Boy Meets World: Turkey Day (A Very Special Failure)

This was a really offensive episode. That’s why I’m writing 2 Boy Meets World posts in a row. I couldn’t even be funny about this. I’m confused as to why this episode exists in the world in this manner. 

Cory and Shawn bring in the most cans for the food drive at school, so they win a turkey and stuffing. They cannot decide who will take which (they both want stuffing) so they decide to combine family dinners. The Matthews are very snobby when they get to the trailer park. They mistake the “Unters” trailer for the “Hunters” because Alan assumes that the H has fallen off. This alerts the Trailer Park Home Owners Association to the fact that yuppies are on their turf, so they call an emergency meeting. They are snobby in their own way, you see, and they tell Chet to get rid of them. 

(Mr. Feeney started this episode off with a lecture about the Burundian Civil War between the Hutu and Tutsi, which preceded/devolved into the Rwandan Genocide of 1994…because that’s so comparable to snobby suburbans right? Ugh. I can’t even. This show. Come on.)

(Okay, well I guess it’s sort of the banality of evil or how prejudice and hate should be tolerated at any level. But still. Omg. Are you serious, Boy Meets World?)

Chet and Verna (Shawn’s parents) are embarrassed that their forks don’t match so they make everyone eat with plasticware. We find this out because Alan was a total jerk and whined about using a plastic fork. Instead of just being like we don’t care that your forks don’t match, Amy made some condescending comment about how their forks didn’t match when they were “just starting out.” Finally, the kids have their own Thanksgiving dinner with tough-guy from school Frankie and it’s only when their parents stumble upon the meal that they realize how terrible they’ve been to each other.

At the end of the episode, Feeney makes Shawn read his paper to the class. It starts off like this: “This past week I spent Thanksgiving with the Hutus and the Tutsis, which was a real surprise to me because I live in Philadelphia and I thought that kind of prejudice only happened in undeveloped countries.” Not only is the comparison (for obvious reasons) insanely awful, but also I particularly hate how the characterization of Burundi as an “undeveloped” country. They could have said developing, under developed, whatever you want to do to mark the dissonance between what we as Americans think of “civilized” countries to be…but ultimately I think they did this because it’s scary to think of genocide as happening among modern countries. Of course we know that isn’t true, and that genocide can and does happen in developed (albeit desperate, perhaps) countries.

I was originally going to post this closer to Thanksgiving, but it’s just too depressing for the holidays. Then I was going to not post this at all, but then I decided that I wanted to go ahead with it. Why is that?  Well, it’s pissing me off and I want to get on a soapbox and I want to do that because:

  1. This was recent. This was only 20 years ago. Yet I don’t think people are all that informed about it and this show didn’t help any.
  2. This was a current affair at the time this episode aired. I get that it’s a “kid friendly” attempt to approach the subject matter, but all it did was make a specific and devastating genocide trite. And I hate trite.
  3. I love this show, and I like to make fun of things I love. But this is not something to make fun of and yet I still want to post about it. I don’t like that western popular media attempting to teach western children an important lesson about an African genocide and succeeding only in making it condescending and petty. And maybe that’s because western media didn’t want to portray this any more gravely than it did not only because it’s disturbing, but also because the international community did surprisingly little.
  4. In my opinion, if you’re not going to cover something accurately then don’t cover it at all. Boy Meets World could have taught us this life lesson without this. We could have skipped the entire Feeney lecture thing. He could have given them the turkey and we could have still seen the class struggle between The Matthews and The Hunters and we still could have learned from it. We could even have heard a lecture on how important it is to respect people at every level of interaction because things can go so horribly wrong if we forget that as people and as a society. But no, I don’t think these didactic false syllogisms are at all appropriate. Unfortunately, every human has the ability to be oppressive on any scale, but The Matthews/Hunters were never in danger of contributing to a genocide over Thanksgiving dinner. Honestly, we don’t all have to get along that much, and I don’t think that their snobby behavior did anything to warrant a comparison to unabashedly annihilate another race. This is so beyond an epic fail that I’m totally shocked that someone was paid to write this episode.

Very Special Lesson: Comparing socioeconomic disparity amongst best friends’ families in a sitcom to genocide will undermine the validity of your argument every time.

I didn’t proof this and I don’t plan on it. I don’t want to reread it and I want to go back to loving Boy Meets World as much as possible.

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