A Love Letter to Topanga Lawrence

90s movies

So much has already been written about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype. It’s a term coined by film critic Nathan Rabin and he succinctly describes the archetype as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” While this is a pretty gloomy interpretation of the character type, it doesn’t lack accuracy.

From Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State to absolutely any role Zooey Deschanel (the alpha Manic Pixie Dream Girl) has played in her career, this type of character can be spotted from a mile away. These female characters are so aloof, quirky, and awkward that you can’t help but get emotionally invested in how adorable and enigmatic they are.

I guess it’s because I’m one of those “broodingly soulful young men” that I am hopelessly endeared by this type of character. Going back to a very young age, all it took was an eccentric girl with doe eyes to make me obsessive to the point of stalking.

The earliest memory I have of a character such as this in popular media is the unforgettable Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World.

Early on in the show, Topanga is dismissed by her eventual romantic interest, Cory Matthews, because of her strangeness. Topanga is a genius when it comes to scholastics and she’s seen as a nerdy outsider who exists on a plane of existence far removed from the ideals of normalcy. Although they’ve known each other since they were kids, Cory spends most of his time berating and insulting Topanga and acting like he wants nothing to do with her.

Much like Winnie and Kevin Arnold, Cory and Topanga don’t find their way into each other’s arms in a committed relationship until high school. As predictable as their love story is, there’s still an overwhelming sense of tension and every fan of the show wanted so desperately for them to get together and live happily ever after. It isn’t until Cory’s best friend Shawn concocts a ploy to ask out Topanga himself in order to trick Cory into working up the courage to tell her his real feelings that their romance really blossoms.

As with most couples, their relationship goes through rocky periods and there’s a few instances of the old make up, break up routine. In the end, of course, they get married and live out everyone’s fantasy.

90s movies

As a typical fourth grader, I had a crush on Topanga since the first time I laid eyes on her. Danielle Fishel’s warm smile, exceptional intellect, and big blue eyes were the perfect combination for a youthful boyhood fancy. She was my first real celebrity crush. In fact, I had this exact image printed out from my Windows 95 PC and taped on the inside of my pencil box:

90s movies

Now that there’s confirmation of the Boy Meets World spin-off series, Girl Meets World, I’m even more excited to talk about my lifelong love for Topanga. The show is centered around Cory and Topanga as parents to a young girl named Riley and is looking at a 2014 premier on the Disney Channel. And, if you’re wondering, yes Danielle Fishel is just as beautiful and talented and desirable now as she was in the 90s.

90s movies

As misogynistic and shallow the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is in her most basic form, I believe Topanga propelled past the stereotypes of her character and managed to find a way to become a fully fleshed out personality. Most times in media, females are treated as little more than the sum of their body parts, but Topanga Lawrence became more than just the goofy girl next door. She took on the role of a female lead in a much-beloved show and captured the hearts of both males and females as she and Cory danced haphazardly through the awkward journey of adolescence.

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