TV Review: Girl Meets World (2×26) “Girl Meets STEM”

Girl-Meets-STEM-1-555x333Science Class: the kids are split into boy-girl pairs. Mr. Norton explains that one team member is to drop a marble so it can dissolve in water and the other will figure out how to make the water clear again the next day. Riley is upset that Farkle and Lucas automatically assume that they would have the latter task, not trusting she or Maya to do any actual science. Maya, on the other hand, is upset for a different reason: “Why is school over and I don’t got a chimichanga?” Sabrina Carpenter consistently proves she is just as deft with comedy as she is with the more emotional aspects of the show.

After school, Riley and Maya walk in to find all of the girls in their class ready to drop their marbles. Riley tries to rally them against this enforcement of gender roles, but they drop them anyway, apathetic about the system. The attitudes of these girls were the only bad aspect of the episode for me; the representation of girls as a bunch of shopping-addicted airheads was there to prove a point, but we should be past this by now. Farkle nearly faints the next morning when he finds out that Riley didn’t drop the marble. When the girls once again express their apathy, Riley demands bay window time with the whole class.

Bay Window: Topanga explains that middle school is the time where girls start shifting away from STEM classes (science, technology, engineering and math), as this is when they start going along with society’s gender roles. “You can’t be more concerned with being like than being a leader,” she advises, imparting an important lesson on the audience.

Back at school, Farkle defends himself; he wanted to do the science because he’s better at it than Riley, which she thinks is garbage. A true friend would want her to get better. He assures Riley that he’s not sexist, citing his respect for Marie Curie. Using Farkle’s discovery that the marble is actually dirt, Riley works out that the experiment was about how the students divided the work between the genders and the ensuing turmoil. Riley never dropped the marble into the water, as she thought it would take away a part of herself. Since their water remained clear and they worked out their issues, they aced the experiment.

This episode’s B plot is about Auggie’s lack of killer instinct on the soccer field. He’s not bothered by helping the other time score–he got a participation trophy! Ava doesn’t have the same feelings: “I scored 29 goals and your kid sat there like a fire hydrant and we got the SAME TROPHY,” she complains to Topanga. Ava uses that anger to motivate and train Auggie, meaning she hugged him when he scored a goal and tackled him into the mud when he didn’t. Auggie’s storyline provided a good foil to Riley’s, with the more traditional gender roles being reversed in a storyline about sports.

I continue to be impressed with how Girl Meets World tackles more serious issues. Disney Channel shows tend to get a little heavy-handed with lesson-of-the-week style episodes, but they took a careful approach to feminism and gender roles that didn’t feel clumsy or forced. Most importantly, Topanga’s wise words and Riley and Maya’s open declaration of feminism is an important thing for young girls to see. They made a good choice by being very clear about Riley’s stance on the subject, rather than dancing around it.

Episode Rating: 9/10



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