Saved By The Bell Receives Flak Over Selena Gomez’ Kidney Transplant Joke

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NBC’s reboot of the sitcom Saved By The Bell receives strong criticism after a poorly thought-of joke on Selena Gomez. Peacock and NBC Universal issued public apologies already, and also affirmed to make donations to her lupus charity.

Created by Tracey Wigfield, Saved By The Bell reboot picks up from Sam Bobrick’s 1989 sitcom of the same name. The 2020 drama centers on a new generation of Bayside High students, alongside returning characters from the original sitcom. Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s Zack Morris is now the Governor of California, who faces controversy after closing down several underfunded high schools. To deal with it, Zack transfers the affected students to the highest-performing schools in the state, including Bayside High. This influx of new students at the school then gives the privileged Bayside kids a much-needed dose of reality.

Recently, the series reboot drew sharp criticism for some scenes in episode 6, “Teen Line.” In the episode, the students at Bayside High got their phones confiscated and weren’t able to verify their claims pertaining to pop culture. Two students speculated about the identity of Gomez’s kidney donor. One suggested that it was Justin Bieber’s mom while another claimed that it was Demi Lovato, close friend of Selena. The scene then shifted to another clip showing the school stadium, where a graffiti on the wall reads, “Does Selena Gomez even have a kidney?”

The show’s executive producers expressed remorse over the insensitive references to Gomez’s illness saying, “We apologize. It was never our intention to make light of Selena’s health.” 

Moreover, they said that they will donate to the pop singer’s charity as a form of their sincerest apologies. “We have been in touch with her team and will be making a donation to her charity, The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at USC.”

Saved By The Bell Reboot: A disappointment to its predecessor?

After publicly disclosing her lupus diagnosis in 2015, Selena Gomez underwent a kidney transplant in 2017. She also developed mental health issues because of her diagnosis, causing her to step away from the limelight in 2016. Soon after her transplant, Gomez championed raising awareness about autoimmune diseases. In March 2017, she launched The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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Peacock TV

Given her trauma, it was only logical that Saved By The Bell would be called out over the offensive jokes. In an article by Screenrant, the joke was labeled as “tasteless and unnecessary,” accusing the new show of betraying the “heart of the original series.” It also said, “The original Saved by the Bell knew its moral obligation to viewers, exploring important social issues like drug use, trauma, loss, and drunk driving with sensitivity and seriousness.” Without losing its core as a comedy show, it still managed to tackle some heavy and sensitive topics.

However, the show, its streamer, and its parent media company have all taken full responsibility for the controversy. They are all making sincerest efforts to make up for their wrongdoing. Hopefully, Gomez and her fans will pardon the show, and allow the series to begin afresh.

Ria Genteroy
Ria Genteroy is an English Language Studies graduate from the University of Santo Tomas. A media personnel by profession and a storyteller by heart, she aspires that her words spark meaningful conversations.