Thursday, December 22, 2016

20 Greatest Meets World Characters: #16. Farkle Minkus

#16. Farkle Minkus

Played By: Corey Fogelmanis (2014- )
Episode Count: 66 and counting, presumably 69 after season 3 ends
Role: Minkus's son, Riley and Maya's friend, the "nerd" 
Signature Episodes: (Girl Meets ) Flaws, Yearbook, I Am Farkle, Money, the Great Lady of New York

Farkle is, without a doubt, his parents' son. Unfortunately, in the first season at least, he never showed quite the same finesse with those traits as his parents. Instead of being that one kid in class who answers everything, like his father, he had to have "Farkle Time" dedicated to his exhibitionism. Instead of having that social dark streak in wanting to control his peers, like his mother, he wants to control the entire world. Instead of controlled moments of genuine charm, like his father toward Topanga, he comes on way too strong, all the time. His entire character is cranked up to 11 in the first season, making him a difficult pill to swallow. On the other hand, at least he had traits to crank up. The other main three were fairly limited and almost entirely predictable in the first season, while Farkle was capable of bringing different attitudes and energies to different situations. Season one NEEDED that. And in Girl Meets Flaws, we move one dimension deeper as we explore his vulnerability and hidden insecurity. 

So great, Farkle is a fully fleshed out character, despite being hugely annoying. Then in Meets Yearbook, Farkle realizes he's a caricature and resolves to change. I think we all expected the standard resolution here, where his best friends tell him he's great the way he is and everything goes back to normal. Like what happened with Cory most of the time. But instead, they surprised us, and I loved it. Farkle isn't going to define himself by what his friends want. He wants to grow into something better. "I'm growing up. And I don't know what's going to happen next. But you guys are my best friends, so deal with it." That's vintage Meets World right there, the change, being uncertain of yourself while being certain of your friends. 

And that sounds great on paper. In real life, a haircut, cool clothes, and a deeper voice would completely change Farkle's life, he would fit in and be loved. But that's not what we want to see on television. He has no interesting story until Meets I Am Farkle, but then that's almost backpedaling. Is he Donnie Barnes or is he borderline autistic? After that... we start to realize why Minkus only had one season. Once you've seen what this archetype can do... what's left? They gave him a girlfriend, crossed that one off the list real quick. Even in the first season of Big Bang Theory, which I actually enjoy as opposed to the rest of the series, Leonard's big arc is what? He gets a hot girlfriend. There's just not much to do with this character, other than showing off his intelligence in class every once in a while. Popping an adderall and studying all night doesn't make for great tv. I might like to see him as a Hermione, the intelligence-crutch of his friends, but this show never has any problems for his intelligence to solve!

He gains a new trait in Meets Money, a sort of rich guilt and romanticizing a simpler life, which is compelling. It was a bad script, but the idea gives a lot of room to explore the character, although we haven't explored it since then. He barely exists in season 3 after the triangle arc, and then in Great Lady of New York, I don't even know what happened.

"Mike we need a new angle for Farkle."
".... His ancestors died in the Holocaust."
"Wohoah, isn't that a bit extre-"
"Write it."

So in the end, the reason Farkle works is because he's a fiercely loyal friend. He's Lucas's best friend, he's known Riley and Maya forever, he is their glue. During the whole triangle arc, he's the one constantly trying to put everything back together, for better or worse. That's where Farkle's strength is, and I wish they'd focused on it more. Instead of just giving Zay that board game for Christmas, let's see them all actually playing one of Farkle's favorite games together. Show us ONE THING that Lucas and Farkle do together when it's just the two of them. But like I said, he is fully intent on holding them all together. Indeed, when asked about Canada by Cory in Girl Meets Legacy, Farkle replies "Our greatest allies are the people right next to us." If anyone were to come up with "Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself" in this show, it would be Farkle. That's important.

This post reads a lot more critical than the ones before it, so let me explain why. Previously it was "they're not around much, so we're explaining why they deserve to be on the list at all." But we're past that point. If you tried to list the remaining characters (not in order) you'd get all of them or maybe be off by one. Farkle has to be on the list. He is a main character for three seasons, interacting with and affecting all of the main characters, while either influencing or driving the narrative. In light of that, it's important to see which shortcomings led to him being ranked lower than the others. 

