Mark-Paul Gosselaar Slammed an Old ‘Saved by the Bell’ Episode for a Good Reason
The episode in question "would never get made" today, he said, and thank goodness for that.
On the March 31st episode of his Zack to the Future podcast, Mark-Paul Gosselaar said he "cringed" his way through the 1990 episode of Saved by the Bell titled "Running Zack." Gosselaar noted that the episode, in which his character Zack Morris dressed up in a stereotypical Native American "costume" for a class ancestry project, "would never get made" these days—and that's a good thing.
"I cringed seeing myself portraying a white dude being Zack Morris, who is like the all-American, blond-haired white dude in an Indian Native American headdress," Gosselaar said on the podcast. His co-host in this episode was Native American actor and comedian Tatanka Means.
Saved by the Bell writer and Zack to the Future co-host Dashiel Driscoll called Zack's portrayal of a Native American a "racist caricature" complete with "war paint," a headdress, and having both Zack and Screech (played by Dustin Diamond) communicate with grunts while in costume.
Gosselaar admitted that he doesn't actually remember filming the episode, despite it causing him anxiety in recent years. "I don't remember putting on the headdress," Gosselaar said. "I don't remember putting face paint on. I don't remember standing in that awkward way that I was standing where my arms are folded and like a very stereotypical way."
This was also the episode in which Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley) tries to remedy her guilt for her ancestors being slave owners by buying Lisa (Lark Voorhies) a soda. Yikes.
Thankfully, Gosselaar finds comfort in the fact that an episode like this would never get made today. "There are protocols in place and filters that, you know, like a director, standards, and practices," Gosselaar said during the podcast. "We're much more sensitive now, for good reason, that those things would not happen today."