From my tween to early-teenage years, I lived for NBC Saturday morning television and the kids at Bayside High. I remember sitting on my bed in a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and pair of boxer shorts gazing at Zack and Slater and wanting desperately to be as pretty as Kelly and as smart as Jessie. Lisa’s clothes were my dream and I longed for her lavish lifestyle. I thought Screech was funny, albeit a bit annoying. Those characters felt like real parts of my life. And it made me happy.
Well friends, grab your car phone and your BFFs because Saved By The Bell is back! Thanks to Netflix and Hulu, we 30 and 40-somethings have a chance to relive some of our favorite moments at Bayside. I, for one, could really use of dose of nostalgia right about now. Let’s take it back to a simpler time when we weren’t consumed by electronics and social media.
So, I have to just throw this out here, while Saved By The Bell is a beloved part of American television history, it is kind of problematic if you take a look with a closer lens. There is actually a Funny or Die YouTube series appropriately titled, “Zack Morris Is Trash,” that breaks down some of his more reprehensible behaviors. He is a sexist, a chauvinist, a narcissist, and an elitist. There are a lot is “ists” there that we would be remiss not to point out. Zack was a hot guy with a pretty garbage personality.
But let’s be fair, Zack wasn’t the only one who has a problematic personality. Slater referring to Jessie as, “Hot Mama,” wouldn’t fly today. And we certainly wouldn’t be dividing our characters into the nerds and the popular kids by dressing them totally different and — gasp — making them wear glasses. We did a lot for laughs back then that probably wasn’t that funny. But for the sake of nostalgia, let’s not let ourselves get so caught up in that mess. They certainly could never get away with that bullshit today, so that is a win for the 2020s. I think we all know that in the ’90s, we had a lot to learn.
Now that we’ve got what we’d say about it today if it were on TV out of the way, let’s get back to what we loved about it back then. We were involved in their romances. If you didn’t dream of being a bridesmaid in Zack and Kelly’s wedding, did you even have a pulse? I mean, that was true love. Do you remember when her dad lost his job and she gave him the money back for the dress and Zack created a personal prom just for them? They were #goals when a # was just a pound sign on our clear princess phones.
It wasn’t all fluff, though. Jessie dreamed of being a valedictorian and put her all into being the best. She was an inspiration to girls that women were strong and intelligent and could go to-to-toe with a man any time. She made that very apparent, never taking any of Slater’s macho bullshit. But, she was also vulnerable. In what may be the most-loved episode of all time, “Jessie’s Song,” she became addicted to caffeine pills in order to be number one in everything that she did. I think about that at 42 and there is so much truth to that kind of pressure when you are a teenager. Back then we laughed at, “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so … scared.” Today, I think, “God, I hope my kids never have that much on their shoulders.”
The gang’s wardrobes were peak 1990s and Lisa Turtle was the queen. Those hats and skirt sets were straight out of the windows of Contempo Casual and I longed for just one of her jackets. Zack’s preppy duds and Slater’s tanks and Z Cavariccis made our teenage hearts skip a beat. Even Jessie’s mom jeans were cool (and are cool again, much to our chagrin now that we’re actually moms). And of course there was perfect Kelly with her cheerleader charm. Those characters felt like friends, each either relatable or enviable in their own way. It wasn’t just a TV show; it was part of our lives.
And we can’t forget about Screech, and his undying devotion to Zack and his love for Lisa. He was the king of the nerds, but we had a soft spot for him. He wasn’t quite crush worthy like Zack and Slater — however, when he met sweet Violet and they became a couple, we realized they were a perfect match. It helped us to look at our own romantic life and realize that special someone was out there; we just had to find them.
The Bayside gang was full of crazy adventures and hijinks and although they found themselves in a pickle or two, they always had the support of their principal and friend, Mr. Belding. He was the goofy adult that always supported his students. Remember how old he looked? Yeah, he was 39 when the show started so chew on that for a minute. But I digress; Mr. Belding was the principal that you wished that you had at your school. Even when Zack was driving him crazy, he was able to reel him in and get us the happy ending that we craved at the end of every episode.
Saved By The Bell is iconic. Our adolescence would not have been the same without it. Stream it and it will all come flooding back. The second you hear the sound of that alarm clock bell, you will be singing the familiar tune that, after 30 years, you still remember all of the words to. Throw on your Hypercolor T-shirt and a pair of Guess Jeans and settle in for the nostalgic binge that you need right now. With the shitshow that has been the past two years, we could all use a little time at The Max.
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