NBC has apologized for a Saved By The Bell episode that made light of Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant. It has also donated to her lupus charity.
Peacock and NBC Universal have issued public apologies for Saved By The Bell‘s irresponsible jokes about Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant. Created by Tracey Wigfield, the Saved By The Bell reboot serves as a direct sequel to Sam Bobrick’s 1989 NBC sitcom of the same name. The new series centers on a new generation of students at Bayside High, along with several returning characters from the original sitcom. In the show, Paul Gosselaar’s Zack Morris – who is now the Governor of California – faces recoil over his decision to close several underfunded, low-income high-schools. To deal with the controversy, Zack transfers students from lower-income schools to the highest-performing schools in the state, including Bayside High. But as the new students arrive at Bayside, they find themselves marginalized by the school’s more privileged students.
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Recently, the Saved by the Bell reboot received sharp criticism for scenes in episode 6, “Teen Line”. In the episode, the students at Bayside High have their phones confiscated and, therefore, are unable to verify any of their claims pertaining to pop culture. In one of the scenes, two students speculate about the identity of Gomez’s kidney donor. While one suggests that it was Justin Bieber’s mom who donated Gomez her kidney, another asserts that the donor was actually Demi Lovato as she is best friends with the pop singer. The scene soon cuts to a separate clip in the school stadium, where the graffiti on the wall reads, “Does Selena Gomez even have a kidney?”
NBC Universal and Peacock have since apologized for carelessly using Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant for some jokes in Saved by the Bell. In a conversation with Variety, NBC, Peacock, and the show’s executive producers expressed regret over the references to Gomez’s illness and affirmed that they will donate to the star’s lupus charity in an effort to seek forgiveness for the inappropriate jokes. Their statement reads:
“We apologize. It was never our intention to make light of Selena’s health. 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,” the statement reads.
After publicly disclosing her lupus diagnosis in 2015, Selena Gomez underwent a kidney transplant in 2017. It was her good friend and actor Francia Raísa who donated Gomez her kidney. Gomez had also developed mental health issues as a consequence of her diagnosis, leading her to step away from the limelight in 2016. But after her transplant, Gomez became a champion for spreading awareness about autoimmune diseases. And in March 2017, she also launched The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Given the trauma that Gomez went through due to her illness and the sensitivity of the disease itself, it was only logical that Saved by the Bell would draw criticism over the offensive jokes. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when Gomez’s fans took to Twitter to denounce the ‘unjust’ and ‘cruel’ references.
By all means, the jokes about Selena Gomez’s kidney transplant in Saved by the Bell were unnecessary and disturbing. The show was probably looking to depict the naive teenage experience and the unfounded teenage discussions about pop culture, but in doing so, it went down a road that was unseemly and derogatory. But now, the show, its streamer, and its parent media company have all taken full responsibility for the controversy. And they are all making earnest attempts to make up for the misdemeanor. Hopefully, Gomez and her fans will pardon the show, and allow for things to begin afresh.
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