The main protagonist, a neurotic everyman from suburban Philadelphia who grows from young boy to married man over the course of the series.In the Sequel SeriesGirl Meets World, he is still married to Topanga, and has followed in Mr. Feeny's footsteps and become a history teacher—specifically, his daughter's history teacher.
Awesome McCoolname / Fail O'Suckyname: His ring name when he was briefly on the wrestling team? Cory "The Cory" Matthews. He was so good, comparing him to anything else would have been a step down.
Berserk Button: Threaten to take advantage of Topanga and you'll go sailing through a door.
Big Brother Worship —> Aloof Younger Brother: In the first two seasons, Cory wanted to get Eric's approval because he idolized him. Later in the series? The roles reversed big time, with an episode even dealing with Cory's lack of caring about his relationship with Eric. Becomes a plot point in ''Brotherly Shove"
Clueless Chick Magnet: Zigzagged between this and Cool Loser in Season 2. Often happened when he wasn't trying to get a date and make a name for himself. His Nice Guy status is largely responsible for this. Happens most notably in "The Beard" where Cory manages to unintentionally charm two girls that Shawn was interested in and "Sister Teresa" where he attracts the attention of Harley's younger sister. Could be considered part of his Butt Monkey characterization as these situations tend to not go so well for him and put him in awkward situations.
Cool Loser: This was prevalent in Season 2 where it seemed every other episode consisted of him trying to make a name for himself at school and no longer be a nobody. Given the kind of Zany Schemes he pulled off, it seems like he'd be a legend around the school, but his popularity never seemed to stick. This was given less emphasis as the show went on.
Give Geeks a Chance: Zig-Zagged. Cory started out as a normal, average kid who took interest in the weird, frumpy social outcast Topanga; however, over the next couple of seasons, Topanga became much more normal and less geeky, and the actress grew up into a beautiful young lady, while Cory became more neurotic and dorky and his actor went through a awkward phase. Later on, Topanga became more neurotic and grade-obsessed and put on a bit of weight while Cory grew out of his awkward phase into a more handsome young man, so by the end, they were more on each other's level.
Cory's lifelong best friend, a Street Smart but Book Dumb kid from a broken home who grew up in a trailer park. While Cory relied on Shawn to help him with girls and navigate the high school social scene, Shawn relied on Cory to bail him out of trouble and provide stability in his turbulent life. Along with Cory, Shawn appears in every episode, cementing their status as Heterosexual Life-Partners.
Attractive Bent-Gender: When cross-dressing, less than a minute after showing up at school, "Veronica" had a date with a male classmate. And even after groping "her," the guy still didn't notice anything wrong. Even Cory, who convinced him to do it, calls him a "babe."
The Ditz: To a degree in earlier seasons, especially with stuff thats common knowledge. He once though the Rocky Mountains were a description and not a name.
Book Dumb He's pretty much strictly book dumb by season 5.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Starting about partway through Season 5. By season 6 he's shown to be Intellectually equal to Topanga, but is often too lazy to put the effort into his work unless its something he's interested in.
Pretty Boy: Pretty enough to pass very convincingly as a girl. He grew out a beard later in the series' run.
Rummage Sale Reject: Many of his outfits in the earlier seasons were like this, which looked unkempt and mismatched even by early 90s grunge standards (though he was from a poor family). His outfits became more normal as the show went on.
His clothes became more normal, but he appeared to have less of them. Fitting with his "poor" characterization, he wore the same clothes for years. One brown t-shirt, in particular, appeared in nearly every other episode.
Shipper on Deck: The prospect of Cory and Topanga not being together sends him into an existential crisis.
Technical Virgin: As of the middle of his senior yearnote "And Then There Was Shawn" from mid-Season 5. Note that this is after having been in a serious relationship with Angela; he reveals this when he and the others are discussing the Sex Equals Death trope.
By freshman year of college, there are hints that this is no longer true (Cory references being the only virgin amongst a group of guys that includes Shawn) and by sophomore year, it's made flat-out clear he and Angela are sleeping together.
Wholesome Crossdresser: Only ever does it once onscreen, but admits to having thought about it before, even having a preferred name for his female alter-ego "Veronica."
He seems to have kept doing it off-screen because several years later; in the last season, Eric and Jack decide to cross-dress as a way to avoid a gang that were after them and they turned to Shawn for advice. Afterward, he advises Jack on toning down his overcompensating masculinity.
