In 1989, something happened that would change the world as we know it. Something that would influence generations of children into following their dreams. Something that taught young girls how to love. Something beautiful and delicate and wonderful. That something was Saved By The Bell.
Saved By The Bell was more than just FUPA jeans and hypercolors. It was integral to the formative years of everyone born between the years 1979 to 1986, with a plus/minus of a million extra years because it had something for everyone. It gave me a feminist icon in Jessie Spano. It gave me a picture to clip onto every treadmill I run on to this very day in Kelly Kapowski. It gave me a strong gaydar in A.C. Slater. It gave me a sweet board game and two Barbies I wish I still had. More importantly, it gave me my first love in environmental advocate and probable X-Men mutant with the ability to stop time, Zack Morris.
But there is one thing that SBTB gave me above all else which haunts me to this day, and that is countless questions. The whys and hows and general what the motherfucks. So in honor of the show’s 20 year anniversary, and the valiant effort of Mr. Jimmy Fallon to reunite the whole cast (watch this and weep and think vague and confused dirty thoughts involving tongue kissing even though you’re not sure what exactly that is yet), I decided that now is the time to ask these questions and search for answers.
Any fan of The Bell knows that it wasn’t exactly a bastion of continuity. Numbers of siblings changed by the episode. On-again/off-again relationships were mostly due to whatever the writer felt like having that day. Loves of lives came and went like ghosts. If you go to the “List of minor characters in Saved By The Bell” and do a shot every time you see the words “s/he was never seen again,” you will vomit the entire length of your intestines out of your body and die on the floor like a junkie hooker at the Mark Twain hotel. And then there’s the infamous “Tori Paradox” (copyright, object of minor hero worship, I’m not worthy, so I won’t even bother, 2003). But these are just the tip of the cherry stem atop the chocolate shake from The Maxx. There are so many more questions in the world of Bayside High. A seedy underbelly of darkness and confusion, and we must get through this together, people.
Can they sing or not?
The subject of our gang’s talents varied by episode. In the “Glee Club” episode, the Core 6 join the badass GC (along with Scott Wolf; Bailey Salinger forevs) despite the fact that none of them but Jessie can sing. Now, Lisa, Kelly and Jessie already had minor pop success with their amazing song “Put Your Mind To It, Go For It, Get Down And Break A Sweat” as performed by their girl group, The Hot Sundaes. They most likely disbanded due to Jessie’s serious drug problem, but it would be strange to assume that they’d lost their ability to sing in a season or two. And mere episodes later, we see the first appearance of The Zack Attack, featuring a tear-inducing Jessie/Slater duet to a Michael Bolton song, and Zack and Lisa holding their own on backup.
And speaking of their “singing,” our beloved six lip-synched to different singers literally every time they had to sing in an episode, but one of them ALWAYS sounded like Olivia Newton-John, without fail. Just an observation.
How big is Bayside?
In the episode with Rad Rod Belding (they never called him this, but they should have), O.G. Belding mentions that our group’s class contains thirty kids. THIRTY KIDS IN A CLASS? A public school with thirty kids to a class, even? That’s just a level of surreality I can’t handle.
But let’s say I relent and allow my suspension of disbelief to be weighted almost all the way down to the floor. If their class is so small, and it is, because the same extras are used nonstop, then how is Zack always meeting new lust interests? My high school was apparently thirty times bigger than Bayside, and I knew at least a working knowledge of everyone in my class. And I certainly would have known who the girl in the wheelchair was, as Zack didn’t when he started dating her (take it, Wiki: “she was never heard from again”).
Come to think of it, for the most popular kids in school, our group really only ever spends all that much time with the other non-Screech nerds. In fact, when Slater gets up to Bolton it up with Jessie during the Zack Attack’s gig (while Zack and Kelly are breaking up outside, sniff sob), the best nerd of them all, Ollie, the black one with the frog voice, takes his place at the drums.
Why wasn’t something done about Belding?
Seriously, Belding was inappropriate to the max (and at The Maxx, no doubt). For starters, if we’re going back to the Miss Bliss days, he apparently takes Screech, Zack and Lisa and moves from Indiana with them. That’s weird enough. In one episode, Kelly kisses him on the cheek. Even if my principal hadn’t been a somewhat intimidating and slightly mannish nun, it still never would have occurred to me to get anywhere near or around her bubble.