To chime in a bit based on what was being discussed on the blog, I have three major problems with Farkle that hold him back and even rank him below Lucas. From LEAST problematic to MOST problematic these are: 1) He's increasingly poorly used. We've mentioned it before, but if you took him out of this season entirely very very little would have changed. 2) He's consistently annoying, even if the way he's annoying keeps changing. 3) They have major difficulties settling on a personality for him. 

It's 3 that some people have difficulty with, especially I think because Lucas is so boring (and Farkle often isn't) that it seems like a lack of personality should really be more Lucas' problem. It isn't. Lucas has a personality, it's just not a terribly interesting one. Farkle, on the other hand, suffers from a (far more extreme) version of what I criticize Jack for - inconsistent, grab-bag personalities that seem to shift on a whim. I found this comment from me in the "Commonism" review, which kind of encapsulates what the issue is for me:
I mean, Lucas bothers me more in that... his personality is anathema to everything I tend to value in characters. But I do believe he's a developed, consistent character and that's important to me. Farkle, it's like... they know he's smart, they know he's 'weird', and that's it. Sometimes he's the sweetest most sensitive guy in the world, sometimes he's on his way to becoming a world-conquering dictator. Sometimes he's a skeevy perve who is utterly lacking in social skills and unable to pick up social cues and possibly autistic, and sometimes he gets social cues better than anyone else and knows what's in everyone's heart better than they do. It's really kind of a problem.
I can forgive just, like, not liking a character. Because that's whatever, what I don't like, someone else might. But when the show seems to struggle so much getting a firm grip on who they want this character to be, I do think it's a problem. They've reinvented him a few times, presumably because they recognize the problems themselves, and it keeps not working. The Farkle of now really has almost nothing in common with the original Farkle except for being smart, and yet...  he still doesn't work. At least for Sean and I.

So, that's where his problems mainly come down to. There are a lot of reasons he's important, and ways in which he's not so bad, and I really have come to believe in the strength of his friendship with Riley and Maya both, even as other friendships among this group are poorly realized. So it's not all bad. But it's a lot bad. 

P.S. I just tried to look up something about Farkle on google and the first suggestion after typing "Farkle" was "Farkle and Riley Fanfiction Rated M". *sigh*

28 comments:

  1. While I agree with your write-up, I just can't agree with Farkle being below Lucas on this list. I mean, at least Farkle had character traits, and those were seen and used by the writers and they grew and morphed as the character did. Lucas has been the same piece of white bread for as long as the show has been on.

    I hope the reason Lucas is higher in your estimation isn't that he is Riley's boyfriend, because we just haven't seen it.

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    1. How do we know Lucas is on this list?

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    2. I'd actually largely disagree with this. Lucas is lame but at least he's consistently lame and feels like one specific person. Farkle has felt like a constant reshuffling to correct prior characterization missteps. Other than that he's smart and ambitious, there's little about Farkle that is consistent throughout the series. Is he a creep or caring? Is he borderline autistic or is he really perceptive about people's feelings? Depends on what that episode needs. And when you add how inconsequential he's been this whole season?

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    3. And Lucas being involved in that Maya and Riley love triangle alone gives him more narrative relevance than Farkle's ever had. It was a year long storyline, Farkle never had anything like that. Nothing even close.

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    4. I gave to agree with Christian. Lucas is a boring loaf of white on white bread. We all know it. But the triangle? It may have been a shitty plotline but it was a important shitty plotline.

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    5. Cryptid here:

      On a personal level, 1960, I agree with you.

      However, this list is being treated objectively in terms of impact for the characters--Christian said he is very fond of Frankie Stechino (who has about twenty-one episodes to his name), but it was the more iconic Harley won the 17-slot.

      Despise Friar with every fiber of my being though I may, and preferring Farkle over him in every possible scenario imaginable, there's little question that Friar has had more of an impact on the overall structure than Farkle has.

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    6. Yup. Again we go back to it's their relevance not necessarily popularity. I totally agree Farkle is more -likeable- as a character than Lucas; but Lucas is important.

