The following is a guest blog written by Erin (AKA @PerfectlyAwry on Twitter). 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 guest post, send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll look over what you have. Thanks Erin!
This post originated as an email that I sent to the KGAWI crew after “Girl Meets Texas,” regarding my ever-growing issue with Maya Hart. Then, “Girl Meets Forgiveness” aired and I realized that my relationship with this fictional character is somewhat complicated.
This may not be the most popular opinion, but I’m willing to take the heat, so here it goes… I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Maya Hart.
“Forgiveness” touched me. I even teared up a little bit at the end when Maya couldn’t forgive her father but learned to forgive herself. We all have things in our lives that we need to forgive ourselves for. Some of these things are small and seemingly insignificant, things that we should have forgiven ourselves (or others) for a long time ago, but other things are bigger, secrets that we keep, things we don’t talk about, things that hurt us to our core.
While I don’t have a father who abandoned me, Maya’s story touched and I felt for her. I understood why she couldn’t just let go of the pain that she’d felt for the majority of her life. That’s where my love for Maya comes in. These are the times that I see her most genuine and true. I root for her when she’s a strong, kick-ass teenager who defends herself and the people around her. When her feelings are real, I love her and want her to find happiness, but over the course of season two, I’m found myself more frustrated with her than anything else.
Sure, some of that is because of the Rucas vs. Laya debate and while I have a clear favorite in the ship wars, a lot of my problems with Maya stem from a selfishness that I’ve picked up in her character. While she’s a character that should have multiple dimensions, I often see her as one-sided, doing and saying what makes her happy and being patronizing and condescending to someone like Riley who sees the world differently than she does.
In one of the latest promos on Disney, Maya is told to be the type that doesn’t hold her tongue and always tells it like it is. “Keeping it real” doesn’t mean that you should be able to say whatever floats through your mind. Most times, it means that you’re being unapologetically rude and while that may be okay in Mr. Matthew’s class, where the teacher is your best friend’s father, it’s generally not okay in the real-world to disregard the feelings of the people around you.
What’s more is that we have seen several episodes throughout the series that prove that Maya can dish it, but she’s not great at taking it. Lucas called Maya a “short stack of pancakes” and she threw a fit about it for an entire episode until Riley finally apologized for not being on her side and defending her against Lucas. I don’t think that’s a great message to share with teens – that in order to love someone, you have to be on their side and blindly defend them over something that they are also guilty of. In fact, I think it would have been a better message for Maya to come out of it realizing that words hurt and that she can’t just go around calling Lucas whatever she wants because it’s funny to her. If recent episodes are any indication of his feelings about being made fun of, she’s just as guilty as he is. I understand the message about being there for your friends and about how someone’s perception of your words may hurt even if they were simply said in jest, but it felt ill-advised to allow Maya to perpetually throw out jokes about people because they gave her entertainment.
Along these same lines, in “Rileytown” Riley continuously calls Maya a bully for mentioning the term Rileytown. When Riley was being cyber-bullied, Rileytown wasn’t something that was cute, funny, or fun to her. Maya may not have been able to understand that at the time since she didn’t really know what was bothering Riley, but continuing to use a phrase that hurt Riley for her own entertainment isn’t okay. Instead of teaching Maya a lesson about the power of words, the writers continually let her slide.
Another thing that is troubling to me is that we are often told of how bad Maya’s life is, but I’ve never seen a girl with a terrible life. Yes, it’s awful that her dad walked away from her and led her to believe that she and her mom weren’t good enough, but Katy Hart tried her best. In “Forgiveness Project” Maya told a story about a thunderstorm and how Katy tried to protect her from it, proving again that Katy isn’t a bad mother, she’s a mother that works hard to provide for her child.
I know that Shawn and Maya are not the same and I’m not trying to compare the two here, other than to say that Shawn really did have a hard life. Both of his parents abandoned him. That can’t be said for Maya. Maya’s mother loves her incredibly. She has a best friend who would give her the shirt off of her back and, to top it all off, she has Cory and Topanga and Shawn looking after her. That doesn’t sound like such a bad life to me. Maybe there are other things that we haven’t seen yet, but I would like to be shown rather than told, because all that they’re showing me is a girl who is incredibly loved.
Now, finally, we come to Texas and the breaking point of the ship wars.
Isn’t Maya supposed to know Riley better than anyone? Instead of pushing her best friend into this brother-sister friendship, shouldn’t she be able to read her friend and know that isn’t truly what Riley wants? Maybe I read the situation incorrectly and Maya did know what Riley was doing, but after two really awkward dates, that neither Lucas nor Maya really seemed like they wanted to be on, it feels like Maya should have been the one to step back, even if it felt like it was little early in the process. For Maya to have to kick Lucas to get his attention in Topanga’s – even if it was at the insistence of Charlie – said enough to me. Maya may like Lucas, but why would she want a boyfriend that she has to encourage to pay attention to her, rather than her best friend?
Honestly, I was never on board for the whole love triangle thing. I always thought that Riley’s feelings and reactions were consistent with that of a 13-year-old girl who had her first crush. It seems to me like Maya got this idea in her head that Riley loved Lucas like brother around the same time that she started to like him, almost as if it gave her an excuse that made it okay to like her best friend’s crush. But what I’ve learned lately is that maybe Maya doesn’t know Riley as well as she thinks she does. Twice in recent episodes it’s been Farkle that’s been able to figure out what’s going on with Riley, while Maya sits around in a state of confusion.
It felt clear to me that in the Texas episodes that Lucas was constantly giving his attention to Riley, trying to tell her that he wasn’t on board with being brother and sister, but Riley continued to push him and Maya together as a martyr for her best friend’s happiness.
If it all plays out well, I don’t care who ends up with whom. What frustrates me is that oftentimes, it seems like Maya sees what she wants to see, says what she wants to say, and feels what she wants to feel with a blatant disregard for those around her. That’s not okay with me.
She may have hidden her feelings for Riley’s sake, but we have no idea how long she’s actually liked him. For her to tell Topanga that he’s a great guy and of course she likes him was kind of a dispassionate response to the possibility of breaking your best friend’s heart.
Anyway, in the end, I’m going to trust the writers and hope that they have a plan to pull everything together. In fact, I’d like to come out of this feeling like a fool, but right now… I’m in a frustrated state of love and hate.