Hey chaps! Welcome back! Have a good break? I did! Much fun and merriment and holidays and friends and parties and, most importantly of all, I received a PlayStation 4! Much Fallout 4 has been had.
But now, to business. So, I'm going to be honest, I'd never heard of this term 'STEM' before this episode. In school, I tended to get excellent grades in English and History, but pretty mediocre grades in Math and Science. I actually haven't taken a math class since junior year of high school I don't think. I went to art school. I was generally aware of the stereotype that boys were better at the sciences and girls were better at the humanities, and it kind of seemed to track and it never really struck me as super sexist just because neither of those seemed any inherently 'better' than the other.
And my first instinct in this episode was to kind of take issue with the premise based on the partners we were shown. Farkle was paired with Riley, and Lucas was paired with Maya. Based on those pairings if, for some reason, they were given the preposterous assignment of "One person simply drops a marble, the other figures out everything." rather than just being told to work on it together... it kind of makes sense that Riley and Maya would be the dropper. That's how I'd divvy out those roles. Maya's horrible at school and doesn't try, Lucas is pretty good in school, Lucas would be the one doing the work. Riley's very good in school, but Farkle's, like, a scientific genius, so of course he would be the one doing the work if only one of them could. It's not that men are better than women in science, necessarily, just that Lucas and Farkle are better than Maya and Riley, respectively. And, if they weren't given this exaggerated assignment, I'm sure Farkle would have been more than happy to have Riley help (Lucas likely would have tried to illicit Maya's help to no avail)
Zay and Sarah paired up takes some of the credence away from that. Zay's kind of an idiot, and got all Ds and Fs at his last school. We don't really know anything about Sarah, but she's got glasses, so, she's bound to be smarter than Zay. But Zay's not a very well-drawn character, and it's possible they don't remember that anymore.
What I would have done instead is probably put Lucas and Riley together. Both are established as being good in school, but not geniuses. So if Lucas just naturally assumed he would do the science (especially since if I had to choose one as being the more scholastically inclined, I'd choose Riley) then that would smack of sexism to me. I'm not saying they didn't still demonstrate sexism (I mean, it being straight-up every girl who dropped the marble does make it clear, even if it's a little tough to swallow) but I would have felt it more. It didn't feel sexist to me for Farkle to assume he's doing it.
But, I'm very willing to hear other takes on the matter.
As for the episode itself, it wasn't great. The assignment was so absurd that I knew it was going to be a Cory-esque lesson. So it felt like a lot of stalling until we got there. Really not much happened here, and so much of the middle with whatever the hell that sacrificing Yogi shit was felt like nonsense. Also, we thought Cory couldn't keep control of his class? Cory's fucking Feeny compared to Norton. There were explosions going off, things overflowing, kids were about to sacrifice one of their classmates, all while Norton was in the goddamn room.
It also just wasn't a particularly funny episode in general. I don't think I chuckled once. It wasn't in-your-face offensively unfunny or anything, but... it just wasn't funny.
I liked the Topanga/Auggie/Ava subplot a little more. While I'm not sure how I feel about Topanga being so callously unsupportive of Auggie because he did poorly in a soccer game (or maybe it brought back a little too many memories of my own father...) it is in character for her to be really competitive and not be in favor of under-achievers getting the same accolades as over-achievers.
I think they dropped the ball with how they ended though. It's an interesting commentary on today's culture that Auggie could think he's doing fine and doesn't need to bother trying because every kid got a trophy so what's it matter? Kids are absolutely too coddled these days in certain respects, and this is one of them.
But they ended with Auggie simply scoring a goal on Ava in the living room as if... that cleared that matter up. I would have, instead, liked Auggie to learn a valuable lesson about trying and achievement and why it's important to do your best.
I think that's all I got for now.
Episode Rating: C-
Episode MVP: Rowan, I guess, I dunno.
That's wild that you haven't heard "STEM" before. I've heard that, like, Ulysses is unreadable. That's sort of analogous right?
Allow me to state my absolute disgust at making Norton into another puppetmaster. This was a perfect opportunity to get away from the Cory-style lesson that we all despise, but this was not an improvement in any way. They may as well have had Cory substitute-teach that class for the day.
On the other hand, I believe the episode's heart was in the right place. The line that really resonated with me came from Norton, "Don't get disinterested." Or "don't lose interest," something like that, I don't want to go back and check. the point is, the target audience are at the age where it's cool and expected not to care about school, in particular the "nerdy" subjects. So I like this idea of smacking the kids in the face saying "Hey, this stuff is awesome, don't lose interest." Unfortunately, that theme didn't get the focus it deserved. Instead, the sexism/feminism topics got most of the attention. It felt really shoehorned in, most likely by Rowan. And look, I am completely on board with Rowan's agenda. There are very real barriers to entry for women in STEM fields. I have very close female friends with physics degrees and I've heard all about it. It is a real issue that deserves attention. But not for eighth graders. This is not a middle school issue. The people who need to hear this stuff are not watching Girl Meets World. The people watching GMW do need to hear "don't lose interest."
