Ask any guy from the TGIF era about who cornered the market on hotness and the answer is invariably Topanga from Boy Meets World. This is strange for a myriad of reasons.
For one, of the attractive starlets featured on TGIF within her show, she was easily the strangest. Using our powers of deduction, we could assume that her character was the kind of person who didn’t shave her legs or arm pits and probably aspired to embody all the most feminist qualities of an event like Lilith Fair.
Initially, her character was cast as a bizarro, female version of Steve Urkel. In later years though, she was transformed into an overachieving, almost Type-A personality with slight undertones of her hippie origins underneath. But this transformation was a revision on her original purpose; the Urkel to Corey’s Laura Winslow.
And though she could certainly be termed attractive in the sense that all movie/tv stars are, this fact was never immediately nor overwhelmingly evident as it was for say, a Kelly Kapowski.
So why is she consistently remembered as the most attractive female from that era and specific block of programming? Let us analyze the data.
1 – The Name
Its hard to forget a name that sounds like some kind of vegan option for tofu, meatloaf and bologna and this is doubly true for Topanga. But not only was her name strange, it stood in stark contrast to eons of anthropological evidence telling us that attractive females NEVER have weird or ugly names. Berthas and Gertrudes aren’t hot nor will they ever be.
So the fact that Topanga was mildly attractive was monumentally disorienting. It’s like seeing an attractive female hanging out by the urinals in the men’s room. The surprise translates to an overreaction of perception.
Additionally, any female from Step-by-Step was probably more attractive but they have such unmemorable names that Tofu-Meatloaf-Bologna wins by default.
2 – Her Show
She had the good fortune of being on a show with Corey Savage, Rider Strong and the guy that played Mr. Feeny. That’s a significant gravitational pull not unlike the affect Eminem and Dr. Dre’s had on 50 cent. (Also to be clear, Corey is Eminem, Feeny is Dre and Topanga would be 50. No one denies this.)
Boy Meets World was the perfectly constructed cast in that the kid stars were the stars and their progressive maturation not only paid dividends on the emotional investment we had in them, but it also crystallized our focus solely on them. In other words, as the stars, their growth and maturation was part of the subconscious focus and this focus was never dissuaded by something like Uncle Jesse’s smoldering good looks or Aunt Becky’s girl-next-door allure that Full House had to contend with.
3 – The Enduring Nature of Boy Meets World
Because the kids were the stars, the show was able to evolve out of it’s original format of nerdy kids in middle school / high school. In that sense, Topanga was allowed and given time to evolve out of the bizarre flower child she was initially presented as and into a 3-dimensional character with an emotional depth to match all her superficial quirks.
In contrast to Family Matters, this is important because the construct of that show never allowed for characters like Steve and Laura to become anything other than more pronounced versions of what they already were. Sure, we saw glimpses of an evolution in Stefan Urquelle, but for Steve to become Stefan would undermine the entire show.
Conversely, with a large portion of Boy Meets World set specifically in the vicinity of the tenuous confines of middle school and later high school, we inherently knew that changes among the characters would occur.
Chief among these changes was Topanga and this Ugly Duckling / Weird Hippie Chick transformation overshadowed every other female character on TGIF because of the scope of the transformation. It’s a “the greater the lie, the more we believe it” psychological effect.
Said a different way, Topanga’s transformation sticks with us because it was so severe. Other girls may have been more attractive, but Topanga’s change was so great that it leapfrogged the others in our collective minds.
So in closing, Topanga is remembered as the most attractive girl from TGIF not because she was actually the most attractive but because of a collaboration of elements conspiring to make her the enduring pretty face of TGIF.
We can all rest easy understanding that mystery now.