Topanga Lawrence-Matthews (Danielle Fishel)
Cory's girlfriend (and later wife) for the majority of the series. Though she began as a classic Granola Girl, she morphed into a perfectionist Hollywood Nerd (of the pretty variety) fairly early on and generally was the superego on Cory's shoulder in comparison to Shawn's id.In the Sequel SeriesGirl Meets World, she is still married to Cory, and they have two children. Although initial plans were for her to be the proprietor of the Local Hangout, this was changed during production, and she is now (as the series finale portended) a successful lawyer with a major firm.
Animal Metaphor: There's an episode where Cory wants to get back together with Topanga. He follows her to Disney World to win her back. There, he talks to a dolphin who is sad because it has lost its mate and tells it that he believes Toganga is his mate.
Lampshade Hanging: One character comments on how her name sounds like a freeway exit. Michael Jacobs has stated that's exactly how he came up with the name by seeing the Topanga Canyon freeway exit sign.
Progressively Prettier: She originally wore frumpy clothes and had wild, unruly hair to demonstrate her Granola Girl personality. However, as her personality shifted to being a normal Girl Next Door and the actress grew up, she was given more attractive clothes, hairstyle and makeup.
Real Life Writes the Plot: As part of a Reality Subtext, Danielle Fishel's very slight weight gain was subject to excessive criticism in the press. The show producers mocked this response with an episode titled "She's Having My Baby Back Ribs!" where Topanga decides to go on a diet and doesn't tell Cory, accidentally leading him to think that she's pregnant.
Cory's older brother, by turns a fun, charismatic ladies man and a lovable (but seriously deranged) Cloud Cuckoolander. Though Eric struggled academically, he was usually portrayed as being immensely intelligent deep down and filled with hidden potential and complexity, causing him to be frequently underestimated by friends and family.
Dumbass Has a Point: Even post-Flanderization, Eric had moments of being profoundly insightful. This may be BECAUSE his thought processes were...different, rather than despite it.
Dumbass Teenage Son especially in season 7: he was put in charge of his Fathers surpass party. His first plan is to poison Morgan and then have the party at the hospital. His mother later reveals he was a decoy because he's too stupid.
Flanderization: Went from a clever, smooth-talking ladies man to a dunderhead imbecile who would strip others of their sanity if they spent more than two minutes near him, with Mr. Feeny usually being the resident victim.
Forgot Flanders Could Do That: Was flanderized from the cool, rational older brother into an irrational Cloud Cuckoolander except for one of the series' very last episodes, in which he was suddenly portrayed with something resembling his original characterization (which was lampshaded by the others).
Shawn's estranged half-brother who reconnects with Shawn when he come to Philadelphia to go to college, and becomes Eric's best friend and roommate.
Formerly Fat: Season 7's "She's Having My Baby Back Ribs" reveals that he used to be called "Jumbo Jack" in high school, which is why he goes to the gym so much and is obsessed with his looks.
The Generic Guy: Cory, Shawn and Eric had the market cornered on the comedy, and so Jack was often just there to look pretty and react to strange things. His personality would shift based on what the story called for.
Ms. Fanservice: In her early appearances (where it was her entire character) where she would often wander around in a tiny bathrobe, and in "Hogs and Kisses."
One Head Taller: Gender-inverted. She is quite a bit taller than all the guys, something both she and Jack were insecure about at first, with Rachel thinking Jack thought she was too tall, and Jack thinking she thought he was too short.
Alan Matthews (William Russ)
Cory, Eric, Morgan and Joshua's father.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: While he may seem to be The Ditz on ocassion, it's a very dangerous thing to forget that, not only is he a Navy veteran, but was the second-best boxer in the entire Navy.
Put on a Bus: Lampshaded. Morgan appeared less frequently in Season 2, then disappeared without mention after the season finale, seeming to be an example of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome. However, she returned midway through Season 3 (with a new actress). Upon being greeted with surprise, she responded, "That was the longest time-out ever."
Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: When Lindsay Ridgeway took over the role. While Ridgeway is about 3 years older The character was only bumped up a grade level, from first grade in season 2 to 3rd grade in season 3
Joshua Gabriel Matthews
The youngest Matthews child, who is born midway through Season 6.
