America loves to watch its best and brightest come undone, but it’s never really understood them. Look at Jessie Spano.
I’VE never subscribed to the notion that Jessie Spano’s (Elizabeth Berkley) breakdown in Saved By the Bell is a case of terrible acting. Prevailing wisdom suggests that the scene is a seriously misjudged attempt at portraying the vagaries of teenage depression, and history has confined it to the purgatory of parody. Through its endurance, this image has acquired a different meaning than its intended one. Jessie Spano’s caffeine pill breakdown is now evoked as a campy pastiche of 90s excess, a representation of everything we’d like to leave behind from that era. I’ve found this reaction to be callous and cold-hearted. Perhaps we’ve been unfair to her all along.