On March 20th 2016 I had the pleasure of meeting Will Friedle at Toronto ComiCon, and this experience is going to make what I intend to write here infinitely harder, but I need to get it off my chest. Let me first explain why it’ll be so hard.
I woke up that morning, the last day of Toronto ComiCon, cautiously optimistic and nervous. The only experience before this I’ve had meeting a celebrity was in 2013 when I paid a disconcerting amount of money for a meet and greet experience with the Backstreet Boys (who I’ve been a fan of for just as long as I’ve been a fan of Boy Meets World so, let me live). Perfectly cordial bunch of guys, but it was very clear that they were the celebrities and I was the “fan”.
No one Will Friedle meets at a Con is just a “fan”. In my own experience: Will’s demeanour made my nervousness vanish, his immediate recognition of the film reference on my t-shirt almost made me black out and a comment he made about me having a great superhero name made me feel like one (when Batman says you have a great superhero name you DO NOT OBJECT). I don’t think Will would know how to behave like a celebrity if The Kardashians tied him to a chair and brainwashed the conduct into him. There were maybe five people in line in front of me (TIP: Go to these things right when they open, you breeze through lineups and all the food’s just being made so everything smells like pizza) so I could hear interactions Will was having with others and this is a guy who’s never met a stranger. Will’s so nice he could hide in plain sight up here and no one would know he’s not Canadian.
This is the t-shirt I mentioned. Within the first 30 seconds of meeting him, Will shushed me and asked his assistant if she knew what my shirt was referencing. She didn’t, and no one else knows either. In the five years I’ve owned and regularly worn it the only other person I’ve met besides Will Friedle (who decided to act out the reference for his assistant right there, because OF COURSE HE DID) who knows what it is is my second cousin – he “Liked” the above photo when I posted it on Facebook.
It’s possible that cynics reading this would go “but Will’s an actor, of course he knows how to act like a bottle of awesomesauce” but there’s a difference between acting like a bottle of awesomesauce and actually being one. A genuine love for people and warmth of spirit is really hard to fake and BS always smells bad. Friedle smells like the delightful offspring of rainbows and sunshine. It’s true that I shouldn’t be patting someone on the back for behaving the way everyone really should, but in this arena niceness also signifies professionalism. I’ve worked with some jerks before so it’s cool to know that personal standards still exist.
Now for the hard part. I in no way wish to diminish how too-legit-to-quit Will Friedle is, but I take issue with something he said at the Con the previous day during his panel, which I regrettably wasn’t able to attend.
At the panel someone in the audience asked Will to do the Feeny Call. In an effort to explain why he wouldn’t he told a story of when he was given by the original voice-over actor in Thundercats the catchphrase of the character Lion-O, a character Will (an illustrious voice-over actor in his own right) voiced in a 2011 reboot of the classic 80’s cartoon:
“When I started to do Thundercats Larry Kenney said to me, ‘You’re Lion-O now so I’m handing you the ‘Thundercats HO!’. This yours now, once I give it to you I won’t do it ever again’. So when the girls had to do the Feeny Call in Girl Meets World I said to them: ‘I’m passing it to you, it’s yours now, I won’t do it ever again’. So, the Feeny Call belongs to Riley and Maya now.”
Much of my exasperation lies with the writers of Girl Meets World for even thinking to write in a Feeny Call for Riley and Maya because I guess that’s why this happened (note that Will said they “had to” do it), but Will’s justification for passing the Feeny Call on is flawed.
In the 2011 Thundercats Will was Lion-O; Larry Kenney said as much. I know liberties can be taken with the timeline of animated series reboots and the universe in which characters exist, but there seems to be few circumstances where it would make sense for Will’s Lion-O not to bellow “Thundercats HO!” when it was warranted because he was (barring any liberties whose evidence I can’t find) voicing the exact same character Kenney did. Because of this the phrase needed to be passed on. Still, it was beautiful of Mr. Kenney to bequeath it to Will and I totally appreciate what that must have meant to him and why he’d want to do the same thing. The Feeny Call though is Eric Matthews’ “catchphrase” and Riley and Maya are definitely not Eric. There is no circumstance where it would make sense for them to do it so the Feeny Call, unlike Lion-O’s signature phrase, doesn’t need to be passed on. The two situations are too dissimilar.
The Feeny Call is in many ways much more than just a “catchphrase”. It was born out of the wonderful relationship Eric and Mr. Feeny cultivated over the first four seasons of Boy Meets World. During the fourth season, Eric was given the sage advice by his neighbour to not lie about having gone to college just to get on a dating game-show; advice that came after Feeny heard for the first time the unease and desperation in Eric’s voice from the Call.
Eric didn’t always listen to Mr. Feeny’s counsel (counselling sessions frequently precursed by the Feeny Call after its introduction) but by gum he needed it and he needed Feeny. The bit worked because we saw and loved the Eric/Feeny dynamic every week that merited it. Sure the Feeny Call later became more extravagant and funny, but at its core it always symbolized Eric and Mr. Feeny’s relationship. Riley and Maya have no such relationship with Mr. Feeny, if they’re supposed to it doesn’t matter because it hasn’t been shown to us. The girls doing the Feeny Call seemingly “just because” diminishes all it represents.
The only way the Feeny Call could be feasibly passed down is if we saw Eric teach the girls how to do it because Eric, Riley and Maya have a relationship that Mr. Feeny, Riley and Maya don’t. The thing is…I’m not sure I want to see that either.
Not only would the diminishment still happen, but something that the-powers-that-be at Girl Meets World preach but don’t always practice is a desire for it to be its own show. That sentiment has been expressed many times and yet odd Boy Meets World callbacks pop up “just because”. Ironically Riley and Maya’s Feeny Call was one of the better ones, but that’s because Feeny’s reaction mirrored the reaction of much of the Boy audience. The Call itself, while delivered awesomely by Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter, fell flat without the history behind it.
Girl really needs to make up its mind: Is it its own show or is it constantly going to use some of Boy’s best stuff as a crutch to pull viewers in? I think it’s able enough to get rid of that crutch and for that reason I don’t want to see ANYONE do the Feeny Call again. It was useful to Eric when he was meeting the world with Feeny’s guidance, but for his character’s progression in Girl and for Riley and Maya’s, the Feeny Call needs to be silenced…
…Except in autograph-form, where I hope the endlessly kind-hearted, gracious and multi-talented Will Friedle always obliges us.
All media used in accordance with Section 29.1 of the Fair Dealing provision of The Copyright Act.
Wayne’s World. Dir. Penelope Spheeris. Perf. Mike Myers, Rob Lowe, Brian Doyle-Murray. Paramount Pictures, 1992. VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray.
Mimi1239. “2016 Toronto Comic Con | Will Friedle’s Panel PART 2”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 30 March 2016. Web. 03 April 2016.
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