Saved by the Bell made me a communist

How's this for an unlikely sentence: A Saved by the Bell Christmas episode made me a communist.

That's right. Saved by the Bell, the early 90s tween hit, made me a communist. At least, it pushed me in that direction.

In the season 3 Christmas episode "Home for Christmas", central character and "heartthrob" Zack Morris goes to a mall where he meets a seemingly normal girl and, later, a homeless man. After some drama, he finds out that the girl is the homeless man's equally homeless daughter. Feel-good moments ensue and the episode wraps up the message that even "normal" people can become homeless. And that a clean suit can set them back on the road to prosperity.

To my seven-year-old mind, it was a revelation that anyone, through a stroke of misfortune, might end homeless. Spending their days in mall bathrooms and their nights sleeping in their car. Could this happen to my family, too? Certainly we weren't rich. What would happen if my dad lost his job? What if his clothes got dirty and he couldn't afford to wash them and then couldn't go to an interview? What kind of unjust society is this? Why does that little fucker Zack Morris have so much more than these people?

Those are the questions the show planted in my head. It set me on the road to communism.

Looking back at this episode now, it's easy to be cynical. The episode upsets the common belief that people are poor because of their bad choices... by presenting a sole exception. In this way, the show almost reinforces negative stereotypes; "this family alone is poor because of things outside their control." Similarly, this family is presented as worthy recipients of our charity and sympathy. But what about the other homeless? So what if they're poor because of mental illness, or alcoholism, or drug use, or even just bad decision-making? Don't they still deserve food and shelter? Saved by the Bell doesn't attempt to answer.

See also: My political history.