Monday, January 9, 2017

20 Greatest Meets World Characters: #13. Angela Moore

#13. Angela Moore

Played By: Trina McGee-Davis (1997-2000, 2015)
Episode Count: 55 (54- BMW, 1- GMW)
Role: Shawn's first love
Signature Episodes: I Love You Donna Karan, Chasing Angela, First Girlfriend's Club, Friendly Persuasion, Santa's Little Helpers, The Truth About Honesty, Angela's Men, Angela's Ashes

Sorry for the delay on this! Been very busy. So. Angela.

Sean and I have both been pretty open about not being huge fans of her, but Angela's import is fairly self evident, and I think she was easily the most significant of the trio of latter season additions, and generally the best handled. Unlike Jack and Rachel who just showed up one day and were suddenly main cast members living with our heroes, Angela was introduced gradually as a recurring character. First, as just a student at John Adams, then as one of the litany of girls Shawn briefly dates, and finally as his first real girlfriend (sorry, Dana, it's true). Season 5 gradually got us used to Angela, and by the time she joined the main cast in Season 6 it felt like she'd earned her place as a main cast member and I didn't find it as off-putting as I could have.

Angela played a few important roles. So much of Shawn's development in the final three seasons, his burgeoning introspection of who he is and why he does the things he does, and his ability to take himself and his actions seriously is wrapped up in her. She helped him grow up. As a person and as a character, Shawn very much needed an Angela to give his arc some focus. I didn't love every aspect of their relationship, and the constant shuffling of who was pulling away from who because they were overwhelmed by their feelings could get exhausting, but then, that's kind of what people are like when they're 19 years old. 

To that end, I think Angela's biggest claim to fame is that she helped establish a teenage relationship on this show that felt real. It was messy, it was angsty for reasons that seem silly to us as adults now but could easily seem REAL and IMPORTANT at the time, and, most importantly, it ended. For a show meant to represent the coming of age of an average American kid, BMW has always had the big problem of him being involved in a completely unrealistic relationship. So, because Cory and Topanga couldn't represent what a real "first love" relationship would look like, Shawn and Angela had to represent it instead. And I think it did so well. Ultimately, my favorite thing about Shawn and Angela was that the show had the courage to end it, despite everything they'd invested in it, because it was what felt right. Shawn isn't Cory, it never made sense that true love and happiness would come to him so easily. They were too young, too broken, too immature, and plagued by too many of the same issues for that to have worked out. And I think it was important that they show this, and it provided a nice bittersweet note to the end of the series and drew attention to the role that goodbyes play in transitioning from college to adulthood, since otherwise everyone else (of importance) was going off to, like, live in an apartment together in Manhattan.

And, because it ended, Angela continued to have a role to play in Girl Meets World. Not so much... physically (her one appearance wasn't handled very well and I'm not convinced we needed it), but as an idea. The specter of Angela continue to haunt Shawn and informed the more adult relationship he would go on to build with Katy. I have my issues with the fact that playboy Shawn Hunter would still be hung up on a girl who broke up with him 15 years ago, but narratively it probably made sense to make the personification of his relationship issues be someone the audience was familiar with rather than some new character who he'd met in the interim. 

Still, while Angela was just as important to the development of this franchise's second main character as anyone (even Turner and Chet) she does have the issue of existing more as an idea and a catalyst than a character of her own. Van Damme tickets and Vivaldi aside, we don't really get to know Angela very well outside of the prism of her relationship with Shawn. The show never did an amazing job of establishing her relationships with non-Shawn cast members, and her best friendship with Topanga was something I always had trouble buying. The best characters aid in the progression of the narrative and the development of other characters, while also being great characters themselves. Feeny's main role is the effect he has on other people too (though, obviously, he effects far more people than Angela does), but as a person himself, he's also great.. Angela really only hits 1 out of 2, which is why she doesn't rank higher, and why she ranks the lowest of Shawn's Character Development Foursome. 

