Chick Like Me: When Very Special Episodes Get It Right

“Chick Like Me” is one of the most popular Boy Meets World episodes ever, according to Entertainment Weekly. It is certainly my personal favorite (even though there are many close seconds). Most importantly, this is one very special episode that I cannot mock because it actually does teach a moral lesson in a manner that is neither didactic nor trite. “Chick Like Me” is the gold standard of Very Special Episodes. 133097_1233263308571_236_169Inspired by journalist John Howard Griffin’s classic Black Like Me–in which Griffin darkens his skin color and travels through the racially segregated 1950’s South–Corey decides to go undercover as a girl to conduct an investigation on gender relations at John Adams High. Shawn came up with the idea for this, so I’ll have to give him the creative credit here and not Corey. He also came up with the awesome title.

In fact, Shawn is definitely the key player in this episode. As it turns out, Corey is really bad at being a girl. He tries to look “pretty” and attempts to walk like a girl and it is awful. It’s so obviously that Corey is super uncomfortable. Shawn, on the other hand, has no trouble getting in touch with this female side and has even previously thought about what his name would be if he were a girl. In order to get info for Corey’s newspaper article, Shawn goes on a date as “Veronica” with the resident douchebag, Gary. Gary starts off the date by asking every single girl’s least favorite question: “How is it that someone like you doesn’t have a boyfriend?” This is one of the most backhanded compliments, I can think of. It’s almost like “you’re so great, what have you done wrong in your life that you’ve failed to achieve this otherwise attainable goal?” Or worse, “what’s fundamentally wrong with you that I’m not seeing?” What could possibly be the intended response to this question? “Oh, I don’t know. I’m just such a shy and unassuming flower. I’ve been waiting for the right person to discover me and here you are!” But that then again implies, that the woman even wants said questioner to be her boyfriend. And frankly, some of the most offensive things anyone has ever said to me start with that syntax: “How does a girl like you…” It’s not only inappropriate because it massively generalizes supposed “types” of women, but also because it leaves this vague question in the air of “What kind of girl do you think I am?”

Of course, this is the least upsetting thing that Gary does all night. He manhandles “Veronica,” implies that she is “asking for it” by the way she is dressed, and claims that she must not like guys when she pushes him off of her. Veronica a.k.a. Shawn eventually punches Gary in the face on behalf of “every girl [he’s] ever known” and vows to be a better listener (and thus more respectful) in his relationships in the future. Everything I wrote above is what makes the episode great. But what I think makes the episode amazing is Corey.

Shawn has clearly been tasked with educating us in this episode, so what is Corey left to do? He may appear at first to be the comedic relief, but I would argue that he is teaching us his own lesson about self-awareness and acceptance. While, he was awkward walking around as a “cute” high school girl type, he is totally at ease as Cora–the brash and punny new waitress at Chubby’s. Corey has not shared his plans to go undercover as Cora with Shawn (who is on his date with Gary) or Topanga (who is watching from a nearby table). The character of Cora is definitely scripted to lighten the mood in this otherwise assault-y date that Shawn is experiencing as Veronica, but it isn’t that drag that makes Cora funny. Sure, it’s funny in a novel way to see Corey as a saucy waitress, but after the initial shock of seeing Corey crash the Veronica/Gary date, Cora becomes just another character. The joke here is not “hey, look at me I’m dressed like a lady,” but rather “look at me I’m a cheeky waitress who tells it like it is, honey.” And the best part is that Corey doesn’t seem to think it’s funny that he’s in drag. Corey seems to really enjoy exploring this new archetype. Haven’t we all learned something new about ourselves when we experienced being someone different? Even if that lesson isn’t that we need to treat others better? Maybe that lesson is that we need to know ourselves better too.

Shawn’s transformance more classically resembles Black Like Me—in that it is done not for humor or entertainment but rather to gain understanding and empathy for a seemingly disparate person. But Corey learns a lot about himself as well through his experience as Cora. Corey is often worried about fitting in and being cool, so it’s really nice to see him confidently saunter around as Cora. Even though she’s weird and outspoken, I’d imagine that she might be saying plenty of things that Corey is already thinking.

Very Special Lesson: Don’t be a douchebag. Listen to what your date is saying.

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3 thoughts on “Chick Like Me: When Very Special Episodes Get It Right

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