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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Saturday Morning: Mr. Belding from Saved By The Bell

I know what you're saying.  I know that the theme for Saturdays are supposed to be dedicated towards Saturday morning cartoons, and Saved By The Bell isn't exactly a cartoon. 

Don't worry...I have lots of cartoon characters that I have to choose from yet.  I only started this blog about ten days ago, so believe me, I haven't reached writer's block yet.  I'll likely feature a cartoon next week.

There's actually a couple of reasons why I wanted to devote this blog entry to a character from Saved By The Bell. 

Firstly, although it doesn't quite fit the whole idea of being a cartoon, per se, it did air on Saturday mornings.  Several Saturday mornings to be precise.  The original series ran on NBC from 1989-1993.  On September 11, 1993, a new version called Saved By The Bell: The New Class premiered and ran until the year 2000.  So, for a little under twelve years, Saved By The Bell had a home on Saturday mornings (and that's not counting the Good Morning Miss Bliss and College Years episodes).  Therefore, I think it's earned its spot here for today's entry.

And secondly, the character I've chosen is one who has seen it all.  He is the only cast member to appear in every season of both the original Saved By The Bell and the New Class versions.  He's also a character that was much loved in both versions, and in all honesty, I kind of wish I was more like him.

No...I am not talking about Screech.

I'm talking about Bayside High principal, Mr. Richard Belding.

If one were to describe Mr. Belding in one word, what do you suppose your answers would be?  Some might say lame.  Others may describe him as flightly.  Possibly even stupid.

When I first started watching Saved By The Bell, I admit that my opinion of Mr. Belding was very different than the opinion that I have of him today.  Back then, I admit to being one of those guys who wondered how someone like Mr. Belding could have EVER become a principal of a high school.

Growing up in small-town Canada, and just trying to compare Mr. Belding with some of the principals and authority figures that I dealt with in school, there really is no comparison.  Any of the school principals that I remember having really never had much of a sense of humour.  In fact, the only time I as a student ever really saw a principal was maybe if they were walking through the hallways of the school in between classes.  To me they were these grey suit (seriously, almost every principal I ever had wore grey suits) wearing, stern-looking men that rarely spoke unless they called you to the office.  They rarely smiled, they rarely cracked a joke...I don't think I even remember hearing one so much as laugh.

Mr. Belding on the other hand had his own...unique laugh.

Am I right in thinking that you probably got annoyed after the first twenty seconds of all that laughter that you shut the video off after a while?  It's okay if you want to admit it.  I did the same thing the first time I watched this video too.

Anybody who has watched the show knows that Mr. Belding's laugh is one-of-a-kind, and definitely noticeable.  Anyone who has watched the show also knows that three-quarters of the time when he does laugh, it's at something that really isn't funny at all.

A lot of the times, he laughs as he tells a funny story about his family, or when he tells a joke that most people would see as unfunny.  At least he tried to open up to his students, no matter how lame his jokes might have been.  Do you know how much I would have loved to have a school principal walk down the hallway and tell funny (or unfunny) jokes like Mr. Belding did?

I wasn't the kind of kid who used to be afraid of the principal.  Never really needed to, as I wasn't the kind of kid who caused the kind of trouble to have to be sent to the office in the first place.  Granted, I was reprimanded for talking in class, and was sent out into the hallway for bad behaviour a couple of times, but that's really as far as it went.  Truth be told, that's just one of the many reasons why I would have loved to have a Mr. Belding in my school.

Of course, that's not to say that Mr. Belding was in a jovial mood all the time.  In fact, sometimes, his excellent mood could be spoiled faster than milk left out on a kitchen counter overnight.  More often than not, it was caused by the students.  Certainly Screech and Slater caused Mr. Belding his fair share of grey hairs.  On the New Class, Scott, Ryan, Maria, and others had Mr. Belding constantly watching over them.  There was one student though that made Mr. Belding's blood pressure rise above normal.  That made his stress levels skyrocket.  That made him absolutely convinced that whenever he was around, trouble would always follow.

