100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Five

I really will finish these one day. 100 Days of Fan Favorites is back with a whole lot of feelings about a couple who captured my heart last summer.

In case you do feel like clicking on the links, YouTube and I weren’t getting along this morning and I couldn’t cut clips the way I would have liked and the video they are pulled from is a very long compilation so once the scene changes, feel free to click out of it.  

We’re told a story of destinies and fates growing up. The one we’re supposed to be with will come to us in a big moment that changes the course of our lives. They’ll be the one rescuing us from the monkey bars and our first crush can stay with us forever. It’ll be just like a fairy tale, with the beautiful princess who meets her Prince Charming and they’ll live happily ever after. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?

Boy Meets World gave us a story of happily ever after. Yes, we know that Cory and Topanga had their share ups and downs; there was a ski lodge and an art museum and times of doubting it was really right. But early in their lives, they knew they were it for each other. Topanga knew she was in love with Cory Matthews, and most importantly, she wanted to be. He knew their love would survive, even when no one else did. They did end up together and it was beautiful. Loves like theirs happen. It’s been 13.5 years since I started dating my high school sweetheart, the boy I knew I loved with as much certainty as Topanga knew she loved Cory. But they aren’t the only love stories worth telling.

What if the right person isn’t the girl who falls in your lap and changes your world? What if the right person is the one who pushes her?

Welcome to the story of Maya Hart and Lucas Friar. It’s not an easy story and I still firmly believe the show left off in the middle of it, but it’s a story that stole my heart and let me reflect back on my own teenage years and the all too confusing process of trying to figure out what love really was.

You always scared me. You gave me nightmares from the day I first looked at you. When I found out I was gonna have a chance with you, well, that was about the scariest moment of my life.” Lucas may have been physically talking to Tombstone the Bull in this moment but his mind was on Maya. They were young and felt something too big that they didn’t understand and it scared them. So long as the other was off-limits, they were safe. They could play their game and make Texas jokes and pretend that their feelings for each other didn’t exist. It didn’t always work. Lucas could be a little too flirty and Maya a little too sincere in brief flashes before going back to their unspoken agreement that they were just friends and nothing more.

Then Maya came to the conclusion that maybe Riley and Lucas weren’t interested in each other romantically and could hardly wrap her mind over that shift before the school tried to cut art class and Lucas loudly came to her (and its) defense. No matter how hard Maya tried (and she did try), she couldn’t make this moment into a joke or something lighter than it was. She couldn’t dismiss his intensity, his compliments, or the fact that he saw her and understood her. It surprises her leaves her speechless and unable to do anything but stare at Lucas’s entirely too sincere face.

It’s a nice callback to the second episode when the show says that it’s not until we drop what distances us and really look at the person in front of us that we are able to touch each other’s hearts.  It’s the first moment all of their walls and pretenses drop away and they allow themselves to connect with the other. It’s the moment I fell in love with them. It’s emotionally intimate in a way that Maya wasn’t entirely prepared for and it leaves her a little unbalanced.

But despite the depth of that moment, they’re still teenagers who are a little awkward when it comes to dealing with crushes, especially when they have a friend who knows too much and isn’t shy about saying it. Lucas, the boy who just a few hours before had no problem declaring to his entire class that he wanted Maya to be happy, looks like every teenager in the history of the world when Zay reveals that Lucas had called Maya beautiful during their phone conversations. Compared to their earlier moment (also helpfully narrated by Zay), it feels like a small admission but it took me back to the days of being a teenager myself and the feeling when a friend told the boy I liked that I had a crush on him. It’s an awkward moment of panic when you realize your secret’s out but you’re not willing to contradict it and it feels real and authentic for them while they are still in the early stages of wading through their feelings.

