Our favorite fictional ‘90s couple, Cory and Topanga of cult classic series Boy Meets World, are celebrating a major milestone this November 5th: their 19th wedding anniversary. And yes, interpretive poetry recitals involving red lipstick are in order.
A comedy following the trials and tribulations of a young Cory Matthews’s progression into adulthood, Boy Meets World remains a standout of the nostalgic ‘90s largely because of the formidable issues it tackled. It explored child abuse in “Dangerous Secret” as Shawn grappled with protecting a classmate, sexual harassment in “Everybody Loves Stuart” as Topanga contended with a professor, and birth complications in the emotionally tolling “Resurrection” when Cory’s newborn brother was born premature. Not to mention, alcoholism, cults, and absent fathers explored through the lens of a half-hour sitcom.
Considered #RelationshipGoals before #RelationshipGoals was even a thing, Cory and Topanga often evoked sentiments of fostering unrealistic expectations of love. And, when it comes down to it, they do remain the most iconic fictional couple of the ‘90s due to factors that set them apart from other TV couples of the time.
Let’s examine them.
Cory Matthews is the ultimate good guy. He serves as a rare examination of a genuinely nice guy who doesn’t possess Nice Guy Syndrome so often embodied in ‘90s sitcoms. Consider the viral Twitter thread that spilled major Friends tea by making the case for Rachel and Joey, arguing that Ross Geller is actually the worst. In the insightful thread, the Twitter user wrote: “Joey has a lot of problems but his supportive, protective relationship with the women friends is one of his best qualities.”
In contrast to the Ross Gellers of sitcom television, Cory Matthews never possessed the toxic entitlement that often accompanies Nice Guys—the Nice Guys whom women are conditioned to just give a chance. Cory and Topanga break up several times throughout the series, but his respect for her as a person always remained intact. In fact, the only time he overstepped bounds was in “The Happiest Show on Earth,” where he flew to Disney World to try to mend their relationship. He relentlessly pursued her, holding a sign that said “I will chase you forever” in a scuba tank. Here’s where this diverges from the Nice Guy narrative, though: during their argument, Topanga makes it clear that she does not care for these tactics, and, toward the end of the episode, Cory comes to terms with their friendship and promises to stop chasing her.
In the fall-out of their relationship after the heart-wrenching Lauren storyline (probably the first time my teenage heart broke), Topanga agrees to a date with a dreamy Jonathan Jackson, whom she meets at a museum exhibit in “Starry Night.” Cory’s approach to this dilemma is so important because, in his unwavering belief that he and Topanga belong together, he remained patient and understood that this was something she needed to work through—apart from him. His unfaltering confidence in their future never included belief that Topanga belonged to her, as she belongs to herself first and foremost. After examining the Van Gogh painting, he tells her, “We’re gonna be together forever and I know that. But you still need to find that out. You know where I’ll be.”
Another significant Ross and Rachel parallel is Cory and Topanga’s Yale storyline. Rachel gives up her Paris dream job shortly after Ross confesses his love for her at the airport, where she initially boarded the plane. In “Graduation,” Cory faces the same dilemma of being separated from his childhood love after Topanga is accepted into Yale—only, unlike Ross, he supports Topanga with Yale pamphlets, understanding fully that he could not stand in the way of such a huge life decision. Subsequently, Topanga proposes to Cory at the end of the episode, paving her own future on her own terms.
Lastly, Cory and Topanga’s autonomy made them the ultimate ‘90s couple. When Boy Meets World was first introduced, it followed a young boy’s progression into adulthood—one guided by life-long friendships and mentors in the form of a next-door neighbor and teacher. Despite Cory and Topanga becoming the ultimate #RelationshipGoals, the premise of Cory and Shawn’s friendship remained equally, if not even more, intact and significant throughout the series. This is made especially apparent in the episode “It’s About Time,” when Cory and Topanga finally get married—yet, the central focus of this episode was CORY AND SHAWN, and their anxieties about the future of their friendship once Cory is a married man.
So, on the 19th wedding anniversary of the most iconic fictional couple of the ‘90s, we’re raising a glass to Cory and Topanga. And Shawn too, who is obviously also an essential aspect of our fave OTP.