There's something delicious about critiquing old art through a contemporary lens. It's so easy to see the flaws in things that were made decades or even centuries ago—to call out the misogyny of Andy Griffith, the cultural appropriation of Elvis Presley, the cisheterosexism of everything made before 2014. Occasionally, this form of criticism can be witty (see: "The Baby-Sitter's Club Super Woke Series" by Andrea Ruggirello), or astute (West Wing Weekly, a podcast that examines the Dubya-era political show from a post-Trump perspective), or it can be an utter waste of time, money, and attention, adding no more to the national conversation than a week-old fart. Enter: Zack Morris is Trash.
Zack Morris, for those born after 1983, was the lead character in Saved By the Bell, an NBC sitcom that aired from 1989 to 1993. Morris was played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and the show centered around Morris, his attractive high school friends (as well as token nerd Screech), and the principal who dogged them, Mr. Belding. Like most shows for and about teens, the primary drama involved hard crushes and small misadventures, and the only thing novel about the show was Zack Morris's breadbox-sized cell phone. It was crap TV then, but 25 years after it went off the air, Amazon, for some unknown reason, has decided to air a show that offers social commentary about Saved By the Bell through the lens of today's primary social virtue: wokeness.
Produced by Funny or Die and narrated by Dashiell Driscoll, the only redeeming quality of this series is that the episodes are each less than three minutes long. In the first ep, titled "The Time Zack Morris Lied About Being Jewish To Go To a Baseball Game," the narrator explains what exactly makes Morris so trash:
"Zack Morris wants to go to a Dodgers game but can't come up with a good excuse to miss school," Driscoll says. "He was gonna say his grandma died but he already said that four times last year. Zack's math teacher, who is so Jewish he actually says, 'I'm Jewish' (yikes), reminds everyone that Rosh Hashanah is tomorrow and he'll be at home. That gives Zack the bright idea to lie about being Jewish on one of the holiest days of the year just to go watch baseball."
The horror. The narrator then describes Morris's other sins: When Morris is blackmailed by another student who sees him at the baseball game, he bribes his friend Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) into going on a date with the blackmailer in exchange for MC Hammer tickets. This, of course, makes him guilty of perpetuating both partriarchy and rape culture. Much drama ensues, including an accident involving Mr. Belding's brand new Mazda Miata, but in the end, the teens manage to get out of trouble and the viewers can pat themselves on the back for finally realizing that the fictional blond monster known as Zack Morris is a real prick—at least by today's standards. Oddly for such a #woke show, the (male) narrator uses some highly problematic language, at one point even referring to Morris as a "bitch coward." He also makes a suicide joke—sans trigger warning.
Is Zack Morris trash? Sure. But who cares? A short-lived family show that ran during the first Bush presidency has no actual power—or even staying power—in this world. No one is elevating Zack Morris to a place of hero worship in 2018, and few people outside Mike Pence would argue that we're due for a revival of '90s-era gender roles or power structures. It's not that we shouldn't reexamine the art and pop culture made by previous generations—that's the entire basis of critical theory—but this show isn't important enough to care about. There's plenty of crap TV on air right now that could use some examining—say, The Bachelor, or The Apprentice, or anything on Fox News. But Saved By the Bell? Just let it live in the past.