Steve Urkel was the man. I’m not even kidding. He was coolness personified, and I’ll explain why.
Family Matters and Job Matters
But first, I’m excited to tell you how I got into him. See, I’m currently working as a caregiver at an assisted living facility. You can call it a “retirement home” if you’d like.
I spend most of my time sitting down, watching somebody, and making sure they’re not getting in trouble. 95% of the time I’m doing just that, to be exact. The other 5%, I’m feeding them.
Yeah, I’m practically idle. My clients are on the infirm side and aren’t exactly energetic, either. But it’s all good.
To make the residents more comfortable and feel like they’re at home, we turn on the glorious 80-inch plasma-screen TV (these people really know where to put their money, I’m telling you). We run marathons of TV shows, either via YouTube or Hulu.
Golden Girls? They have that. Full House? Oh, yeah. The Cosby Show? You betcha.
But no show, and I mean no show, has piqued my interest like Family Matters. You may have heard of it, because it’s sometimes known as “The Steve Urkel Show.” 😀
First Season Troubles
Family Matters is a family situational comedy (sitcom) that premiered in 1989, starring Reginald VelJohnson. You may know Reginald as the on-duty cop from Die Hard. He plays the Dad.
Initially, the idea was to have a blue-collar Cosby Show. It was to showcase a family, the Winslows, surviving each other’s antics while learning valuable life lessons along the way.
The first 12 episodes of the show were solid. Although I noticed the drama element was much stronger than the comedy.
Some episodes had running gags that didn’t quite stick (the aunt’s terrible saxophone playing, for one thing). Veteran VelJohnson carried the show with his experience and visual gags, but the comedy just wasn’t there.
It seemed the show was doomed to fade into obscurity as a bland rehash of the afore-mentioned Cosby Show.
Then, in episode 12 of the first season, all that changed. The Savior came from the Sky in Large Glasses and Suspenders.
Enter the Urkel.
Steve Urkel, played by the talented Jaleel White, made his debut as the clumsy, nerdy oddball that hits on Laura, the main character’s daughter.
Laura was looking for a date to the dance. Her father tried fixing her up by calling his neighbor and arranging for Steve to take her. Laura eventually went with a popular, handsome kid, but Urkel took the rejection in stride.
For the ensuing 9 seasons of Family Matters, Urkel became the new central character as the Winslow family took the proverbial back seat.
Big Bang Family Matters Theory?
With the addition of a super-geek, the show’s direction was radically altered and started including unique sci-fi elements.
Urkel’s inventions would include a serum to make him “cool.” Another was a machine that shrunk or enlarged certain items.
Suddenly, Family Matters was no longer compared to The Cosby Show. The show actually had its own thing going for it.
It’s mind-boggling how the addition of one character could change the trajectory of a entire series. Especially a character that was supposed to appear in only one episode.
When Urkel made his first appearance, he must’ve left quite an impression on the show’s audience. I mean, the writers kept bringing him back.
Question is: Why?
Steve Urkel’s Inspiring Traits
What made Steve Urkel such a compelling character? What caused the initial popular demand to make Urkel a permanent cast member? Off the top of my head, there are three personality traits that many have found inspiring:
Steve may have been a geek boy and perceived as a loser, but guess what, Hoss? He had more confidence than you will ever have.
He did not let Laura’s rejections damage his self-perception. He never moped, sulked, or begged others to prop up his ego.
This can be seen in his first appearance in the arcade of Season 1, Episode 12. Laura and her friend told him, to his face, how repulsive he was. Laura even rejected to be his date.
Instead of letting his demeanor crumble, Steve shrugged it off. He rationalized it by saying, “Eh, maybe some other time.” He carried on as he did before and was still the happy-go-lucky Steve Urkel. This brings me to Trait #2.
Staying True to Himself
Steve was on the receiving end of other people’s visible discomfort, cutting retorts, and rejection for a period of 9 seasons. While he did create a serum to briefly turn him into the smooth Steve Urquelle, he ultimately kept his original personality intact.
He did not bend to the whims of other people’s opinions. When other people disapprove of the way you carry yourself, they’re trying to change you.
They’re trying to make you “normal.” They want to change you because they’re not secure with who they are. These people want to feel like they’re in control of something or someone.
Someone like you.
Staying true to yourself, in spite of social pressure, is as Alpha as it gets. Steve Urkel wasn’t a football quarterback or millionaire businessman, but he sure as hell was Alpha. Why? Because he stayed true to himself.
Now, this is a tough virtue to extol. Let’s be honest: It’s persistence that gets people hit with sexual harassement claims. It’s persistence that gets people physically hurt. Sometimes, though, if you practice persistence the right way, it can turn rejection into gradual acceptance.
I am NOT advocating for using persistence in closed spaces so people can score a sexual encounter.
Persistence should be used in everyday, social/nonsexual situations. If someone is initially turned off by your mannerisms, maybe they need to get used to you first.
We generally accept people we’re familiar and comfortable with. Over time they may start to appreciate and even enjoy your quirkiness.
One thing I’ve learned in recent years is you need to be persistent in order to maintain your friendships. If someone doesn’t respond to your attemps to initiate conversation, try again some other day.
What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll block you? PFFFFFT!!!!
I knew someone back in high school who resembled Urkel in more ways than one. He had the tendency to to make self-deprecating jokes to the point where it was, well, off-putting.
He was literally a real-world sitcom character, no exaggeration. Even the girls openly talked about how freaky he was. Over time, people (even the girls) started to accept him for who he was because of his persistence (although he still had trouble getting a date but that’s beside the point).
On the show, Steve was able to use persistence until he won Laura over in the last episode. Persistence comes from confidence and it’s confidence that scores the gals.
Steve Urkel: The Legend
People at home during the 1990s watched Steve Urkel in awe, because he was an inspiration. Self-doubt and insecurity play a role in all of our lives. When a character is as popular as he was, it’s because we can relate to them. It’s because we secretly wish we were more like them.
And yes, we all wish we were like Steve Urkel, i.e. The Alpha Nerd.