Girl Meets World 2.17 "Girl Meets Rileytown"
While the show has tackled the issue of bullying before, this episode specifically dealt with cyberbullying and how it can affect someone without others ever knowing about it. Riley being targeted, having been dealing with someone threatening and harassing her through text messages for three weeks, it was heartbreaking and absolutely devastating seeing this sweet child go through that, trying to ignore it but it just got worse and worse until she started snapping at her best friend. I liked that it was Farkle, who understood the signs since he was previously a target of bullying, and who told Maya who then went to talk with Riley about it. Everything about that scene with that gentle confrontation, leading to Riley breaking down and crying because of everything she has been holding in this entire time, that was completely heartbreaking and hard to watch, but beautifully done. There was nothing over the top about it, nothing comical, no laughter involved. It was real, raw, and emotional.
It hit home with me, since I was bullied intensely throughout my school years, especially in junior high and high school. While times have changed with technology adding more accessibility with anonymity through means of bullying someone, something I'm kind of glad didn't exist when I was in school otherwise I don't know what I would've done, it still hit a raw nerve when I saw how what was happening to Riley deeply affected her so much that she felt like she couldn't talk to her friends or parents about it. Just, that feeling of helplessness, not knowing how to approach the situation, feeling utterly trapped by someone who took a stab at you during your most vulnerable moments. I've been there. Unfortunately I never had close friends to confide in like she did in the end. I didn't have that support system. I was often alone in dealing with it by myself, repressing everything and reacting in different ways, usually self-destructively.
Which is another thing I thought the episode did really well. Riley lashed out at Maya because she didn't know where else to direct her emotions, which she kept bottled up inside of her and as the situation was getting worse, she needed an outlet. It was a misdirected one, and one she has apologized for, but as Maya said in the episode, no matter what happens she would always be by her side and she was thankful that Riley felt safe enough to chose her to lash out at. Not only that, but the rest of her friends had her back as well.
But the thing I loved most about this episode was how it was resolved. The stylistic choice of how the ending scene was filmed was perfect, because it was about how Riley was taking agency over what was happening to he rather than focusing on the bully. We never even see who was bullying her, because that wasn't the point. It was about her taking her life back, of regaining and turning around what this person thought they were destroying. Also, it makes sense with the concept of cyberbullying in general; it's all about anonymity, and while Riley certainly knew this person who went to school with her, it wasn't important to give that person power. It was about Riley, how this was affecting her, how she regained confidence through her friends, and how she, herself, took control of the situation. As with each episode there is a lesson to be learned, and this was about how one deals with conflicts. And while it would've been satisfying seeing her friends confront this individual, it wasn't their conflict to deal with. They offered Riley support, something she needed after keeping this to herself for as long as she did, and that's what made her confront this person on her own terms.
Just, this episode was handled really well, showing that there are different kinds of bullying and that it can be handled in different ways, and it can affect others differently, and how to resolve such a conflict by having a support system around you and the confidence and bravery to stand up for yourself, taking your life back from your tormentor, not giving them any power. And, of course, the power of friendship. How Maya, despite how Riley treated her, knew immediately that her best friend wasn't herself and she and the others, once realizing something was wrong, stood behind her. Also, seeing Riley break down crying was the hardest thing to watch. Seeing her that devastated, seeing that dam breaking from what she was holding in all that time, was done is a wonderful, beautiful way. Rowan has really grown as a young actor in this role. ♥
One of the things I have been loving about Girl Meets World is how they handle certain issues. This show has tackled things like bullying, cultural appropriation, autism, understanding the importance of political elections, talking about current world events, friendship, acceptance who you are along with personal growth, and many other important messages. It reminds me when kid and family shows used to focus on serious issues and discuss them. And it's fitting too, since it brings in the nostalgia not just by bringing back old cast members, but the show is still run by some of the old crew from BMW and both Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are producers on the show, allowing that sense of familiarity of its themes and messages to shine through. It makes fans of the original series happy by bringing in that nostalgic feel while maintaining that same level of dealing with issues that are relevant to today's youth, and connecting everyone through what these characters are going through, from the adults to the kids.