Portrayed by: Rider Strong
Show: Disney’s Boy Meets World
If you’re one of those people who finds themselves crying over fictional characters, then you’ll probably remember the first time you realized you’re attached to one. I’m not sure about anyone else, but Shawn Hunter was that character for me—the person I couldn’t always quite understand when I was younger, but the character I wanted absolute, indescribable happiness for.
Boy Meets World took all of its characters through life’s most challenging journeys, but no one had as great of a development as Shawn Hunter—the boy very few believed in, but the one filled with endless potential. Shawn’s persona as the cool guy was easily something that could make girls swoon, and he could have easily been written as one dimensional. But as the seasons progressed, and we learned more about how damaged he truly was, that’s when Shawn’s heart became the most attractive part of his being.
His bravery, steadfast loyalty, and wisdom have stood out greatly throughout the seven seasons, making him one of television’s most flawed, incredibly realistic, and inimitable characters in existence.
Shawn Hunter | The Lost Boy’s Bravery
Shawn Hunter’s bravery isn’t measured by his vast knowledge of horror films, but rather the honorable road he’s continuously chosen even when he’d fallen through the cracks.
Sometimes, bravery isn’t knowing the difference between the good and the bad, but rather choosing to listen to those who are giving advice in spite of the fact that you don’t agree with them.
There are a number of drastic changes that went on Shawn’s life from growing up in a trailer park with family members who’d often abandon him, to messing around because it was more thrilling than following the rules. Shawn joined cults, delved into drunkenness, and even considered not going to college. But at the end of the day, as someone who’d gone his entire life feeling as though he wasn’t worth fighting for, when people fought to bring him back from the darkness he was falling into, he listened.
He allowed his mistakes to make him better by choosing to learn from them as opposed to letting them define him. He was the lost boy who’d always find his way back home. The wandering soul whose search for an anchor proved to be worth it in the end.
The Boy He Was Expected to Be
There were times in his life where Shawn Hunter did things solely because he believed it’s what people would expect out of him—drinking, partying, and dropping out of school. And when his friends and family pointed out the ramifications of those decisions, taking them into consideration showcased Shawn’s bravery boldly—somewhere in the midst of a troublemaker cool kid, Shawn became an example for everyone.
Where he believed that he was and would always be the outcast, the black sheep, to his friends, he became legendary—an embodiment of courage. If Shawn Hunter could rise in spite of how many times he’s wanted to run away from himself and his problems, then so could anyone else in the midst of whatever battle they were facing.
Perhaps the most intricate part of Shawn’s character is the fact that he allows viewers to understand a whole new perspective on “bad boys”—it allowed us to see (even while we were younger) that they aren’t attractive because they’re rebellious or cool, but rather their growth showcases immense bravery. Allowing themselves to become better versions than their parents or guardians reveals a kind of bravery that’s rare, and it’s especially rare with men.
The Friend, The Fatherly Figure, The Man
Shawn Hunter is the epitome of a good friend—a steadfast, perfectly loyal best friend. When everyone else thought Cory was a geek, Shawn never believed he was or became too cool for him. Shawn saw him for all the greatness that’s been within him and chose to root for him through everything. He believed in Cory when he didn’t believe in himself, and he believed in his relationship when it fell apart. (Shawn Hunter—number one Cory and Topanga shipper. President of the Fan Club.)
As someone who understood the profound terrors and heartaches of abandonment, when Shawn cared for someone, he’d never let them go. He’d stand by them through everything and even if they tried ridiculously hard to push him away, he knew better than to let their demons win.
He fought tirelessly to ensure that people never felt the kind of rejection he faced. And because of the indescribable growth he went through learning to let people take care of him, he changed Maya Hart’s life by remaining a steadfast part of it in order to show her that he’s not going to abandon her like her father did. He is her father, and in some strange way, long before she was ever born, he was destined to be. (Only Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World can get away with this kind of serendipitous perfection that may be too good to be true in another world.)
The Wisdom and The Perseverance
Shawn Hunter may not have been a straight A student, but that’s no indication of the fact that there isn’t tremendous wisdom and life experience in him. At an age that’s far too young, Shawn was already street smart, knowing how to live alone and adapt to quick changes.
But he’s also got a pretty extensive vocabulary and the mind of a writer—the mind that’s always needing to explore and learn. He’s got a knack for poetry and a vision for art and when people ruled him out as a failure, people like Mr. Feeny and his friends knew that he’d one day do great things. And Shawn Hunter’s wisdom, in a sense, extends towards knowing that selflessness is the key to a successful life.
When Shawn realized this, all of his relationships grew exponentially. The vast compassion within his heart is unparalleled to anything else and the long, winding journey to find himself (and losing people) allowed him to understand that caring for someone else is the greatest reward in life. Finding people to love and having them love you back transcends anything else in the world.
His understanding of the fact that selflessly protecting people and loving them in spite of their weaknesses is the sign of the wisest type of man. After all, it’s what Mr. Feeny, Mr. Turner, Cory, Mr. Matthews, Jack, and even his own father all taught him as the primary male figures in his life. It’s what the challenges in life taught him—filling him with unparalleled wisdom towards how to lead a successful life and be an inspiration to people simply by loving them.
When the vastness in Shawn’s heart is revealed, you can’t help but wait patiently for the day he finds indescribable happiness. And to learn that he has an excellent career in photography along with stability in his mind, body, and spirit, you know that he’s gone through a potent journey.
Every heartache he faced, every dark road he went through, led him to this very moment making him braver and better than he used to be. When you see him finally find the kind of love and happiness in a family with Kat and Maya, it’s clear that he did good. He followed Feeny’s advice, believed in himself, dreamt, tried, and found himself in the kind of home he’s always deserved. And thus, through his growth, he played a crucial role in inspiring two people to be the best, bravest parts of themselves merely with his unwavering love and steadfast loyalty.
We all had a crush on Rider Strong when we were younger, but growing up you realize it’s not merely the charm (and excellent hair), it’s the impeccable embodiment from a young man to a grown adult. It’s the way he’s always understood and cared for Shawn Hunter just as deeply as the audience has that’s been reflected on our screens brilliantly.
In conclusion, in Shawn Hunter we trust. At a time where such development was rare, Boy Meets World took its audience through inimitable character growth.