As the mother of a young daughter, I’m painfully aware of how much TV programming that targets girls deals with surface-level subjects or, you know, being boy-crazy. But then there’s Girl Meets World.
In the fabric of contemporary TV geared toward the tween and teen crowd, Girl is a refreshing departure from the kind of bubblegum fare flooding the market — thanks largely to the fact that the show isn’t afraid to tackle touchy topics like cultural appropriation and the way girls aren’t encouraged in STEM subjects the same way as their male peers.
Of course, another reason the coming-of-age drama resonates so much with young girls and their parents (in addition to the ’90s throwback connection) is the fact that 14-year-old star (and social activist) Rowan Blanchard is at the helm.
But with word that Disney won’t be renewing the series for a fourth season and only speculation that it will be picked up by Freeform, the smart show Blanchard helps bring to life could be in jeopardy.
“I know as much as you do,” she said. “We are hoping for a Season 4, obviously, because we want to continue our story, and I feel like it’s an important story to tell. But as of right now, we just finished [filming] Season 3 and we’re still waiting on the word. But we do have more episodes coming out this year that air into early 2017, so we’re covered for a little bit.”
Fingers crossed, y’all, because Blanchard hit the nail on the head: Young girls need a show like this.
Girl seems authentic and experiential because it is — Blanchard has faced and continues to work her way through many of the same issues most girls her age are dealing with, and they are represented through the comings and goings at the fictional Abigail Adams High School her character attends.
“It’s so hard because, when you’re a girl, there are molds you have to fit into in order to be socially acceptable,” Blanchard told SheKnows. “And even with those molds, people will still find ways to critique you.”
So what advice does Blanchard, who is currently partnering with Dannon Danimals to encourage active play and healthy lifestyles in kids as part of their “Find the Golden Bongo” promotion, have about dealing with the mean-girl culture that the real-life version of girls like Maya and Riley deal with?
“The culture is kind of inevitable because everybody who bullies somebody… it’s a projection of something that’s going on or it’s just a response because that’s what’s cool or something,” she said, revealing, “I was bullied really, really badly in third grade until, like, fifth grade. And I think one thing that helped — because I didn’t tell my mom for a long time — was for my mom to start asking, ‘How is this person? How is that person? How was your class?'”
Blanchard also underscores the importance of diversity when it comes to inspiration for girls, saying, “I think it’s important for her to have many different role models that have many different talents so she doesn’t feel like she needs to become one person. There are a bunch of people she can become and a bunch of people she can aspire to be like.”
For Blanchard, those role models range from Beyoncé to Frida Kahlo to David Bowie. For young girls navigating the choppy waters of adolescence, though, Blanchard undoubtedly inspires as the quirky and self-aware Riley Matthews — especially in the context of her friendship with classmate, Maya.
“I think that’s the most important relationship on our show. People are always asking, ‘What do you ‘ship: Riley and Lucas or Maya and Lucas?’ And the entire time, the whole show has been about Riley and Maya’s friendship and how powerful it is and how it can withstand anything,” said Blanchard.
“We just used the triangle kind of as a metaphor for how Riley and Maya will never let a boy get between them,” she continued, “which I think is something we can really teach young girls because young girls are taught to cater to boys and to always be obsessed with them. I think our show definitely values sisterhood as its main theme.”
Like its Boy Meets World predecessor, Girl clearly addresses progressive issues and that, says Blanchard, is indicative of a sort of reciprocal reverence between the writers and the young people they’re writing the show for and about.
“I think the way children’s shows present children is a reflection of how adults think of children. I think with our show, the staff thinks that children are super-intelligent and inquisitive and amazing, and I think that reflects on the writing. We don’t talk down to our audience; we talk to our audience. We know that these are issues that 12-year-olds know about — 12-year-olds know about STEM subjects and how there are girls lacking in that field, and they respect that we cover the topics.”
I think we can all agree the universe could use a little more of that, eh?