Some years ago I worked a rather interminable job in a university student technology center. During the day you mostly reset people’s email passwords, and in the evening the place turned into a veritable graveyard.
There wasn’t a whole lot to do after 6 p.m. This was great if you had homework to do or a book to read, but the time occasionally drew out like a blade. Rather than better myself in some productive and practical way, I spent a lot of the slow hours thinking about “Saved by the Bell.”
I have written before about this rather remarkable television show and its exceedingly dark undertones. Most people my age tend to remember “Saved by the Bell” only by the one episode in which Elizabeth Berkley’s Jessie Spano became addicted to caffeine pills, but there was a great deal more depth to the show than simple early-’90s cheeseball teen dramedy.
“Saved by the Bell” ran the whole gamut of seedy and unpleasant human experiences: characters routinely betray each other, lie, steal, spread rumors, indulge in shocking prejudice, abuse their authority, break the law, and disregard basic human decency and kindness. This is what went on at Bayside every day. It could almost be considered Shakespearean, a kind of improbable mixture of “Macbeth,” “King Lear,” and “Othello—if it were not so terribly written and dreadfully acted.
One of “Saved by the Bell’s” more significant recurring plot points is the relationships in which the main characters engage: most of them date around a great deal and with shallow abandon, using and discarding people to satisfy their own selfish schemes and desires. Zack Morris was a particularly great user of humans, someone who cared little for anyone else and who was happy to manipulate and exploit his fellow students for short-term financial or sexual gain.
One slow day at my slow college job, I began to think about all of these relationships, and it occurred to me that the web all these liaisons formed was almost insanely complex and at times astoundingly self-referential, like a late-series episode of “Lost” or an entry in Robert Jordan’s tedious “Wheel of Time” series of novels. I began to e-mail my brothers and sister-in-law—all of them devoted “Saved by the Bell” watchers—to figure out the depth and breadth of this intricate network of romances.
The result is below. Enjoy—it is, so far as I know, the only work of its kind, though that is really quite understandable when you think about it. Click to expand.