Discovering the Relevance of Words
I had a bittersweet experience recently.
I was staring at my television screen and flipping through the selections offered on Netflix Instant in a sort of indecisive trance, as I often do. You see, when faced with a large selection of entertainment to choose from I often find myself paralyzed by choice. I forget to blink for a while as I ponder the logic behind some of Netfilx’s recommendations for me and drool a little as I peruse the titles from 1997 that somehow made their way into the ‘New Releases’ section. I suppose there are other things I could be doing, but I paid my $8 this month. I’m gonna watch something.
On this particular day, my wanderings took me far afield and somewhere around the second hour of searching I came across a TV show I hadn’t seen in many years. It was a show that was very dear to me as I grew up, and as a bored preteen in the suburbs I spent many summer afternoons with the gang from Bayside High.
The show was Saved by the Bell, and it revolved around the light-hearted hijinx of a group of teenagers and their wacky principal. It ran on Saturday mornings, after cartoons but before wrestling, in the late 80’s/early 90’s, but most people of my generation know it from syndication where it ran for many years on basic cable. In fact, Ted Turner made it possible for a strange youngster like myself to watch up to four episodes every afternoon by switching from TBS to TNT. I never thanked him for that…
Well, you can imagine my excitement to find every episode available to watch, here, on my own TV. Finally, I could relive those happy memories from so many years ago. Rich men spend millions to relive their lost childhoods; I was being offered a chance to relive mine and skip the whole getting rich part. Which, if I can be honest, sounds like a lot of work.
Now imagine my disappointment to find that I now hate this show. Adult-me is feeling an almost physical revulsion to this show that child-me loved. My hand reaches for the remote of its own accord; I find I have to force myself not to look away.
Clearly the show hasn’t changed, it must be me.
It’s not you, Bayside, it’s me.
But this isn’t shocking. Of course I’m a different person now than I was when I was a child. To grow is to change and hopefully that change involves some sort of improvement. I read somewhere that there is a biological reason for children having different food preferences to adults. Because they haven’t yet built up the gut fauna and immune system of an adult they are hardwired to avoid foods that might be perceived as risky. And, in the case of most children, this includes anything unfamiliar.
Is something similar going on here? Probably. Frankly, it would be weird if I was still just as into a show for children as I was when I was a child. Like a mature human I have the tools necessary to deal with all kinds of fare, and I often crave strange and spicy cuisine. But if I can stretch this metaphor to the fullest, does that mean the simple comfort food of my childhood has to lose all its appeal? My love of chicken and dumplings says no.
I didn’t watch the show for long. I made a decision to let it live in my memory, like an ex-girlfriend or a great drug trip. Trying to recreate it will only bring tragedy. Or at the very least bum you out.
I want to keep the gang from Bayside in the rosy-colored mists of my memory, where it isn’t obvious that the whole school consists of one hallway and two classrooms. In my mind, it totally makes sense that everything that happens at this high school happens to one of these six main characters, and that everyone else attending the institution is one type of nonexistent stereotype or another. It’s a place where I can identify myself with Screech and his excellent collection of Parker Lewis shirts.
(Yes. I felt the strongest connection with Screech. I was the quirky best friend even in my fantasies. My self esteem issues have deep roots.)
Be careful out there, I guess is my point. We have access to everything now. You can go home again, unfortunately it turns out that home is a shack and the whole town smells like poop.
Plus, I find it really hard to watch anything with a laugh track anymore.
But that’s another post.