If you’re a 90’s brat like I was, there wasn’t a Saturday morning that went by when you weren’t tuned in to Saved by the Bell. I’m a grown man of thirtysomething, and you’ll still catch me occasionally watching syndicated re-runs. It’s an experience that sincerely shaped my childhood, as I suspect it did many of yours. As such, there were some important lessons I learned from watching this show for years. There are several other blog authors out there who share the life lessons they acquired from the show. Here are mine:
1. If you love it enough, an eating establishment can turn you into an uncompromising activist. The gang had the Max. I have Jimmy John’s. I can bet any amount of money if JJ’s was set to close like the Max was, I’d do anything (including, but not limited to, doing a telethon and inviting my World Civilizations teacher to relive his glory days from the 1960’s) to save it. If my activism fell short, I’d rely on Slater to swoop in and save the day with a motivational speech. If he wasn’t available, I’d try D. West.
2. Caffeine is deadly. Far worse than alcohol, coke, or crack, the properties in caffeine will cause users to lose their minds. As a recovering Starbucks ice coffee addict (one day at a time), I know. I’ve seen the lines wrapped around the corner. I’ve seen the people pulling tricks for their score (maybe not alley sex, but definitely something soul compromising. Especially with the people who are “regulars”). I’ve seen the people use code names for their drinks to throw the cops off. If The Wire had “blue tops”, “Pandemic”, and “WMDs”, Starbucks has “non-fat, grande, soy chai latte with a half shot of espresso and no foam.” Laugh at Jesse all you want, but I’ve seen cats leaving Starbucks singing stuff far worse than “I’m So Excited.”
OK. Maybe not.
3. Corporations should be afraid of animals. Very afraid. If Saved by the Bell has taught me one thing, it’s that animals are Kryptonite to corporations. If they screw over consumers and create financial havok throughout global markets, it’s all good. The government will still bail them out. If they engage in inhumane child labor practices, everything is dandy on our end as long as their prices stay low for us. But messing around with animals? Oh, it’s on and poppin’! When Zack held his lifeless duck in his arms as it was victimized by an oil spill, he had a look of vengeance in his eyes that should give any oil tycoon nightmares. After a commercial break’s worth of grieving, he and the gang took on those evil tycoons. In the ultimate David vs. Goliath story, they successfully put an end to Bayside’s corporate takeover, and did do far more effectively than any DC lobbyist, SEC official, politician, or Supreme Court justice ever could. All they needed were a few oil derrick models, a can of oil to “accidentally” spill on folk, and a clever closing argument.
4. College admissions are a joke. Zack Morris, who was actually one credit short of even graduating high school, was somehow still able to get accepted to Yale. His ridiculously high SAT score – earned with Powerball-level luck no doubt – got him into an Ivy League school while Jesse’s flawless high school record couldn’t even land her in an Ivy League school wannabe. But at least she had help from James, their failed actor friend who played the role of a Harvard admissions rep begging her to come to “his” school. Only then did Stansbury realize the mistake they made. To this day, Yale has never owned up to their admissions snafu.
5. It’s absolutely possible to be a likable sociopath. I didn’t think about it much as a kid. But looking at Saved by the Bell from the eyes of an adult, I’m starting to realize that Zack was a monster. But, if you make him a hearthrob for the ladies and guy all other guys want to emulate, it’s easy to overlook (and perhaps even justify) his sociopathic tendencies. I know, we all need help.
6. On the other hand, you can’t entirely blame sociopaths for the gullibility of their victims. Sure, Zack was a con artist and a manipulator even to the people he called his friends. But let’s not allow his dumb-as-a-doorknob victims off the hook either. I mean, who in their right minds would ride a driver’s ed car indoors? What adult (aside from R-Kelly perhaps) would use a pictorial calendar full of underaged girls as the source to find his newest Paris model? Who would really believe that Slater was dying without asking him? Even Screech, who was quite familiar with Zack’s nefarious antics, still went along with every single scheme. In response to one of Zack’s ideas, Screech said “The last time you said that to me I ended up with my tongue stuck to a moving airplane!” If this is a guy you still trust, you deserve whatever he does to you. Sorry, not sorry.
7. Trust your parents on some things. But on other things? Not so much. You should definitely listen to your parents when they preach to you about the importance of not drinking and driving in toga outfits, running up a credit card (where was that advice when I was in college mom and dad?!), or using fake IDs to get into a nightclub. But parents aren’t always right. Take Screech and Violet. When Screech met Violet, her parents weren’t exactly feelin’ him. In response, they forbad (I’m sorry, but that word always sounded a bit weird to me) her from seeing him ever again. Yeah, they were wrong. When their precious angel almost lost her glee club’s singing contest by forgetting the words to the song (an argument could be made, however, that the choir sucked so bad they could’ve lost all by themselves), Screech rode in and saved the day. Granted, he sucked pretty bad too. But when you’re the main characters of a cheesy, teen’s show in the 90’s, excellence is not exactly a requirement. But I digress. Getting back on point, don’t let your parents pick your mate. The person they may see as a socially awkward and inept goof might actually be your ride-or-die mate.
8. The younger sibling may be the cooler one, but the older one is always better. Sorry, baby bro. Love you though! Oh, that probably applies to my wife too. Sorry babe! Love you too!
9. Persistence will lead to abject failure. There’s nothing in Heaven or Earth worse than unrequited love. When you throw yourself at a person, there is no worse feeling than when that person steps to the side as you crash into the brick wall behind her. That was Screech’s life story. Episode after episode, he professed his love for Lisa. But each time she told him to kick rocks. While Zack was dating every single girl in California and studio audiences were fawning over Slater in spadex suits, poor Screech had to endure the heartache of Lisa giving him the hand. To be fair, she never led him on. He just needed to give it a rest. “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, know when to run.” Truer words were never spoken. However, as a counter to this argument…
10. Persistence can also lead to unimaginable success. After years of on and off again relationships, in the end Zack and Kelly became Zack and Kelly for good. Granted, Zack had to date quite a few girls (and, yes, one boy. You remember Screech and Bambi, right?) in between. He dated homeless girls, airheads, school nurses, his best friend’s sister, handicapped girls, college girls, Eastern snobs, female wrestlers, plus-sized girls, and biker girls…which all led to him snagging Kelly once and for all. How relatable is that? I dated women of all makeups (not as many as Zack though. My game was lacking) only to wind up marrying my lifelong sweetheart in the end.
In the end, the greatest lesson I took away from the show was that – no matter what was going on in life – everything will be alright. Why? Because I was saved by the bell.