She came closest to feeling like a real person in Season 6, which I think is by far her best season. Episodes like "Friendly Persuasion" where she forces Cory to confront that they're not really friends, and "Santa's Little Helpers" where she finally stands up for herself in the face of Shawn's self-absorption offer glimmers of an fierce, independent young woman I'd have liked to have gotten to know. But I'm not sure if we ever really did. Still, if only by virtue of the relationship she built with Shawn, I do think we got to know her better than Jack and Rachel.


  1. >Episodes like "Friendly Persuasion" where she forces Cory to confront that they're not really friends,

    Magnificent point. It was a huge slap in the face to Cory that they weren't friends while Angela didn't seem too bothered by it...when at the end, Angela finally agrees to let Cory in, and we see them be friends in other episodes-like the one where Cory spazes out about Shawn kissing Pangers for that commercial or the one where we see them walk into the Union. Cory also became a confidant for Angela regarding the Shawn situation.

    She's not perfect but she made things interesting and she had some development. Not a lot, but enough that she was definitely not the person she was in Season 5 when she showed up.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This is Cryptid.

    For the most part, I agree with this Christian. I'm rather ambivalent towards Angela myself.

    So in that regard, Angela does exactly what her character is meant to do, though sadly little else, but she does it quite well. She's the first truly significant relationship for Shawn, and also the one who truly breaks his heart--an interesting change of pace, as Shawn is usually the heart-breaker.

    One thing I did notice is that Angela often seemed to be a bit of a foil to Cory and Topanga, sort of like how Jack is the straight man to Eric. Angela finds Cory and Topanga's relationship bizarre (which is fair, it is bizarre) but she also seems a bit more...confrontational.

    Another thing I like quite a bit about Angela is how she and Shawn were one of the inter-racial couples that our generation was introduced to, and more importantly, how much of a non-issue it was. Nobody even looked up at Shawn and Angela dating. By not commenting about it at all, outside of a few jokes, the writers did the best thing possible: they made it completely normal.

    That's not to say there weren't problems though. For all their talk of her being Topanga's best friend, I can think of literally one scene where they actually act like best friends, rather than amicable roommates: the scene in "Resurrection," where Angela agrees that Topanga is acting rationally, and then counters with it not being a compliment.

    Also something I noticed--Angela doesn't have a one-on-one scene with Mr. Feeny that I can remember. And considering she was on the show for three seasons, and had him for a teacher for that duration, I find that significant. Every other main cast member, except for Rachel and I think Eli Williams, got one-on-one Feeny Advice at some point or another.

    1. Rachel and Eli at least had memorable moments with Feeny. Rachel was Feeny's partner when he decided to take classes at Pennbrook and *she* taught *him* that what he really wanted to do was keep teaching. And Feeny and Eli had a few moments as teachers - the one where Feeny played him when he was trying to solicit money for his race, and their whole storyline where Eli insulted him before his interview not knowing who he was.

  4. I wanted to like Angela more, I think she had potential.

    I liked how in the face of the Cory/Topanga train, she's the lone cynic; and with Topanga being rebooted from having her own personality into being a more generic female lead, it was nice to have a woman on the show who wasn't quite so traditional.

    (Topanga in S6 with the runup to the wedding is probably at her blandest of the later years (at least GMW and S7 return to her competitiveness, but it's hard to link Hippie!Topanga and 'destructive gender based thinking' with say, the Hooters episode where she's all 'omg, those slutty sluts choose to wriggle around half naked!' or the sudden obsession they push for C/T with 'I'm waiting for my wedding night!' when late S5, they were planning to do it anyway.)

    Angela at least shares some of Shawn's more interesting characteristics even if she isn't independent of her role with him - like him, she seems to put friends above relationships; like him, she seems to have a mistrust of the opposite sex at times and a practical rather than romantic view.

    (Angela seemed in some ways to recognize more about Shawn than Topanga did about Cory in some ways: the original script for And Then There Was Shawn has her pretty much pegging their issue for the whole show - Shawn puts too much pressure on them to be like Cory/Topanga - or when she asks 'Why can't you just be happy?' when they have their own apartment together and he decides they haven't 'earned it'. Topanga's view of Cory seems far more idealised in some ways (the wedding exchange 'What are you thinking?' 'I can't believe Shawn's not here.' 'I love you too!' for example) and she made more excuses for him.