And that’s not even the worst of it. He shows up at Zack’s house to hang out, he follows them to The Maxx and lots of stuff like that. There’s just a lot of awkward. And, let’s face it, the other 24 students who weren’t in our Core 6 really should have revolted because the man didn’t even try to hide his favoritism. I wouldn’t be surprised if the nickname “Bad Touch Belding” wasn’t thrown around here and there.
He also sometimes taught classes. This is strange and weird, too.
And speaking of pedophiles …
Whatever happened to Jeff?
Jeff was, of course, Kelly’s manager boyfriend at The Maxx, which already brings up all kinds of HR issues I don’t have time to deal with. It is stated that he’s a sophomore at USC, most likely making him nineteen or twenty. Now this episode takes place immediately before Lisa’s Sweet Sixteen, meaning Kelly is at most sixteen, probably fifteen. Ew gross perv. What do twenty year olds and fifteen year olds have to talk about? In 1992, probably Saved By The Bell, but they couldn’t talk about that BECAUSE THEY WERE LIVING IT.
Making matters worse, the gang catches him macking on some generic blonde (downgrade) at 18+ dance club The Attic (and by the way, I was really saddened at eighteen to learn that those pretty much don’t exist). What I’m saying is that he was engaging in a non-monogamous relationship with an underage child. Poor Kelly probably had all manner of sores and itchy redness, and probably couldn’t afford topical creams because her family was poor. Jeff was a fucking douche.
When exactly did they find time to be in every single club in the school?
It is the key plot point of the entire series that Zack is lazy and cruises on charm and general blondness. So why then was he in every single extracurricular available? Radio DJ, basketball team, yearbook, glee club, student council, the school play, the goddamn ballet club for one episode. That’s the busiest child I’ve ever heard of. No wonder he didn’t have time for homework. Now, all that said, he most likely got kicked out of all of the above for a plethora of reasons. Insulting team members, managing to tear the cartilage in his leg by falling down in the locker room (is he made of rock candy?) and constant sexual harassment.
The most logical explanation? Each Bayside club had eight open spots, and Belding ensured that his precious favorites were given six of those positions. Fucking Belding. Pervert.
Why does Los Angeles only have one movie playing for five years straight?
The same audio was used nearly every time the gang went to the movies. Tire squeal, gun shot, gun shot, woman scream. It’s LA, I’m pretty sure other movies were out, guys.
Was Jessie not the most wavering feminist ever?
Okay, Jessie Spano was a Betty Friedan worshipping womyn who rejected all things patriarchal. And yet, she dated A.C. Slater, pinnacle of macho jock machismo (emphasis on the “cheese”). Now I’ll let that slide as it was an opposites attract kind of thing. But one thing I cannot forget is that Jessie, cheerleader hating Jessie, was a damn cheerleader for at least two or three episodes. JESSICA. You goddamn turncoat. Sometime-cheerleader, and swimteam member who obviously posed for her calendar photo even while being all outraged that the picture was taken … don’t even pretend, Jess. And where does all this get you in life?
Exactly. More like femin-fisting, amirite people?
Why did Zack have such abysmal taste in women?
With the exception of Kelly, Zack only ever showed interest in women that were a) functionally retarded, b) his best friends’ sister/cousin/love interest, c) a raving bitch (Staci Carosi) or d) a lesbian (Tori Scott).
While normally he was seen with his barrage of bimbos in skintight floral numbers, when he ventured out of that comfort zone, it was always for a really wrong match. He went for Slater’s sister, his ex-girlfriend AND JESSIE, lest we forget. He went for Screech’s cousin, and then he randomly decided he was madly in love with Lisa, destroyed poor Screech’s heart and then never spoke of it again. He dated Staci Carosi, who was fucking evil (I can only assume she was using him to gauge his thetan count) and then Tori, who, god bless her, was probably about a year or two away from realizing why she didn’t seem to like it when Zack touched her all that much.
On the other hand, the eternal romantic in me thinks this proves the point that there is one person for everyone, and for Zack, that person was Kelly. And thank god, because seriously, his other options were ridiculous.
Despite all the questions, the ceaseless questions that keep me awake in the night, the show is something I love deeply and care for like a family member. I watched all the way through The College Years AND The New Class. I support almost every cast member in their recent and present endeavors (I say almost because OH HELL NAW poo-based Dustin Diamond sex tape). And always, till the end of time, my heart belongs to Zack Morris.
Saved By The Bell. Icon. Time capsule. Thing of beauty and joy, forever.
Becky the Duck. Never forget.
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.