Boy Meets World, Season 1 Episode 2, “On The Fence”
Previously: Boy Meets World, Season 1 Episode 1, “Pilot”
Sometime in your early 20’s there comes a time stuck between the end of carefree adolescence and the beginning of adulthood responsibility, when, facing mounting responsibilities and uncertainty over how your life is going to turn out, we tend to nostalgically look back on our childhoods as a sort of utopia. There are reasons for this, starting with the longing for zero responsibility as the responsibilities of adulthood start to feel overwhelming, but of course, nostalgia never tells the whole story.
In “On The Fence”, we have Cory desperately wanting to buy a top of the line water gun for the big water fight, but not being able to afford it. So, like every single child in the history of the world before him, he begs his parents to buy it for him, who naturally balk at the $50 price tag. Lamenting his inability to afford the water gun, he comes across a solution as he listens to Eric talk about all the money he has from working at their dad’s (Alan Matthews) grocery store. Unfortunately for Cory, his dad doesn’t think an 11 year old has any reason to be working, and he doesn’t have any room for another employee anyway, despite Cory’s best efforts (“You’re the manager, fire somebody! Fire Eric!”). Foiled again, Cory tries his luck with Mr. Feeny, who just so happens to have a set of shutters that need painting. He offers Cory $5 per shutter, for 8 windows with 2 shutters apiece, which Cory, being the astute student he is, calculates out to $58 as Mr. Feeny takes no pains to correct him.
Cory does a good job on the shutters, but doesn’t take into account the white picket fence behind them he accidentally sprayed with paint. Now forced to repaint, he employs his friends to help for $8, but is still stuck 2 days later trying to finish in time for the big water fight when his friends quit, alleging mistreatment (among the chief complaints, Cory provided them with ice cream bars, but they really wanted Heath crunch bars). Noticing all the effort Cory has been putting in, Alan tells him to go off to the water fight and just be an 11 year old. As Cory goes to his room to get ready for the big water fight, Eric starts complaining about how exhausted he is from work and that he can’t believe how their dad can do it.
At that moment, Cory looks out the window to see his dad painting the fence, and (thanks to the not-so-subtle cue music!) you can tell he starts realizing all the hard work his dad constantly puts in for the family. It’s here where the real point of the episode comes into focus. There are difficult parts of childhood that nostalgia always seems to forget, such as the helpless feeling of wanting a $50 water gun that your parents won’t buy for you, but it’s not necessarily wrong in looking back on childhood as a wonderful, carefree time. What the nostalgia of a carefree childhood doesn’t take into account; however, is the hard work and selfless sacrifice of our parents and other caretakers that allowed for that carefree existence. Part of growing into adulthood is letting go of your childhood dependence and accepting what it means to be an independent, productive member of society. It’s hard work, it’s stress, it’s uncertainty; but it’s our responsibility to grow from that carefree child into something bigger than ourselves. In Alan’s case, it’s to give his son that carefree childhood and his family a loving, comfortable existence, even if it means putting everybody else before himself.
Understanding this, Cory decides to start a water fight with his dad at the dinner table, telling him he needs to stop working so hard and let loose once and awhile. Taken aback by Cory spraying him with water, he lightens up when Cory shows him his own water gun waiting under the table. As Cory sprays Alan, Alan sprays Amy (Mrs. Matthews), and Amy rushes to the sink hose to spray Cory and Alan, an adolescent glee spreads through the family as they run around the house spraying eachother with water. It’s a sweet and sappy ending with Cory giving a little back to his dad for all his hard work, but it also adds a simple, pertinent note to the issue of growing up. Whether you’re 11 and (mostly)carefree, 40 and providing for your family, or early 20’s struggling with what’s next and looking back on better days, just have fun with the people you care about, and it’ll all be worth it.
Quotes and Random Thoughts
- The kids argue Superman vs. Batman at the beginning of the episode. I for one put in a vote for Batman. Superman is the most boring superhero ever created. He’s got super strength and can fly! Oh yeah, and he’s also got laser vision, he can turn back time, he can stop a speeding bullet, he can suck his own dick, etc, etc. They have to make up shit just to give him a weakness. Yeah, he’s allergic to this green alien bullshit. Fuck superman.
- This episode also introduces us to Minkus, the class brainiac, and sometime friend, sometime foe of Cory Matthews.
- After Alan tells Cory he can ask for the water gun for Christmas: “Hey, great, a water gun in December. I’ll be the kid spreading pneumonia!”
- I enjoy the typical kid scheme for money when you can’t get it from your parents. My personal favorites were lemonade stand (which, of course, was funded by my parents and most likely cost more to make the lemonade than the $5 we ended up making), making bead necklaces to sell to my friends, and planning a rummage sale. I say planning because, like most kid schemes for money, it never made it to the actual stage of happening.
- “Shutter marks still showed after one coat. Had to borrow from Mom to buy more paint for second coat. I worked two days, painted 16 shutters and the fence. Know how much money I made? I lost 8 bucks.” “Welcome to adulthood.”
- Cory is upset with Mr. Feeny. “I sold you my childhood for 58 DOLLARS!”
- Morgan dials 9-1-1 because she’s stuck on the counter as her parents are outside having a water fight. “9-1-1. Yes, I’m stuck here, and I can’t get down because my parents are fighting…They just shot the neighbor! Hold on, let me ask. Mommy, what’s our address?”
NEXT UP: Boy Meets World, Season 1 Episode 3, “Father Knows Less”