Cory's teacher turned principal turned college professor, and next-door neighbor to the Matthews family. Though a mentor to everyone on the show, he formed a particularly special bond with Cory and Eric, helping them navigate the tricky journey from adolescence to adulthood. In the second to fourth seasons, when there's multiple teachers around, he's generally portrayed as strictly a history teacher, but in the seasons where he's the only teacher in the main cast, he basically teaches any subject that the narrative calls on him to.Mr. Feeny is the only character from the original series other than Cory and Topanga who has so far been confirmed to appear in the Sequel SeriesGirl Meets World, as he will appear in the pilot. It is unclear as to whether this was meant as a one-off "passing of the torch" gesture (as Cory has followed in his footsteps as a teacher) or whether he'll be making further appearances.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The last episode he appeared in saw him badly injured in a motorcycle accident. Despite the hope that he would recover, we never see such a thing on-screen (or him again for that matter), which has all sorts of Fridge Horror applications. As with Minkus, though, his disappearance was Lampshaded in the graduation episode. Word of God says that he will hopefully be addressed in Girl Meets World.
The official Twitter for the writing staff of Girl Meets World suggests looking at "the other side of the school" to find the first characters from BMW to appear in the Sequel Series. This is widely believed to be referring to either Minkus or Mr. Turner, as a reference to this aforementioned gag in the original series episode "Graduation." (Anthony Tyler Quinn has indicated a willingness to participate in Girl Meets World despite being a conspicuous no-show at the several BMW reunion events held in 2013.)
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: He was introduced in the third season as a main cast member (The Other Wiki says the focus on him and Turner in that season was an attempt to appeal to young college graduates) and was dropped immediately afterwards without even a single mention (aside from a clip with him in it appearing in the final episode).
Remember the New Guy: Subverted. While he his introduced in season 3 getting a decent setup as the new media arts teacher at John Adams this trope is played straight as he's said to be Turner's best friend for years despite not even getting mentioned in season 2.
Lila Bolander (Bonnie Bartlett)
A dean at Pennbrook University who develops a relationship with Mr. Feeny.
Reasonable Authority Figure: After Cory punched Stuart (the professor, not Minkus) after he made a move on Topanga, she suspended Cory for one day and placed him on probation for striking a teacher, but also stated that Stuart's activities will be undergoing further investigation due to the seriousness of the allegations.
Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris)
Cory and Shawn's nerdy classmate in the first season.
Small Role, Big Impact: Even though Minkus only appeared in the first season, his legacy was so strong that Michael Jacobs created a new character, Shamus Farkle, who is an Expy of him for the upcoming Sequel SeriesGirl Meets World.
Minkus himself is confirmed to make an appearance
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: in season 2 is replaced by a character named Meese. However he gets far less focus than Minkus did appearing in only a handful of episodes before being chucked by season 3.
Put on a Bus: Harley is eventually sent away to reform school around the end of the second season, although he briefly returns in a third season episode.
Frankie "The Enforcer" Stechino (Ethan Suplee)
A very large and strong kid at John Adams High, Frankie served as The Brute of Harley's crew and was best friend of Joey the Rat. When Harley got sent to reform school, Frankie revealed his gentle side and became friends with Cory and Shawn.
Character Development: In the third season, when forced to choose between Harley and Griff, Frankie and Joey have an "epiphany," choosing instead to move on. Frankie then makes several appearances in which he becomes a friend to Cory and Shawn (although Joey doesn't do as well and winds up acting as more of a Con Man). He then disappears until the graduation episode, which ignores his previous development by showing him preparing to become a criminal alongside Joey.
Although, this could probably be justified by Joey's bad influence having a negative effect once he returns.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: One episode was centered around Frankie trying to get closer to his dad, who was disappointed that he preferred poetry over wrestling.
Joey "The Rat" Epstein (Blake Sopler)
Flunky to Harley (and later Griff), and best friend of Frankie.
The Bully: Scarcely more violent than Griff, and not the most unfriendly gang member; but to anyone's feelings, he's clearly the most insensitive out of the whole gang!
Character Development: In the third season, when forced to choose between Harley and Griff, Frankie and Joey have an "epiphany," choosing instead to move on.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome after the above mentioned episode, he disappears entirely only resurfacing in the season 5 finale. Though he's said to have gotten suspended early on this doesn't explain his nearly 2 year absence.
Hidden Depths: Though this is true of Joey least of all the gang members (including Griff), he did prove himself much more insightful than first glance may tell you.
Magnetic Hero: Not so much a hero, but Griff was able to attract Vader, Robert Goulet and Yasmine Bleeth to a fight between Cory and Joey.
Chet Hunter (Blake Clark)
Shawn and Jack's n'er-do-well father who's constantly blowing in and out of their lives. Though Jack was raised by his rich stepfather and barely knew Chet, many of Shawn's issues stem from his complicated relationship with his dad.
The Alcoholic: It's revealed in Season 5 that Chet was an "abusive, ugly drunk" when he was married to Jack's mother, and that was why she left him and took Jack with her.