They get a small reprieve from confronting their hearts and return to their easy comfort with each other only to once again be put in a situation that won’t let them hide any more. It was time for Lucas to ride Tombstone the Bull and face his fears. Maya and Riley may have gotten him into the situation without fully realizing what it meant, but as soon as Maya saw how dangerous the situation was, her fear came pouring out. This girl, who is usually so good at keeping anything that might suggest vulnerability locked away inside her where it can’t hurt her, was so afraid that something could happen to Lucas that she threatened to never speak to him again if he went through with the competition. It was a risk that was too big to take because without entirely meaning to, she let this boy into her heart. She’d inadvertently put herself in a position where she could be hurt and promptly ran away. She told herself that it would be easier for her if she just stopped talking to him, as if that could nullify her fears. If she cut him off first, it wouldn’t matter if he got hurt or not and if he did, at least she wouldn’t have to watch. It was Maya hanging on to the last bit of control she had over her feelings and the overwhelming nature of them. After the rodeo, when talking to Riley, she didn’t have the words to say that she cared about Lucas but her carefully constructed walls were down enough that she didn’t need them. Not with her best friend. It was too exhausting, lonely, and confusing to keep to herself any more even if she wasn’t ready to share them with anyone just yet.

For all of her good intentions, Riley pulled a Zay and shared more than Maya meant to be learned. She was still trying to find her bearings again after realizing that she cared for Lucas far more than she had meant to. All the excuses of the past few months fell away in the face of that bull as her feelings became undeniable. But Lucas knowing was a step further than she was ready to take things just then. She tried to deflect, tried to avoid the moment she knew needed to come and tried to argue her way out of her feelings. Then Lucas almost kissed her and the world stopped. It’s a moment that combines the emotional intimacy of Girl Meets Creativity with a new physical step that neither of them were prepared to take at the moment. It’s only after this moment that Maya admits that she does like Lucas. We don’t get to see his reaction but the next time we see him, he’s making that speech to Tombstone about being scared to think there was a chance for him.

As scared as Maya is, she’ll willing to try. They have their awkward date at Topanga’s that ends in laughter when she dumps the smoothie on his head. They confidently greet each other at school. When they are doing the things that feel natural to them, rather than the things they think they should be doing, they work. There is an ease and an openness to Maya that is really wonderful to see. She decides to let herself hope. So on New Year’s Eve, when faced with the decision of what she wants her year to be like, she chooses Lucas. She chooses to want something and go after it. She chooses to believe that maybe for once something good could happen to her. But then Farkle takes his turn at revealing the secrets of others (once again, with good intentions) and Maya is once again unsettled as now the fact that she likes the same guy as her best friend is out in the open. There’s no more room for either of them to step back and a love triangle ensues.

It’s hard on all three of them (and everyone around them). They all know that what’s at stake is more important than what girl ends up with Lucas. Maya and Riley care about Lucas in different ways. Lucas cares about them in different ways. None of them have the words to articulate their feelings. And after an art-induced identity crisis, Maya is no longer sure of herself to know what she wants or feels. She begins doubting everything about who she is and what she wants. She thought she knew but everyone kept telling her that she’s wrong and that she actually feels something different that they understand better than she does. Figuring out who you are is a lifelong process and it’s not an easy task to undertake, so it makes sense for Maya to latch on to other’s explanations.

Everyone made things simple for her. She didn’t have to wrestle with the fact that she liked the same boy as her best friend and what she thought that said about her as a person or a friend. Everyone else was sure that she didn’t like him and that they weren’t compatible so she ended the triangle, which I will remain conflicted about forever. Maya was right not to fight for Lucas in Ski Lodge. She was not in a position to be in a relationship with him, even without considering Riley’s feelings (which would be impossible for her not to do). He wasn’t in any better of a position to be in a relationship with her. Riley was the right choice for both of them to make for the sake of all three of them. That was the relationship that needed to be given a chance, they needed to pick the idea of destinies and first crushes turning into happily ever afters. But my over-protectiveness of Maya gets in the way every time and I get so frustrated by everyone else telling her who she is that I struggle with those episodes.

That aside, I also don’t believe it’s the choice Lucas had made by the end of Girl Meets Triangle and I need Maya to know that. I needed her to know that there was someone who saw who she was and took every opportunity available to fight for the real her. Not for the superficial characteristics like the way she dressed or whether she did or didn’t cause trouble. There was someone who saw her heart. Who saw the depth with which she cared and would do anything for her best friend. Who saw the beauty and warm that co-existed with the part of her that ran at people with hammers and bricks to scare them off. Who could see through her tough facade, in any universe, and see her capacity to care deeply.

