Thus far, both seasons of The Wonder Years have accurately depicted the various trials and tribulations of being in middle school: first crushes, school bullies, gossiping, and misunderstanding amongst friends. The story of middle school life would not be complete, however, without a look into how peer pressure impacts how we view people, and who we choose to have as our friends. As Kevin aptly puts at the end of this episode, “In seventh grade, who you are is what other seventh graders say you are.”
In this episode, Kevin is uneasy after he is paired up with the class “weirdo” Margaret Farquhar for square dancing during gym class. He is not only dreading her company but also is worried about his reputation; his classmates start teasing him, saying that Kevin love Margaret and that they two are dating. Kevin tries to avoid Margaret as much as possible; when she approaches him in the hallway, he quickly weasels himself out of the conversation. At lunch, Margaret sits down next to Kevin, and Kevin eats quickly to avoid her company.
Why is exactly Margaret Farquhar “weird?” She asks too many questions on what others perceive to be boring and nonsensical topics. This certainly is one facet of her personality, but not entirely the only that defines her, as Kevin soon discovers. Margaret comes over to Kevin’s house one day after he avoids her during square dancing. Though Kevin was rude – he tried not to touch her and ignored her while she talked- she is still friendly at his house and has brought her pet bat over in an attempt to become friends with Kevin. Kevin reluctantly invites her to stay because his mom makes him do so. She stays for an hour and Kevin learns that while some of the things she talks about are certainly unusual – bats, how the tarantulas got their name- he actually finds the topics quite interesting. Kevin and his classmates had labeled Margaret by her mannerisms but hadn’t actually listened to what she had to say or looked beneath her questions to realize she was in fact a friendly but lonely girl. If all middle school kids are friendly and lonely to an extent like Margaret, how then is she “weird,” while others are “normal?”
Despite the fact that Kevin does like Margaret, he ultimately caves into how others might judge him if caught being friends with her. The next day, Kevin tells Margaret he likes her and wants to be her friend, but they can’t talk in school. Kevin thinks that Margret will jump at the opportunity, but she starts speaking loudly, asking him why he doesn’t want to talk to her. Others overhear their conversation and start teasing them both. Kevin realizes he should defend Margaret but doesn’t. Margaret further shames Kevin by saying “I thought you were different,“ and then leaves.
Kevin‘s closing narration sums up an important lesson not just about middle school but about life: we forget the people we try to impress and realize how unimportant they really are, and ultimately remember the unique individuals, those who intrigued us and made us feel good.