This is a super timely post because I just impulse bought 2 tickets to Saved by the Max earlier today. See you in June, Chi-town!
Anyway, this is a college years episode. I actually didn’t think I had seen it before but then I got a few minutes in and realized I actually had seen this on TBS when I was like 15. And I loved these characters so much that I didn’t even think this episode was dumb.
But it actually is dumb, so I’ll focus on that for now. There’s a Latina in Slater’s class and she’s like really smart and brings up really great, thoughtful commentary. So Slater’s like getting to know her and she introduces him to Chicano Studies. He starts to learn more about his roots, which is cool. So like yeah, I can see how this could have been a great episode. Except that…
Slater gets all pissed off that Zack doesn’t know he’s Chicano. (Zack assumed he was Italian). But like Slater didn’t really seem to know he was Chicano. I mean sure, he probably knew it technically but Slater is like suddenly aware of his ethnicity. And then he thinks that he’s being discriminated against.
But then Slater explains to Zack that he didn’t even know that his real last name was Sanchez until he started researching his heritage and that knowing his history is really important to him. Okay, cool. So like great. We’re all on the same page now, right? Wrong. Never underestimate Zack’s penchant for being an asshole. He once again makes everything about himself. (He’s pissed off because Slater won’t ditch the Latina he likes in order to go skiing with him and some babes). Zack says, “If you want to be a Chicano then be a Chicano. Just be one in Lake Tahoe.”
Slater says, “Haven’t you ever cared about anything other than your self?” NO! He hasn’t. Why are you even friends with this dude?? Kelly, Jesse, Slater, Lisa, and even Tori–they’re all relatively nice people. Why are they hanging out with this dude who has been treading water on the path to emotional intelligence for at least 4 years at this point? His hair is not that great. Especially not in the college years!
Also, hello Zack. Did you not spend like an entire freaking episode being a Native American and saying that was important to you??? So now Slater is a jerk for being into his Chicano heritage?
But he’s our “hero,” so he has to redeem himself. He goes to the sit-in that Slater and the other Chicano students are staging (because they want to establish a new department–it is basically a B plot–don’t worry about it.) While there Zack talks a cop out of arresting all the Chicano students, but actually the cop wasn’t going to arrest them in the first place. So the only benefit of this speech is that Slater realizes that Zack cares about him and their friendship.
Just wait Slater. He’s going to screw you over in the next episode. This has already happened like 72 times.
Very Special Lesson: You know what, Mark Paul Gosselaar has got to be like the nicest man on the planet because based on the script alone Zack is the least sympathetic character ever. I’m convinced that he’s probably like a saint or something who when given that script somehow balanced out into this compelling character.
Hi, Here’s a 2019 Update: I edited this because I feel like I’m so into shitting on Zack Morris that I said he was trying to be a “white savior” in this episode. (I didn’t go back and watch it) but I think convincing the cop (even if he turned out not to need convincing) not to arrest Slater and his friends was a good example of using his white privilege for good. I also removed some O.J. Simpson jokes (I was watching American Crime Story when I wrote this post) because I have since seen “O.J.: Made in America” and I also listened to some of Kim Goldman’s podcast “Confronting: O.J. Simpson” and I just don’t really feel great about those jokes anymore. I also now realize that Slater was coming to terms with his cultural identity in a non-linear way because he grew up in a culture that didn’t value it or even recognize it (hence Zack assuming he was Italian and Slater not really even knowing the truth).