Saved by the bell hooks

Web site links the work of a prominent writer on gender, race and class with a 1990s sitcom.

February 2, 2015

Bell hooks started making waves in scholarship long before "Saved by the Bell" became a television hit. She published Ain't I a Woman: Black Women in Feminism, one of her best-known books, in 1981, and she's still publishing today from a base at Berea College. The sitcom aired only from 1989 through 1993 (though it also had some spin-offs).

"Saved by the Bell" was not known for its cutting-edge humanities theory. So photos from the show may not seem the logical background for the words of hooks. But a new Web site, Saved by the bell hooks, combines these two social forces. Illustrations from the show feature a quote from hooks.

The site was created by Liz Laribee, an illustrator who works in arts advocacy and who is currently considering a move to graduate school.

Via e-mail, she said that the project started as a joke, but that she is pleased that "it has taken on some meaning."

How did she get the idea? "The inspiration for it was a combination of a knack for wordplay, an interest in critical theory applied to media and a growing familiarity with bell hooks. Hooks's work has taken on new meaning for me as a white woman in a post-Ferguson context. As the topic of race relations steeped mass media, I think each of us began reexamining our roles and how they interact with the rest of the story. In my own process of doing so, I have been trying to further educate myself on intersectionality. Naturally, that meant reading more of hooks's damning and empowering work. It stings and soothes at once, and she is one of my favorite voices on many, many topics. When her stinging clarity meets the banal familiarity of 'Saved by the Bell,' the juxtaposition can be a bit jarring. And I love that; the insistence that scholarship interact with something so absentmindedly consumed by our younger selves."


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