Enter Zack Morris.  The bane of Mr. Belding's existence at Bayside High.

Whenever Zack had a zany scheme, it always made Mr. Belding mad.  And Zack did some rather crazy things in his four years at Bayside.  He set up a teen line with Lisa and Screech and gave bad advice so he could get more money.  He hired an actor to impersonate his father when Mr. Belding wanted to discuss Zack's conduct in school.  When Mr. Belding forced him to date his niece in exchange for getting a suspension from school, he forced Screech to pose as him so he could be Kelly's date for her birthday party.

No wonder Mr. Belding seemed to have a love/hate relationship with Zack.

Ah, but therein lies the conflict of feelings.  Notice how I said that the relationship between Mr. Belding and Zack was love/hate.  That's because when Zack wasn't scheming to get out of trouble with Mr. Belding, he was scheming to try and help Mr. Belding out.

Remember the episode where an earthquake hit, and trapped Zack in the elevator with Mrs. Belding and Tori, his 'flavour of the month'?  In that episode, Mrs. Belding was heavily pregnant and the earthquake caused her to go into premature labour.  Zack and Tori were forced to deliver the baby inside the elevator while Mr. Belding and the rest of the gang were outside hoping that everything was okay.  Zack had to calm Tori down, but he stayed cool and helped deliver Mr. and Mrs. Belding's baby boy.  A boy that Mr. Belding named after Zack Morris.

So clearly there's some feelings of respect between Zack and Mr. Belding.

Would you also believe that the opposite was true as well? 

When the Bayside High hangout The Max was threatened with being torn down by the school board, Zack tried to get Mr. Belding to help them save it, but when Mr. Belding refused to help them, Zack did a little digging up and, well...this scene below took place. (3:04)

I think what I liked best about the Zack and Mr. Belding relationship was the fact that they brought out the best in each other, and both of them really developed a firm friendship in the process by the time they graduated.

I'm not exactly saying that I wanted a relationship like that with my school principal, but it would have been nice to know that I could go to my principal whenever I had a problem.  Here's just a few examples of what he did for his students over the years.

He helped Slater grieve the loss of a pet.
He helped Kelly cheer up when students took advantage of her during teacher/student swap week
He took on Screech as his administrative assistant.
On the New Class, he helped Rachel assist a student suffering from a learning disability.
He helped Liz cope with losing an important swim meet.
He educated Tony on the dangers of cigar smoking.

Those are just a few examples of how he has succeeded in his role of principal.  Still not convinced that he has a purpose yet?

The backstory...Mr. Belding's much younger and much hipper brother Rod took over a science class.  Mr. Belding was planning a class trip for Zack's class touring national parks, but Rod convinced the class to go on a rafting trip instead.  The class was so impressed by the idea that they wanted Rod to take them on the trip instead of the less cool Mr. Belding.  The above scene showed that Rod didn't nearly have as much charisma as he claimed, and that Mr. Belding was willing to fight for the students rights, because as principal, that was what he believed was right.  In fact, Mr. Belding said that he would be glad to take the class on the trip, which earned Zack's respect even more.

Ultimately, having a principal that would stand by his students is what we all want.  I know that as I grow older and if the cards allow me to become a father, or oversee a workplace someday, I'd want to be seen as a role model.

I would also hope that if I were to be compared to someone in authority, it would be exactly like Mr. Belding.  I'd rather have a guy who would stand up for you and be a caring principal instead of someone who runs a school like a dictatorship. 

Besides, as we show this one last video clip, it helps if you do have some sort of respectful relationship with your former students.  Because if there ever comes a time when the school you have been a principal of is doomed for demolition, it's nice to have friends around who will go to bat for you and the school.

We salute you, Principal Richard Belding for everything that you have done.  It is my hope that people will one day not see you as the bumbling, buffoonish cartoon character that sometimes you were portrayed to be.  Instead, I hope people see you as the kind-hearted, caring, always there when you need him role model that you should be seen as.

I sure hope that I have HALF the qualities Mr. Belding has.

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