watch your step
by Liz Davies
Most writers and students know that coming up with the idea for a thesis, presentation, or article is one of the hardest steps of any project. So when my good friend and fellow Project Landmine writer, Sean Connelly, offered me up this gem of a story, I was ecstatic! Sean is busy being a productive student and studying for finals, but I have nothing but time on my hands, so I was really excited to be able to write this article.
Anyone who watched the classic 1990s TGIF sitcom, Boy Meets World, knows that the series relied on whimsy and outlandish situations. An entire family and their best friends all going to the same college and graduating the same year while keeping the teacher that has taught them for their entire academic career? Not even remotely conceivable. But even more puzzling than the lack of consistency regarding how Topanga and Cory met is the complete change in Eric Matthews over the course of the seven magical seasons that aired on Friday nights on ABC. Eric went from girl-crazy, somewhat dim-witted high school student to someone who clearly should have be in an institution rather than Pennbrook University. This change did not happen overnight; this was a slow and multi-faceted journey down a rabbit hole of insanity.
As a young high school student, Eric struggled to make good grades in the first few seasons. He occasionally made mistakes, but was still able to function in society. His average grades were C’s, which many students can relate to. Most people know someone like Eric during high school: the lovable kid with great intentions, who dates around but doesn’t necessarily have a direction in life. He was often the person that young Cory and Shawn went to for advice, and sometimes he even produced a few valuable gems. Most of them probably came directly from Mr. Feeny, but the intent was still good.
By the time Eric was trying to figure out what to do post-John Adams High School, most of his classmates already had a plan. While Eric struggled to figure out his ultimate direction in life, he had a few brilliant plans. Who can forget his short stint as a weatherman on his local news station? With no formal education or experience, Eric decided that he wanted to be a meteorologist. Do you know how much science is involved in predicting weather patterns? Neither do I. But I’m sure Boston’s chief meteorologist Pete Bouchard and Al Roker would argue that you need a lot of education. Eric had nothing but great hair and a pocket full of charisma. That endeavor ultimately didn’t work out, but he had other dreams in mind.
Maybe it was after Eric graduated high school that he started to show signs of his mental decline. He spent hours sitting on his parents’ couch, hanging out with the insufferable Morgan, and coming up with ideas for jobs and sitcoms. Who can forget Eric Matthews: Good Looking Guy? Eric eventually improves his SAT score, speaks personally with the dean of Pennbrook University, and, after a rare sincere moment, finally enrolls as a student.
Eric moves out of his house and into an apartment with a new character, Jack. Anyone who is a fan of sitcoms knows that for every irrational, outlandish character, there has to be a straight-laced, practical counterpart. Jack was the Kel to Eric’s Keenan. It can be argued that this is the point where Eric stopped clinging on to that last remaining semblance of normalcy. This is where he starts to show that there are truly no limits to his insanity.
Here are just a few of Eric’s finer moments.
The time Cory pushed his professor/real-live brother through a window. While this episode didn’t focus on Eric, he left his mark during the “courtroom” scene. Obviously Eric entered wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase containing a cassette player emanating the theme song from People’s Court. Leave it to Eric to turn a very serious situation into a hilarious satire. It was one of his only appearances in the episode, but it was still one of the best moments.
The wedding episode. Who can forget how Eric conned disposable diaper tycoons, the Petermans, out of a lavish wedding? This isn’t even including the two times he lit curtains on fire in preparation for Cory and Topanga’s wedding, or when he asked Topanga to marry him instead of Cory in front of his entire family. As soon as Eric becomes Cory’s best man due to a falling out with Shawn, you can bet your bottom dollar that Eric quickly manages to turn the entire event into a circus, culminating in the newlyweds being carried out of their honeymoon suite by the police. Eric stands by, enthralled by the entire situation and excited to go in a car that lights up and has a siren! This reaction should be designated for someone around four years old, but Eric certainly seems to find delight in it all.
The reality show. Eric quickly realizes that his roommate Rachel would choose to date Jack instead of him. But considering that most people would leave their families when given the option of marrying into the Lawrence family, who can blame Rachel? So instead of trying to rationally speak with his roommates, he decides to turn their entire apartment into a reality show. This was before reality shows became really popular (besides The Real World), so it can be argued that Eric was actually ahead of the curve on this one. However, he quickly manages to mess the entire thing up. Eric manipulates his entire apartment until he is not only controlling the lights, door, and kitchen utensils, but also his roommates. Of course Eric has a revelation and decides that he needs to respect his roommates, but the situation is still ridiculous. Also, Goldburg from the Mighty Ducks is in this episode, so we all know that he made Eric look mediocre in comparison. But damn, if he didn’t look great in a beret then I don’t know who does.
The one where Eric stalks Topanga. Before Topanga and Cory get married, they go through a brief breakup. Angela and Shawn, as well as Jack and Rachel also face fights and breakups at the same time. Everyone fights, and Eric becomes enraged when Topanga physically beats him up. What do you get when you combine rage and insanity? Awesomeness. You get awesomeness. Eric decides to seek revenge on Topanga by stalking her and loudly announcing that he’s going to sneak-attack her. He hides in plain sight in coffee shop counter, under a large-brimmed hat, a painting, and (my favorite), in the couch of his apartment. I don’t even think him hiding in the couch even made the show, I’m pretty sure it was only shown as bloopers during the credits, but it’s still probably the hardest I ever laughed at that show. The sheer ridiculousness of the situation, and that everyone just accepts his behavior as it is, makes me so happy.
The prank war. This was one of the more serious episodes, but Eric still managed to create one of the funniest, most memorable moments in the show’s history. Three words: Plays With Squirrels. Yes, that is the name that Eric adopts for himself after he abandons civilization and becomes a woodsman who is married to a moose (they don’t need couples therapy). During a flash-forward scene we are given a glimpse into what the friends’ lives will become if they don’t reconcile. There is no better situation for Eric than for him to become a hermit who drinks his own urine. This is truly the end-all-be-all of Eric’s mental decline. He reached rock bottom and then started chiseling and digging until he made it through to a whole other side of mentality. But was anyone really surprised? I sure wasn’t. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have Eric stay that way for the rest of the series with no explanation or reason. Because the show didn’t explain a whole lot else about Eric during the show.
There are obviously many more hilarious Eric Matthews moments, but if these events don’t prove that he truly lost his mind over the course of seven seasons, then I don’t know what does. Of course there were a few serious moments with Eric. Like the time he wanted to adopt a little boy named Tommy, who he had been mentoring. Of course this short-lived scheme doesn’t work out in the end. Eric and the audience are told it’s because another family in California adopted Tommy. But I think we can all agree that it’s probably because Eric didn’t pass a background test. Whether it was a mental, physical, criminal, sex offender, or other background test, it doesn’t matter; he likely wouldn’t have passed any.
I like to think that today Eric is living comfortably in Cory and Topanga’s basement, corrupting their children’s minds with his incoherent ramblings before he heads to the night shift at his father’s outdoor equipment store. His parents obviously don’t let him work during the day anymore because he would scare off all the customers, so they just let him roam around the store at night, letting him believe he’s doing something important. From charming high school ladies man to deranged woodsman who keeps lollipops in his beard, Eric Matthews showed a variety of mental statuses and also what it’s like to slowly and unreasonably descend into insanity.