The following is a guest blog written by Nan, one of our loyal podcast listeners. As with all our guest blogs, we don’t necessarily agree with all of her points, but we think it’s important to share a variety of perspectives. If you’d like to write a post for the site send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll look over what you have. Thanks Nan!
I take some issue with people assuming Riley and Lucas are the next Cory and Topanga. Yes, I believe they may have initially been cast for their roles with this model in mind. Yes, many situations over both series are parallel with both couples (first date for example). However, a casting template and similar scenes do not make them the same couple. The characters are different. Question: in what ways are Riley and Lucas really like Cory and Topanga? Riley met Lucas in 7th grade and knows very little about his life. She is learning who he is, and he is slowly getting character development. Cory and Topanga were established (in the end) as a couple who spent their entire lives together (more like Auggie and Ava, which has been referenced on and off screen), and they know everything about each other. Topanga was in Cory’s life before SHAWN was. The parallel to this on GMW (other than Auggie and Ava) is Riley and Maya, and, to a lesser extent, Farkle with both girls. How is Lucas like Topanga, other than being the “other” person in the relationship? With Riley and Lucas, Riley encompasses the best parts of both of her parents, and Lucas fills a role not present in BMW. To me they are a unique couple showing minimal resemblance to Cory and Topanga, other than situational similarities through plot.
The stated theme of this season is “growth,” as well as the often said “people change people.” I admit I had no investment in Riley and Lucas as a couple until “First Date.” They had some cute moments and sweet interactions, but Lucas functioned more as a conduit for Riley’s life lessons than an influential, independent character. Season 2 tells another story. Believe me, I am not advocating for a particular couple (put down your torches and pitchforks, please). Relationships are supposed to make us better. When Cory told his parents he could not be without Topanga because “she makes me a better person” he showed what every person, especially growing children and adolescents, should seek. Love makes you better. Love brings out the best side of you. MJ asked us before “Rules” to consider who Maya and Lucas would be without Riley. Episode issues aside, we see that they obviously need Riley. She makes them better. In “Secret” we learn that Lucas changed from his angry self because he moved, and he was influenced by new friends. MJ has said Lucas likes that Riley has a “calming” influence on him. He has also said that “innocence attracts.” We see in every episode the influence for good Riley has on Maya, so I need not elaborate on this point. Maya would do a much better job than I would, as would Mae Clutterbucket.
Likewise, Riley needs both Lucas and Maya. In “Rules” Sarah stated “without Maya she is actually getting worse” while playing “Duck Duck Goose.” Riley’s pure heart and innocence when left unchallenged make her naïve and vulnerable, hence waving enthusiastically to her peers who proceeded to put her in a bag and “steal” her. Maya and Lucas challenge Riley. They make her more mature. They ground her in reality. Young people need to be challenged and experience conflict in order to grow. Maya shows Riley a different side of this world. Parents don’t always follow through (but it doesn’t have to make them bad parents). Sometimes expectations only lead to disappointment. Sometimes hope lets us down and really is for suckers. Balanced with Riley’s idealistic view of the world we learn that life occurs in shades on a spectrum, not always black and white. These are lessons that will be learned at some point in Riley’s life, and in all of our lives.
Lucas shows Riley that appearances can be deceiving, just like the Trojan Horse. The wholesome cowboy has a past, which makes Riley question if she really knows him. Again her expectations and naïveté are challenged, and she learns people are more complex than one-dimensional crushes. Sometimes we find out uncomfortable things about those we care about. We may see an angry side to them they have previously hidden. Sometimes the person you like will make bad decisions you don’t understand. Sometimes they will leave with the bad kids and fall under questionable influences. They may regress to a time in their life when they were different.
I am not anti-LucasxMaya. I am not pro-LucasxRiley. I am pro-character development and growth. I support relationships that change us for the better. MJ has plenty of time to create this with any combination of characters, and I trust his vision. I just hope that the development is justified and natural to the characters and show. I will be along for the ride either way.
In conclusion, too many young people have bad examples of what is acceptable in a relationship. They are observing that it seems OK for those you care about to make you feel bad (physically or emotionally). Growing up with BMW I saw an example of a couple that challenged each other in many ways but their relationship was stronger than the world that tested it. I also saw an example of a friendship that modeled unconditional support and acceptance even when you come from seemingly different worlds. I am hoping to Pluto that young viewers learn these lessons as well.