How the Character Steve Urkel Changed TV Forever

Jaleel White played the role of Steve Urkel on the long-running television sitcom “Family Matters.” The character was the young neighbor of the Winslow family and we never really got to know his parents, but Steve was ever present in the Winslow home and he this brilliantly constructed and masterfully portrayed character changed television forever. We learned so many lessons from Urkel as a society, that it made us stop and think about how we treat people. Even more, it gave tv writers something to think about in the construction and creation of the characters that were written into their programs as well. You might say that Urkel was a revolutionary character in that we saw him undergo a metamorphosis. It’s the stuff that fairy tales are made of. If you haven’t stopped to think about how Urkel impacted television as well as the general public, consider the following.

Urkel was a juxtaposition

We met the character when he was just a little boy. Steve Urkel was a brainiac, but he was terribly annoying. He was dense and obtuse and he had an irritating laugh that caused him to snort. He’s the kind of kid that you hate to see come around because he’s not only irritating, he’s accident prone and apt to break your things or make something go wrong. It’s hard to stay mad at him because his heart is always in the right place, he’s just not lucky.

He’s oblivious to his own character flaws

Steve Urkel blunders through a series of social miscues and he doesn’t seem to realize how annoying he is most of the time. On the rare occasions when he realizes his own shortcomings, it’s heartbreaking and the Winslows can’t allow him to get down on himself. It’s during the times that he points out the things that drive everyone else crazy, that they all realize they’ve been pretty hard on him. He’s a good person but he’s become the scapegoat at school at the Winslows and almost everywhere else he goes. He’s the quintessential nerd and consequently, the kind of guy people try to avoid.

Lovestruck nerds are a pain

Urkel spends most of his young life tragically in love with his peer/neighbor Laura Winslow. She clearly has no interest in him and spurns all of his romantic overtures, but he’s hopelessly in love with her. He gets a taste of his own medicine when Mayra develops a crush on him and pursues him like he’s an eligible bachelor from Dogpatch USA.

The Chrysalis

Just when we think the tides are turning and Steve turns his attention to Mayra and away from Laura, we’re dealt yet another surprise. For several years we’ve watched little Stevie Urkel grow up into a teenager. Laura has always cared about him because even though he’s been intolerable, he’s been a very good friend to her and the entire family. Steve is a young genius. His demeanor, high hitched pants that go well above the waist and are hiked too far above his ankles goes through some serious changes. He develops a special chamber that transforms him from the awkward and clumsy nerd character of Steve Urkel to the dashing and sophisticated Stee van Ur’kel.

A new look at an old character

For the first time in the series, Jaleel White, who is a strikingly handsome young man is allowed to shine. Not for his brilliant portrayal of Urkel, which is undeniable, but for the young man created in Urkel’s image only with dapper polish and shine, Stefon. He becomes the perfect man. He’s suave, handsome, intelligent and he’s packing a whole lot of charisma. Girls who once turned the corner to avoid him are seeking out his company and want his attention.

The message Steve Urkel Sent to all

The character that we watched grow and change throughout the years always had tremendous potential within him. He bore a great deal of scorn as many people do in real life. It’s all part of finding our identities and Steve taught us that life is a series of changes and self-discovery. He also taught us that we can possess all of the talent, charisma, esteem, and respect of others, but if we can’t be ourselves, we’ve lost out on everything that we were meant to be. There is potential in every person but sometimes you have to look beyond the surface and realize that the tables can turn at any moment. He forever changed television, but he also taught everyone who followed the show some valuable life lessons.


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