      Farkle could have been much more; but I also agree with the note that we're discovering why Minkus only got one season. Nerds, generally, work better in small doses; or as not full-on nerds (kinda like Riley really would be in virtually any other show).

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    7. I agree. Shows often struggle when they have a character in the group who's "the smart one". Because that's not a personality in of itself. Does your group of friends have a smart one? Mine doesn't. We're all pretty smart, we just have our own specific talents. And we all have a lot of other things going on.

      And yet, every kid sitcom seems to find the need to have one member of the group who is a NERD and makes INVENTIONS and does SCIENCE and it often comes at the detriment of making that character well-rounded.

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    8. To use Boy Meets World as a better comparison, Minkus was indeed 'the smart one' of his class, and didn't stick. After that, we never had a 'smart one'. Was Topanga the smartest of the group? Of course. But it never felt like that was her major identity.

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    9. Like I mentioned in the post, Hermione is the "smart one" but it works because she's actually solving problems. It worked to a lesser extent with Topanga for the same reason, her friends relied on her smarts. Farkle... they don't really need him.

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    10. Cryptid here.

      In the group of friends Mike and I are a part of, there really isn't a smart one either. Specialized areas of expertise, really. We've got a journalist who loves the Red Sox, a Muppets and animation fanatic, and I'm pretty knowledgeable about theology.

      That's an interesting point on Minkus being useful for only one season, though if memory serves, when Jacobs was unable to use Minkus, he used that skinny kid Meese instead--Meese ran against Cory for Class President and was blackmailed into helping with the pirate radio station.

      By the time Boy Meets World gets strong, with Topanga as part of the main group properly, the classrooms were a little less focused on in terms of plot (just a little bit) and the dynamics of the group took center-stage, so there wasn't really need for a Smart One.

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    11. Yeah, Hermione's a whole different thing. That group is actively, like, solving mysteries and going on adventures. There you do need a smart one.

      As for Topanga, I don't think her primary function in her group was the smart one (which wouldn't have been necessary) but because she just *is* so much smarter than Cory and Shawn, it would come in handy in situations like The Eskimo.

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    12. Topanga is a pretty good example of how you can deal successfully with 'smart kids'. As I mentioned on the Minkus write-up; she fills the role of 'the smart one', but that's not her only role. Yes; she's also the love interest, but again, that's not her only role - as opposed to Lucas who seems that's all he is really. One thing I have to give props for BMW for; is that though they may have their roles, their character is not just a 'role'. They come across, mostly, like fully-realized characters, who -could- be like someone you know.

      Most real-life groups don't have a 'smart one', because kids like Farkle or Minkus tend to gravitate towards others like that. We tend to hang around with people sorta like us.

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  2. I thought it's been confirmed Lucas isn't on it

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    1. For some reason I thought he was mentioned not appearing in the Zay writeup, I guess I was wrong

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  3. Hmm, Farkle. Farkle. Farkle.

    I liked Farkle best in Season 2. He got to be Donnie Barnes. He hit puberty hard and matured.

    In Season 1, he was a stalker.

    In Season 3, he's...uhhhh....well he seems to get along with Riley.

    His biggest problem is all of his stories seem to exist for the sake of existing rather than trying to create an interesting look at growing up.

    Per my friend who works at one of the stations mine competes against: The actor's really nice

    Out of all the GMW kids, he and Zay are the only ones I could see being friends with. I could probably tolerate Riley in small doses but Lucas is a loser, Maya's a whiner, and Smackle...doesn't do anything.

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  4. Cryptid here.

    This is a nicely balanced editorial, Sean. Not unlike Zay, Farkle seems to suffer from a lack of realized potential. I'm more fond of him--maybe just because he was on the show first and is connected to Stuart and Jennifer, and by extent Cory and Topanga.

    As far as Season One goes--it is, as you said, cranked up to eleven. Part of me feels that this was at least a little deliberate. I am fully convinced that "Donnie Barnes" was something that Michael Jacobs had wanted to do, had he been able to keep Minkus on the original show.

    As it happens, I'm also of the opinion that Farkle's antics in Season One were largely those of a boy who thought himself much funnier than he actually was. Which is pretty typical of teenagers.