That’s why I love this relationship. Yes, they have wonderful chemistry and I cannot resist couples who can match wits and banter all day, but at the core of this relationship is two people who have always seen each other for the complex, flawed individuals that they are. Lucas isn’t ready to accept that the traits that got him kicked out of school in Texas still exist in him, even if he tries to be better. He thinks that the only way to truly show he’s changed is to be perfect and not have any flaws. He thought that if he didn’t tell anyone, then they wouldn’t matter and he could get a clean start. Maya knew better. She saw something in him that told her he would physically fight for his friends if necessary (apparently very effectively if he was kicked out of school for it) and that he was also a good person. I would have loved to see Lucas work beyond the Mr. Perfect label he’s bestowed upon himself in season four and for Maya to be by his side fighting for him to hold on to himself. They balance each other out in a way that would make for a very strong relationship once they were ready. It might not look like what they expected. Maya’s not going to want to be a princess who rides off on a white horse. But she will want someone who challenges her and pushes her to be her best self. She’s gonna need someone who can tangle with her and come out the other side in one piece and Lucas has shown that he could be that person. Much like Lucas, I want Maya to be happy and I think this is a relationship that could make her happy in the future. Michael Jacobs has said they were telling a two-season story that they weren’t able to finish on Disney Channel. I would have liked to see the end of it but I will look forward to hearing what he had in mind for all of these kids even if it isn’t picked up by anyone else.

For extra feelings about these two and to get a greater scene about how I see these two, you can listen to a portion of my fanmix for them here!

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4 thoughts on “100 Days of Fan Favorites: Day Five

  1. This turned out so beautifully, babe! I’m so happy for and proud of you!

    I love how much you love these two characters and the depth with which you see them and their interactions. It’s perfect. Because all too often, people write off the emotions of teenagers as not being worthy of this kind of thought and care, but we both know that’s not the case at all.

    Maya and Lucas mean so much to me because they’re the kind of love I truly believe in—the kind not based in fate or destiny but in recognition of the difficulty, risk, and reality of what it means to love a flawed and perfectly imperfect person. I always say that the bravest people are those who see people for who they really are and know who they really are themselves and choose to love anyway. Because love is a choice. I learned that a long time ago and will never stop believing that’s true. Maybe that takes away some of the romance of it, but I think it makes the idea of love all the more wonderful. And for as much as I love Riley, love is still a feeling for her. It’s rainbows and innocent kisses and destined moments like her parents had. But what she doesn’t know yet is her parents also had to choose to love each other over and over again. They made a choice when they were kids, but it’s a choice you don’t stop making.

    And that’s why I am okay with Riley and Lucas being together when they’re kids—because everyone needs that kind of innocent first love that feels destined and magical. But then I would have loved to see them realistically grow beyond that and learn what it means when you feel destined to be with someone but might actually want to choose someone else. I want to see all these characters—especially Lucas—get to make choices instead of having their lives decided by forces beyond their control. Maybe it’s just because I lived that story in high school—learning that your first love doesn’t have to be your forever love just because that’s how it worked for your parents, learning to choose a new story for yourself and choosing to love someone who is a better fit than the person you thought you were supposed to be with. That’s part of what growing up is all about, and it’s a story I will continue to hope to see with these characters in some form because it would be such a beautiful story to tell.

    1. I think part of why I still love shows about teenagers so much is the potential for growth that happens during those years. You are exactly right about Riley and the lessons she needs to learn about love and romance that are still just as special as what she thinks her parents have but also more grounded in reality.

      I think by the end of the season, she was starting to realize that. Which makes me want to see these characters continue their journeys through high school and recognize the way all relationships prepare us for what comes next and that just because they don’t last forever, it doesn’t mean they weren’t valuable and real.

  2. I’m part of the 1% that ships Riley and Lucas for reasons more personal to me. But this was absolutely beautiful. I loved reading your perspective so much, and if I didn’t watch this show, you would have convinced me to ship this so hard. I love this piece so much I can see how much you care about these characters because they’re worth caring about. They’re worth the love and adoration. They’re worth having the story explored.

    1. Thank you so much, babe! I love how personal ships can be for us and how they draw on our real-life relationships and experiences so I’m always happy when someone finds one that really resonates with them even when I don’t ship it.

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