Let me state for the record that Girl Meets World is the only show I watch on Disney Channel. I grew up watching Boy Meets World with my family. These days, Disney Channel shows covering heavy topics would normally make my skin crawl, but I trusted Girl Meets World with the issues given that they’ve done really well so far. They’ve shown the importance of kids getting more politically involved, why it’s important to trust your friends, and that you don’t have to grow up so fast.
In “Girl Meets I Am Farkle,” Farkle Minkus, son of Stewart Minkus and Jennifer Bassett, is tested to see if he has Asperger’s Syndrome. At first, I didn’t like how Riley and Maya reacted. Lucas, of course, was cool-headed, doing the research of what the symptoms of Asperger’s are. But Riley and Maya didn’t want Farkle to be diagnosed with it. Honestly, though, I understand why. They were scared that Farkle would be taken away from them. After all, having autism/Asperger’s could mean that Farkle could change schools. The important part, though, was that Farkle wanted his friends and family with him as he waits for the results.
As Lucas listed the symptoms for Asperger’s Syndrome, I realized that another character in the show actually had Asperger’s, but Farkle didn’t. As someone who was diagnosed around the age of 12, I already knew which actually had Asperger’s. Farkle, after all, is openly affectionate and always knows how he feels. Even though I’ve always been in touch with my feelings, I have major personal space issues. And I was awkward with flirting growing up. There’s a character who shows issues with hugging and flirts awkwardly. Spoilers: It’s not Farkle.
I love how the adults approached the issue as well. Jennifer was originally a minor antagonist who grew up into a major knockout. She and Stewart are so used to being in control, but parenthood is a whole new world for them. But they were also ready to help Farkle deal with whatever happens.
The best part of this episode, though, was Cory’s speech about labels. “Don’t live under a label. It just gets in the way of who you are.” Amen to that, my brother! At the end of the episode, Farkle talks about Asperger’s as a label and it turns out (non-surprisingly) that he doesn’t have Asperger’s. The moral of the story is that people are really defined by their actions. And even though Riley, Maya, and Lucas were scared of losing Farkle, they studied Asperger’s and wanted to be there for their friend.
The character who actually has Asperger’s is a recurring character named Isadora Smackle. And yes, her behaviors in this episode are exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but honestly, she is a genuine love interest for Farkle. Riley, Maya, and Lucas see her as a friend and wanted her to be part of their clique. The important thing, though, is that Isadora is shown to be open to love and affection from Farkle.
The episode ends with Riley asking “Who is actually normal? And who actually wants to be?” Isadora was the only one who wanted to be normal, much like others on the spectrum. But to be honest, there is no such thing as normal.
Could the episode have treated Asperger’s better? Probably. But I’m considering the reality that it’s a 30 minute sitcom targeted to middle schoolers and younger kids. It wasn’t the “family” show on a regular network the way “Boy Meets World” was. It was miles better than Glee, though which had a character who diagnosed herself and used it as an excuse to act like a jerk. Isadora Smackle is an actual person, not a walking stereotype. And this episode is at least enough to get the kids asking questions and do further research.
So kudos to you, Girl Meets World writers. You made this adult Aspie proud of her childhood.