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Did Jessie Spano Doom an Entire Generation of Feminism?

Maybe it had something to do with how often-and on how many networks-the show seemed to air, but Saved by the Bell was one of the cornerstones of my generation. It was by all accounts a terribly acted and horrifically written television production, yet I love it. But behind its bubbly charm lies some..


Maybe it had something to do with how often-and on how many networks-the show seemed to air, but Saved by the Bell was one of the cornerstones of my generation. It was by all accounts a terribly acted and horrifically written television production, yet I love it. But behind its bubbly charm lies some tacitly damning social commentary-none more dubious than with the environmentally-minded feminist character of Jessie Spano. Jezebel and a few other blogs want to know: Did Jessie Spano Ruin Feminism?A friend of mine and I recently had a long discussion regarding "The Jessie Spano Effect," which we deemed "the unwillingness to call oneself a feminist for fear of being labeled an uptight, neurotic bitch." For every stance Jessie took, be it against being called "a chick," standing up for the environment, or taking a anti-sexism stance on not one, but two beauty pageants, she is shown to the audience to be uptight, lame, and stuck-up. She's not the pretty girl like Kelly, nor is she the cool girl like Lisa. Jessie Spano is the girl that everyone should be, but nobody wants to be.The Jezebel piece goes on to bemoan the fact that the actress who played her, Elizabeth Berkeley (pictured above beside her onscreen chauvinist boyfriend, A.C. Slater), needed "to play a Vegas showgirl to distance herself from Spano," which "speaks volumes, as well. Because god forbid anyone get typecast as a feminist! Heavens, no! Now off with those pants, lady friend!"But if Spano did a disservice to feminism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she wasn't the only youth culture culprit (consider every teen make-over movie ever). The character type is one forged over and over again in fictional high school stories: the annoying, nerdy, environmentally conscious, book-reading shrew. Here a few more stock feminists from the era."Natalie Anderson" (Nina Siemaszko): Corey Haim's twin sister in License to Drive, she dates a Kant- and Zimm-reading boyfriend and she, unlike Haim, is able to study for and pass her driver's test. How lame!"Jeanie Bueller" (Jennifer Grey): Matthew Broderick's rule-abiding older sister in Ferris Bueller's Day Off grows so resentful of her brother's feckless (and consequence-free) fun, that she ends up melting down and making out with a drug-dealing Charley Sheen (after being arrested for "prank calling" the cops).Just about every woman in PCU is a man-hating, boot-wearing, militant feminist. While these misogynistic depictions are both satirical and hilarious, they don't leave women a lot of options in terms of self-construction.Can you think of any others?
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