"Saved by the Bell" premiered 26 years ago, which means you're old.
In some ways, not much has changed since Zack, Kelly, Screech and the gang roamed the halls of Bayside High School -- crop tops are back, cheeseburgers never left and overdosing on caffeine pills still isn't recommended. In other ways, many of the plot-lines and certain dialogue couldn't exist today. You'd never see Zack hit on the school nurse or hear a laughtrack following Slater's sexist jokes in 2015.
It's understandable, then, that the show's portrayal of sexism, and therefore feminism, has been criticized in more recent years. Jessie Spano was an outspoken feminist who was whiney, neurotic and purposely characterized as less attractive than easy-breezy Kelly Kapowski. Jessie's character didn't help the case for feminism being a positive thing, and she didn't make the word "feminist" seem like one young girls would want to wear.
But, it's important to remember: it was the '90s. "Feminist" wasn't a term you heard as commonly in mainstream pop culture as you do now, and there certainly weren't tons of young female characters on television overtly claiming the feminist label. Flawed or not, Jessie's commitment to equality influential on young viewers, including myself. Here's why:
1. She dated Bayside's biggest chauvinist AC Slater, but called him out constantly.
2. She set the record straight on labels, reminding AC not to call her "babe" or "chick." She gave young women watching permission to define what's demeaning to them, or not.
3. She challenged masculinity and demonstrated why "macho" isn't something to strive for...
4. ... And again:
5. She called out unfair societal norms:
6. And confronted gender roles:
7. She tried her hand at acting "girly," and ultimately decided she was better off being true to herself.
8. She was aware of social inequality, and didn't let her friends lose sight of their own privilege.
Bless your feminist heart, Jessie Spano.
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