After fifteen years, Angela finally makes her way back to the Boy Meets World verse with her highly anticipated return on tonight’s Girl Meet’s World episode, Girl Meets Hurricane. And though we’ve been promised headaches and heartbreak from Shawngela’s Disney Channel reunion, we can’t help but look back fondly at Boy Meets World’s groundbreaking introduction of Angela Moore.

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Introduced in season 5 as Shawn’s first (and only) steady girlfriend, over the course of her premiere episode, Angela proved she had the pluck to stand out as a character all on her own, bringing her own brand of pragmatic sass to level out Cory’s core group of kooky friends.

As a character, Angela was a fresh anomaly on network television. Clearly the token minority on a show with an otherwise entirely white cast, Angela was never ascribed the superficial tropes that usually befall the token black friend. While Angela was proud to define herself as a black woman, as a character, she was never only defined by her race.

As a part of the Boy Meets World gang, Angela was the grounded one. She was artistic and thoughtful, smart and practical. A realist, she was guarded with her emotions, and yet she was still down-to-earth breezy, always effortlessly cool. By treating Angela like a three-dimensional human being with both goals and insecurities, Angela was able to comment on her experience as a woman of color, without ever turning into a stereotype. She allowed the show to be authentically diverse.

When Angela started dating Shawn in 1997, they accidentally became one of the most important, groundbreaking couples onscreen. In the 1990’s, interracial relationships were almost unheard of on television, particularly amongst teens, and especially not in the upfront, casual way that Boy Meets World presented Shawn and Angela’s love.

Because despite being the first serious interracial teenage couple to star on a major network, their relationship was never defined by their differences, but rather their similarities. Their issues as a couple never had anything to do with race. Like every other couple on the show, Shawn and Angela’s arguments revolved around commitment, immaturity, or insecurities, but never on the idea that there was an unspoken cultural bridge that they couldn’t cross.

When The Jeffersons premiered in 1975, an interracial married couple was the butt of many jokes. Even today in 2015, Modern Family gets a lot of mileage out of exploiting Gloria’s “otherness” in comparison to her white family. Race representation is still something that matters on television as the reality of our diverse and evolving 21st century culture is still inaccurately portrayed onscreen.

Children’s television has a responsibility to educate by accurately portraying how our world is progressively evolving. Youthful idealism lends itself towards acceptance, and the three-dimensional humanization of any “minority” group not only helps to strip down the cultural barriers that unfortunately still separate us, but also gives validation to children of color as they witness that their narratives are also worth telling.

It is this same importance of accurate representation and education that made Shawn and Angela’s colorblind love such a milestone in the nineties, and it’s also why it’s so frustrating to see how almost twenty years later Girl Meets World doesn’t have a single person of color in its main cast, despite taking place in New York — arguably the most diverse city in the world. Considering Boy Meets World‘s progressive portrayal of Angela Moore, Girl Meets World‘s white-washed New York feels dated and regressive.

As a brown girl watching Boy Meets World in the nineties, I admired Angela for both embracing her Black identity, and comfortably making her way through a predominantly white school. The way Boy Meets World handled Angela’s effortless beauty amidst a sea of white faces validated women of color, and subconsciously picked away at television’s traditional white-narrative of ascribing a perfect, perky, blonde girlfriend to support our heroes.

Angela’s fabulous, ever-changing hair was both traditionally African-American and contemporary-cool, whether she wore it in a curly-haired afro or colorful braids. Shawn’s appreciation of her beauty without fetishizing it as “exotic” validated interracial relationships, and taught children that there are many different kinds of beautiful.

Shawn and Angela have always been compared to Cory and Topanga, but there’s no reason that they should be — they were a loving couple on their own terms, and their relationship was just as valid and healthy. Angela taught Shawn how to fall in love with a person for who she is, instead of always focusing on superficial connections. She was unconditionally loving, yet decidedly no-nonsense — a soothing, steady presence amidst Shawn’s unstable upbringing.

Shawn and Angela connected on an emotional and intellectual level that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing with other people — even Cory and Topanga. Cory was Shawn’s goofball buddy to have fun with, but Angela awakened his artistic side. As Shawn fell in love with Angela, she introduced him to poetry, and encouraged his love of writing. With each other, they never felt like they had to hide who they really wanted to be.

Trina McGee and Rider Strong’s crazy chemistry jumped off the screen so that even when their characters were broken up, we could still feel Shawn and Angela’s pull towards one another. When they were together, their intimate connection was electrifying, and even when they disagreed, they understood and respected where the other person was coming from because their minds always seemed to be in sync. They were a sexy contrast to Cory and Topanga, their love always having a little bit of mystery and edge.

Shawn and Angela weren’t a fairytale, but they were always realistically in love. In a lot of ways, their love was more mature than Cory and Topanga’s because it wasn’t that they couldn’t live without each other — they just didn’t want to have to.

So, no matter what happens on tonight’s Girl Meets World episode, let’s not say goodbye to Shawn and Angela. Let’s just say, “I love you.”

What’s your favorite Shawn and Angela moment from ‘Boy Meets World’?

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