The 1990s were a crazy time. Failed hippies drank Fruitopia by the gallon. The “Macarena” gave hope to even the clumsiest dancers. And casual racism was everywhere on television (now you can only find it during live reports from Trump rallies). One of the more egregious — and frankly, weirdest — examples of this comes from Saved By the Bell, NBC’s high school-set comedy about a bunch of cool kids who hang out with a nerd named Screech, for some reason. In a season two episode, “Running Zack,” one of said cool kids, Zack, discovers that he comes from Native American ancestry. This is problematic (#problematic) because a) Zack is whiter than white, and b) this happens.
You’re in hot water when Screech’s outfit is only the second most offensive thing about this scene. Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who’s currently doing fine work on Pitch, would like to apologize for, well, everything about “Running Zack,” especially when he says, “Me Zack Morris, me smoke-um peace pipe.”
The one part of the episode — well, there’s probably more parts — that I think specifically deserves an ‘I’m Sorry About That’: He gives a – I’m doing this in air quotes – ‘presentation’ that consists of putting war paint on Screech and giving him a toy tomahawk — and he has Screech stagger around and grunt at people. Zack doesn’t get in trouble for this completely racist presentation, and the only punishment is he’ll have to skip the big track meet if he doesn’t take the project seriously. His teacher introduces him to Chief Henry, who appears to live in someone’s garage and bestows wisdom onto Zack before he drops dead without explanation at the end of the episode. On the plus side, Zack takes his ancestry seriously and gives another ‘presentation.’ Of course, he gets into full Native American costume with face paint and a headdress. That’s another ‘I’m Sorry’ moment… Actually there’s a picture of me online I found as well. So, uh, yeah… good stuff. I hope the kids don’t catch that episode.” (Via)
I’m beginning to think MPG was onto something when he said Saved by the Bell was “not a great show.” It’s certainly no Franklin & Bash, but what is?
(Via Entertainment Weekly)