooler than getting up and moping around because it’s another Monday. We have choices in life, you can either hope for the best or expect the worst, but at the end of the day, the only person who’s truly affected by your decisions is you.

My heart hurt a lot for Riley and every little girl or boy who’s going through this. Let us all try to remember that being cool doesn’t mean being indifferent or full of hate, it means being brave enough to be yourself in a world that’s trying to change you. And if you haven’t found your passion yet, the one thing that keeps inspiring you to pull forward in the midst of troubling times, keep searching because it’s waiting for you.


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