Girlhood in Girl Meets World

In the popular yet short-lived Disney Channel series Girl Meets World, the main character Riley and her best friend Maya takes on the world as they enter middle school. Their opening song Take on the Worldsuggested that they would be tackling some issues that they might face growing up. The show itself defines girls as young adult, and portrays their changes towards adulthood through education. 

In the essay we read on girlhood, we learned that the definition of girlhood varies among different factors, such as age, gender, expected behavior, etc. The article described countless of famous literature that portrayed girlhood in a certain way that almost reinforced the idea that girls should be obedient and follow orders. In Kirsten Learns a Lesson, Kirsten met a strict teacher and learned to behave obedient and act ladylike. She was constantly being lectured and told not to do certain things in order to behave like a “lady.” On the other hand, in the TV show Girl Meets World, the show brought out an opposing side in the episode “Girl Meets STEM” which broke the assumptions of how girls should behave. The episode highlighted the problem that girls were more likely to give up the option to pursue STEM related course early on in their education because they were told to follow orders from guys who are their partners in the science experiments. However, the main character Riley refused to comply to the job her male partner Farkle appointed her to do, which was dropping a mudball in a beaker of clear water, while Farkle did the analyzation of the solution. In the end, she stated that she liked science and wanted to be great at it, and if Farkle is her friend he should have wanted her to be great. 

The depiction of a girl standing up for herself and refusing to comply with the society norms greatly differed from the reading on “Girlhood” and Kirsten Learns a Lesson, and showed that the definition of girlhood is constantly changing as we tear down old beliefs and expectations of how a girl should behave. 

3 thoughts on “Girlhood in Girl Meets World”

  1. I never even thought about applying the keyword “girlhood” to the show “Girl Meets World,” but I think this is such a great analysis. More than likely, the show’s audience is older elementary school-age (or early middle school-age) girls who are growing up and beginning to “find their place.” In the episode of the show mentioned in this blog post, the characters appear to re-define/put a spin on what would typically be considered acceptable of girls, specifically in choosing careers, based on the definition of girlhood. It’s cool to see “Girl Meets World” making a choice like that and giving an “alternative definition” of what girlhood is supposed to mean.

  2. I agree that the image of a girl standing up for herself can tear down beliefs and norms. In fact, adding to that, I think that more depictions of girls choosing to be herself, although it may defy the norms of society, like being loud and strong, instead of soft and timid, should be shown in media, especially in children’s literature or children’s TV show. I stand by the idea by Sigmund Freud that one’s personality is shaped within the 6 years of their childhood, and therefore, it is important for a child to have the right perception on what is it to be a girl, from the very beginning of their lives. Myself, even now, after being educated about the different meanings of being a girl, where the typical image of a well-behaved girl does not always apply, I still find myself unconsciously thinking or acting according to the norms of society. Therefore, I believe children’s literature or shows can greatly influenced one’s entire lives.

  3. Hi Teresa,

    I really like the way you use the contrast representation of girlhood in the book Kirsten Learns a Lesson and the TV show Girl Meets World. One hand, girls are represented as obedience while the TV show breaks the norms of being a girl. The example reminds me of many Disney movies that are represented about girlhood. Before, Disney introduced many female roles where she is an ideal representation of a housewife. But now, Disney has put a variety of personalities and characteristics into their movies which show that these female characters are more than just a beautiful housewife but strong, independent women who fight for what they want.

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