    Unfortunately, given that this show is a bit more ensemble than its predecessor, Farkle's character development is stunted. The strength in Boy Meets World was that the groups focused on were smaller--Cory and Shawn as a duo, or else Power Trio with Topanga (or Minkus in Season One).

    You describe Farkle as the glue--which is curious, since I'm of the opinion that role belong to Riley. I can't see any of the Core Four friendly with each other independent of Riley--Friar was very condescending towards Farkle in the earliest episodes.

    But you raise an excellent point--Farkle tried desperately to end the Triangle, and I'm willing to believe he spent the entire summer between Seasons 2 and 3 nagging Friar to actually put an end to it.

    I wish this could have been fleshed out more.

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    1. You're right that originally Riley was the glue as it were - then again, Zay wouldn't be friends with any of them if it weren't for Lucas; and Smackle's initial connection is certainly with Farkle.

      However, Farkle is better at trying to fix things without doing it in a way that makes it worse. He tried to fix the triangle; and he's also responsible for pointing out to Riley that she had no right to hide her feelings. He 'fixes' things in ways that are good for everyone; whilst Riley's ways of fixing things often backfire.

      I think much of Farkle's season one antics can be traced back to Minkus' feeling that Topanga should have been his wife. Later seasons thankfully backed off from that; but it does come across in season one that he was still in love with Topanga.

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  5. Farkle is a hard character to pin down, which is why I think having him at 16 is fair. Season 1 Farkle was damn near intolerable with the beyond creepy desire for both Riley and Maya. Season 3 Farkle might have well moved away, because he had that little impact on the show. So, Season 2 is the season where any positive momentum he has really lies. The Donnie Barnes arc was great, and I think gave Farkle some real life character. Problem is, that's where he seems to have stopped growing. The best thing I can say about him is that he really loves Riley and Maya. And....that's it. Lucas may be his best friend, but we really don't have any one thing to point to in order to demonstrate that. And maybe that he's the outside pair of eyes into the triangle, trying his best to not let it blow up.

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  6. Cryptid here.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Watch "Santa's Little Helper." Camera angle's a bit cramped, but the audio is alright.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDP4RHE2_Nc

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIqyApr6jjI

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  7. Merry Christmas to you, Cryptid. There is a group of movies and TV eps I watch each holiday season, but I somehow forgot to add this to the list. I will remember next year.

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  8. Farkle’s standing as the group “scientist” was always problematic for me. No surprise that they never had him say much of anything that betrayed a knowledge of science, or that they would have him say unscientific shit preceded by “science says.” Nobody tunes in to GMW expecting a NOVA episode to break out.

    But, if they touched on science in any meaningful way at all, it was to portray it as getting in the way, often as getting in his way, most preposterously as preventing him from knowing how optics works or from being able to formulate a conjecture about what might be inside a building. Over a year later, I’m still annoyed at Belief.

    I’m also still annoyed about the time they equated Farkle with Canada. Thanks for the reminder.

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  9. I think one of this show's problems, among others, is that it doesn't take advantage of the whole ensemble. In the original show, it wasn't always about Cory and Shawn. Episodes would focus on Eric one week, or Angela another week, then go back to Shawn before another Cory and Topanga episode. We haven't even had one Farkle and Smackle episode dedicated to how they handle being in a relationship. The characters need to have a presence on the show. Of course, on BMW, Cory was always the star of the show, but we got to know about Shawn and Eric and Alan and Feeny and even Turner. I mean, I can't even imagine GMW doing an episode about Zay. And that's pretty sad.

    Part of the reason Farkle's character has consistency issues is they don't even focus on him enough.

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    1. You're definitely right. The side stories are always Auggie and/or Topanga, instead of splitting up the main group. Auggie was a total mistake in my opinion, that's SO much screen time we could put to a better use. Like seeing what Farkle and Lucas are up to while Riley and Maya do something else.

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    2. Young children on television are best seen but not heard. At least they didn't make precocious. For the most part.

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    4. This is Cryptid.

      Yeah, that's definitely part of the problem. The ensemble cast acts as a unit almost all the time. It's pretty rare that Riley even gets an episode to herself as opposed to "Riley and friends."

      And I definitely agree that a "Farkle and Smackle" episode would have been nice, especially if they were used as a foil for Riley.

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