Julia takes on the troubling trend of transforming TV characters from curly to straight.

Julia Rizzo

Julia Rizzo

“Boy Meets World” is 30 minutes of fun television. Although it ran for seven seasons from 1993 until 2000, my sister and I usually watched it in syndication on the Disney channel. The reruns weren’t always in sequential order, so we’d see an episode from the first season juxtaposed with an episode from three or for seasons later.

Being the curly girls that we are, it didn’t take us long to notice the hair of the show’s leading lady, Topanga. In the first two seasons, her hair is all the way down her back. Maybe it was because it was the mid-nineties or because the character was supposed to be a free spirit, but all I know is that she rocked some awesome curls.

However, somewhere along the way that began to change. Her hair gradually appears shorter, highlighted and (gasp!) flat-ironed. By the last two seasons, there was absolutely no trace of Topanga’s astoundingly curly hair. I’m sure the actress didn’t have any influence over her shifting look. I want to know why the creators of the show made the decision to ditch her curls. Was it to reflect emerging trends? To signify that she was getting older? Regardless of the reason, this phenomenon isn’t isolated to “Boys Meets World.”

After Topanga’s transformation, “Sister Sister” (also a show on the Disney channel) gave us a case of déjà vu. This program was in production around the same time as “Boy Meets World,” and I watched as Tia and Tamera’s curly ‘dos met the same fate as Topanga’s. I know that as we grow up, we easily identify with the main characters of the television shows we regularly watch. If you’re self-conscious or unsure about your curly hair, as I have been occasionally, seeing your favorite leading ladies go from curly to straight can send a pretty clear message about what’s “in.”

I wish this trend was limited to 90s TV shows. As I’ve alluded to in other columns, I’m a bit of an "American Idol" fan. Watching this season’s Top 12 perform in the finale, contestant Syesha Mercado reminded me of last season’s winner, Jordin Sparks. This time last year. I wrote about Sparks’ rise in the rankings and the corresponding disappearance of her curls. Unfortunately, Mercado was also sporting pin straight hair during the finale, a stark contrast to her naturally kinky curls.

I wish we didn’t have to watch young women on television lose their curls as their fame increases or as trends change. This sends the message that not only is straight hair is superior to curls, but that straight hair is a goal we should work toward. Be aware of the role the media plays (even subtly) in shaping your self-image, and as always, be proud to be a curly girl or guy!

Stay Curly,

Julia


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