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March 23rd, 2009

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02:30 pm - We Overthink So You Don't Have To
Today we should like to discuss a fundamental flaw in the theme song to the early 90s teen sitcom Saved By The Bell. This flaw, found in the chorus, is so great that it threatens to compromise the integrity of the entire piece. I am saddened to bring you such terrible enlightenment but much like the arrow in the FedEx logo, once you notice it you can't un-notice it. Such is my personal hell, and you're welcome to it.

Before we go any further I should also like to point out that this flaw was discovered without the help of intoxicants, psychotropics, or any other chemical which can induce in the user a state of profound introspection. (This includes caffeine pills.) That this is the case may make my findings slightly more frightening.

Let us begin by presenting the lyrics to the opening verse. Those of you who fondly remember the antics of Zack, Kelly, Screech and the gang may feel free to sing along.
When I wake up in the morning, the alarm gives out a warning
And I don't think that I can make it on time
By the time I grab my books and I give myself a look
I'm on the corner just in time to see the bus fly by
So far, composer Scott Gale has painted for us a picture of a typical teen's morning, which includes waking up early, primping and preparing for class. We are then presented with a common teen dilemma: that of missing the bus and being late for school. But the chorus provides reassurance and, indeed, a promise of salvation:
It's all right, cause I'm saved by the bell.
Herein lies the flaw. "Saved by the bell" is a phrase from the sport of professional prizefighting. It refers to a fighter whose inevitable defeat has been staved off, however temporarily, by the signal announcing the end of the round. The combatants must cease fighting and return to their respective corners. Being saved by the bell, then, is to be granted a reprieve at the last minute.

But what of our high schooler in the theme? He has missed the bus. He has to find an alternate route to school and do so expediently so as to not be late. If he arrives on time, he will arrive before the bell signals the start of class. If he does not, he will arrive after the bell sounds and probably get a detention. How is the bell the savior in this case? It rings precisely on time and grants no concessions for anyone, not even someone as cool as Zack Morris himself (who, in an odd bit of magic realism, possesses the ability to stop time.) If and when the student makes it on time, he has done so by his own means and has thus saved himself. The bell has done nothing except the job it was meant to do in the first place.

The second verse, however, presents an appropriate scenario which adheres to the theme in a satisfactory fashion:
If the teacher pops a test I know I'm in a mess
And my dog ate all my homework last night
Riding low in my chair, she won't know that I'm there
If I can hand it in tomorrow it'll be all right

It's all right, cause I'm saved by the bell.
In this second portrait of teenage anxiety, we find the student in class but woefully unprepared. There is one hope, however: he may be able to escape, undetected, when class ends. This is where the bell turns from a passive entity to an active participant in the student's salvation. The student is the fighter on the ropes, the teacher is the opponent closing in on the knockout, and the bell is the bell. When the bell rings, the class is over and our student gets off scot-free. And indeed, the chorus provides resolution, relief and snappy denouement.

Were it not for this second verse the glaring inconsistency in the first would overwhelm the optimistic reassurances of the chorus. Thankfully, though, we are provided with a working narrative, but only eventually. Still more questions may plague us, such as whether or not the teacher would rightfully mark the student's work as late if it came in the next day, but the bell cannot possibly figure into this. We may safely shove this question into the pit of triviality where it will be lost forever.

So in conclusion, I would like to point out that the French-language version of the show is titled Sauvé par le Gong which is totally a cooler name.

I thank you for your time.

(17 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:March 23rd, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so ... scared!
[User Picture]
Date:March 23rd, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
needs gif
[User Picture]
Date:March 24th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
I remember that very special episode, holy crap.
[User Picture]
Date:March 23rd, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)
Remember that show on Comedy Central "Beat the Geek"?

Years ago, my husband applied to become the "Saved By the Bell" Geek for "Beat the Geek" and his offer was politely declined. We have conversations that start with, "This reminds me of the episode where Mr. Belding and Zack...[insert antic here]" Needless to say, I've sent a link to your analysis to my best beloved.

He will eat it up with a spoon.
[User Picture]
Date:March 23rd, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
You and McSweeney's seem to be on a complimentary wavelength today.
[User Picture]
Date:March 23rd, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
I never really watched Saved by the Bell. Lately I find myself wishing I had, as my lack of knowledge about the show appears be a far more significant gap in my cultural literacy than I ever, ever, ever would have imagined.
[User Picture]
Date:March 23rd, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
I've been saying this since I was ten!
[User Picture]
Date:March 23rd, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC)
And do you want to guess what this evening's earworm is now? I was quite happily humming something or other off the new U2 album, but instead I'm going to go to sleep with THAT in my head. Bad man!
Date:March 23rd, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
I think we need to see "The Bell" in this scenario as a quasi-deity. "I'm saved by the bell" should be read as a parallel to "Jesus will protect me." Yes, while The Bell may not always grant your prayer, it is, in the long run, a benevolent god and will, in the long run, prove to be your salvation. The singer of this song does not wholly understand the will of The Bell, but honors and respects it unflaggingly.

As for Zach stopping time, which he more or less abandoned by the later seasons, though it would crop up sometimes when the writers couldn't find any other way to extricate themselves from the labyrinthine plot they had conconcted ... it was all well and good when it was just the way they handled asides to the camera. But once or twice he actually used it as a way to get out of trouble. I seem to recall Slater being about to punch him once when Zach froze time and escaped, only unfreezing it to make Slater punch somebody else instead. For the luvva Pete, why concoct these elaborate schemes to avoid tests, get dates, etc. when you control a fundamental property of the universe?
Date:March 23rd, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
oh, and that last one was me


[User Picture]
Date:March 24th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
You're an inspiration to us all.
[User Picture]
Date:March 24th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
My day is much improved by seeing the phrase "magical realism" in the same sentence as "Zach Morris". Thank you.
[User Picture]
Date:March 24th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
We aim to please!
[User Picture]
Date:March 24th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
Fortunately, I've never seen Saved by the Bell. I consider myself lucky.

But, for magic realism, give me Parker Lewis every time.
[User Picture]
Date:March 24th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
Weirdly, this got the Le Golf au Folie! song stuck in my head.

You are using your powers for evil good evil good evil good AUGH!
[User Picture]
Date:March 25th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
My job here is done!

[Runs off, carrying BOMB on head]
[User Picture]
Date:March 26th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
Good work, Spatch. I can read juries, and at this rate you'll make junior partner in no time flat.

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