And that says nothing about the actual execution of those themes. Like Christian said, the experiment was nonsense, it should have been Riley with Lucas. All Riley had to say was "Farkle you already know this stuff, I want to learn science so let me do it." And it would have been over. Farkle and Lucas didn't make decisions based on gender, they made them based on wanting to get the shit done. But fine, even if the sexism aspect were set up properly, the ultimate implementation was completely garbled! "We are intelligent female scientists who deserve respect and equality, now please excuse us while we SACRIFICE YOGI." How can I take you seriously?! Your argument is that I should be taking female scientists seriously WHILE THEY'RE LIGHTING SHIT ON FIRE AND SACRIFICING YOGI?? It's like they had two completely different scripts for this episode and started flipping a coin to copy paste dialogue from each script into the final draft.
It was a mess. We all knew it would be a mess, it could have been worse, but it was definitely a mess. I would never point to this and say "This is how you should treat women in science," and a lot of that comes from the fact that you can't address such a complicated and mature issue with a bunch of eighth graders. The only thing to take away from this episode is "Don't lose interest," but like I said it wasn't the main focus.
Auggie's story was forgettable. He felt like a strawman, set up for Ava to tear down as a surrogate for Jacobs himself, "Why does he get the same trophy!?" I have never even heard of any sports league having the same trophy as a participation trophy. I'm willing to accept that they exist, but from where I'm standing, it doesn't quite sound like the epidemic Ava and Jacobs think it is.
It gets a C from me. Christian and I haven't talked about this one with each other yet, so be sure to check back here for more conversation updates on this post.
Sorry, should have updated before now.
When I did sports back in elementary school, we all got the same kind of, like, participation ribbons which would look the same as a first place ribbon. Or, like, they'd give you some sort of pity award. Like I remember once for soccer in third grade or something (I was one of the handful kids who'd kind of stand around looking up at the clouds and not notice when the ball went by them) I got "Outstanding Goalkeeper", but I was pretty sure I'd never been goalie, even back then. But they had to give me something. So there was a lot of that kind of stuff. I was given lots of pity accolades in sports, actually. I was always aware it was a crock of shit, so it didn't make me feel good like Auggie. But, then, I also didn't really care either, I was there because I had to be.
So, basically, yeah, I think this is really a thing. And I think it's probably a bad idea. I was beyond saving, but other kids probably had a chance.
My main reason for responding was my uncomfortableness with the quickness with which a feminist message in this episode is dismissed as having been Rowan's misguided idea. You even did it, though you made it clear you had no problem with Rowan's so-called agenda, and I know that's true. But I don't even like this idea that she's this... Machiavellian figure with this agenda that she's making a priority above making this show, because I see no evidence of it. But nonetheless the narrative exists amongst the GMW fandom that Rowan's this militant figure with regards to feminism, which isn't fair for a number of reasons. One, she hasn't struck me as a militant anything. Secondly, being an ardent feminist isn't something that should be seen as militant. I have very little respect for people who don't identify as feminists. It simply means you believe men and women should have equal rights. If you don't agree with that, you probably shouldn't be here because I don't want you here.
And I mean, to begin with, I think we're overplaying the amount of creative input Rowan Blanchard has on this series. And I certainly hope there are writers and producers of this series who would identify as feminists as well and thus a feminist message in an episode wouldn't necessarily have to come to Rowan - nor would it be more likely to come from her as a result of it feeling poorly handled. As always, Rowan is getting ripped on some message boards after this episode and "blamed" as if she wrote it or had anything to do with it other than doing her job and delivering her lines. I'm not sure who all these ardent horrible conservative Disney Channel tween sitcom watchers are, but they're out there and they hate her.
Yeah that's fair. I don't know, who knows. Didn't Rider have input on Shawn's random bouts of artfulness?
Did you end up watching this a second time? I think it deserves more discussion than we're giving it but we're both reluctant to look at it again. When are we going to get another good episode? I want to like this show again but I'm so bored. This one was definitely more palatable than New Years though. It's... back to the familiar formula, right, the "Close to being like Boy Meets World but the execution was bad and the teacher was Littlefinger," rather than Meets New Years, which was "A shitty Disney show."
Someone mentioned in the comments that they loved Maya in this episode and I have to disagree. I do agree that this was better than emotional doe eyed in-love-with-Lucas Maya we've seen recently. Buuuuuuuuuut 99% of her lines were some variation on "lol I don't like science" and then the crowd goes wild. I get that they were setting her up as "the one who changes her mind" about science, but I didn't buy it at all. What exactly didn't she like about science at the start? What does she like about other subjects? Was she unaware that fire was involved in science before now? Why did she want to sacrifice Yogi? She had a lot of potential here to learn something valuable from Riley but all she did was whine and complain.
I didn't watch it a second time. You're right, we are in bad need of a good episode. The last good one was Texas 1, but that sort of gets ruined by the Texas trilogy ultimately ending on a pretty terrible note. Before that, the last objectively good episode was probably, like, Semi-Formal or something. Ever since then, this season's been more or less terrible. Season 2 was majorly front-loaded, all of its best stuff was at the beginning. The second half has been a travesty. Putting all its Shawn and Eric episodes in the the first 10-12 episodes was a mistake, it really should have been spread out. I haven't been excited about an episode in forever.