    It seems like there was some kind of thoroughline in S6 for Shawn and Angela, that he was first wanting to be free, and then going through stuff with Chet; and that she was still his friend but didn't want to be yanked around.
    Then they go from S6's ending and S7's beginning where he's starting to change his mind but for sitcom-iness keeps claiming that he hasn't (kind of reprised in GMW with Katy where he's pulling the 'Sometimes a seashell is just a shell!' bit); to 'Angela's Men' where suddenly it's all been her issues all along that stopped them being together.

    I do think it's interesting the parents theme in S7, it doesn't seem like it was necessarily purposeful, but Angela's dad is kind of controlling, and it shows a different facet of her as vulnerable to that influence. Like it's a late introduction to meet him, but once you do, you can definitely trace her leaving when he asks, and marrying a military man herself eventually.
    On Shawn's side you have his mom and dad issues - I always thought it's revealing that he mentions how he imagines his mom reading in a coffeehouse somewhere, and that becomes what he imagines Angela doing in Europe.
    Or how Chet blames women for kicking him around, which is what Shawn does in GMW; or how he says he's holding onto Angela like he's holding onto Chet, when of course, Chet is gone at that point. Like they lampshaded in GMW, it's all pretty foreshadowed from the beginning, but I think their BMW ending was a lovely resolution - Shawn is unselfish (I love him, but it was never his defining trait) and on a meta-level, since we know Angela's dad passed away relatively young, it was especially important.

    I think she could have been even stronger if they'd built on her relationships outside of Shawn, the episode where she tells Cory they were never friends is great; she takes Rachel's side in the War and is her roommate, so there's clearly a bond there; and they told a lot of her being close with Topanga, even if they never really showed it.

  5. literally will friedleJanuary 10, 2017 at 10:31 PM

    "though, obviously, he effects far more people than Angela does"

    Are you saying that Feeny is secretly Eric's dad? D:

  6. I... like Angela. I do. Mostly. I mean, yeah, I like Cory/Topanga, but having Shawn and Angela also stay together would have stretched the bounds of realism a bit too far. There's only so much suspension of disbelief for a show that's meant to be like real life. (You -do- have the occasional childhood sweetheart work out soo...).

    I like the fact that Angela challenges Cory when he makes a mistake. She is possibly the most realistically portrayed character.

    But it makes absolutely no sense that even Topanga would stay -close- contact with her once she and Shawn broke up. And it's another symptom of 'everyone just happens to do all the same subjects' at college that's frustrating.

    And she is probably the worst example of 'tell not show' in the original series. GMW is worse about it, but Angela was pretty bad about it in regards to Angela and Topanga's friendship.

    This is a problem with Topanga in general though - she didn't seem to have friends outside of Shawn and Cory; which is a problem during their break-ups.

    1. Yeah, I wish the show hadn't bothered trying to set up a best friendship between Topanga and Angela at all. Frankly, they don't *seem* like they'd be close. As girlfriends of two very close friends they could be *friendly* but I hate the coincidence of Shawn and Cory's girlfriends being best friends, and brothers being the same age and also being best friends, and them just being mirrors of each other. Similarly I hated Topanga being Katy's matron of honor. Katy doesn't have any friends of her own? Her friends are only Shawn's friends?

      Instead, I prefer more characters like Trini from Season 3. Characters who exist as Topanga's friends, but who are fairly small parts of Cory's world. Topanga can have close friends, who show up when Topanga's friends are necessary to a story, but otherwise they're just... who Topanga's with when she's not with Cory.

    2. I didn't mind the matron of honor thing, but mainly because that was a last-minute decision to get married that very afternoon. I like to think if it had been a bit of a longer engagement Katy would have asked someone else.

      I feel Topanga should have had one friend, that Cory just -had- to be friendly to, no matter what. That's kind of how Trini was in Season 3.

  7. I think one of the biggest reasons why the Topanga/Angela friendship doesn't work is because we never see them discuss anything together other then their relationships with their respective guys. Every conversation they have alone together on screen is about either Swan or Cory.

    1. It's a problem that has been evident with Farkle/Lucas/Zay as well. It's very hard both to portray a friendship independent of the main character and to support more than 2-3 core characters.