Peacock’s Saved by the Bell reboot is back, and the students of Bayside High are hitting out once more at controversial celebs including JK Rowling.
In the third episode of the second season, the new cast of Saved by the Bell characters slammed the Harry Potter author by comparing her to the wizarding series’ iconic villain Voldemort.
As the teens are making lunch plans, Daisy (Haskiri Velazquez) discusses the idea of possible tension brewing between Aisha (Alycia Pascual-Peña) and Lexi (Josie Totah). However, Aisha explained everything would be fine so long as they didn’t talk about an unnamed person – referring to Jamie (Belmont Cameli), who is Aisha’s ex and Lexi’s current boyfriend.
Daisy responded the situation was “like the one who must not be named from Harry Potter”.
“Voldemort?” Aisha asked.
“JK Rowling,” Daisy responded.
The subtle shade at JK Rowling makes sense in the Saved by the Bell dialogue as the character of Lexi and actor Totah are trans. Rowling has cultivated controversy over the past two years after she repeatedly positioned herself at the centre of the UK’s toxic debate surrounding trans lives.
In 2019, she voiced her support for a woman who pursued legal action to have “gender-critical views” protected under the UK Equalities Act.
The following year, in a June 2020 tweet, Rowling responded to an op-ed that discussed “people who menstruate”. She criticised the phrasing and wrote: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
After widespread criticism, she published a lengthy essay on her website, where she laid out her views on trans lives. Rowling claims she had “deep concerns” about the “effect the trans rights movement” was having on the education and safeguarding of children.
The author’s comments about the trans community prompted a wave of backlash from the UK’s trans community, Harry Potter fans and even stars from the Harry Potter franchise.
She described her character as a “mean, fun, aspirational, fantastical” cheerleader who “also happens to be” trans. But Totah said that Lexi’s trans identity isn’t “everything about her”.
“That was really important to me and the people that I talked to in the trans community because so much of the trans representation in [media] has to do with struggle … and that’s only when it’s done in favour of trans people, [most] of the time [the media] perpetuates the negative stigmas and stereotypes that create the erasure of trans people in our world.”
She added it was important to her to explore all aspects of Lexi’s identity in an authentic and well-rounded way. However, Totah said she was cautious to participate in the show initially as Saved by the Bell “didn’t have the representation in the writers’ room or on the producing team”.
So before joining the show, Totah told Saved by the Bell showrunner Tracy Wigfield that she would only accept the role of Lexi if she was also given a producer credit.
The new season of Saved by the Bell is streaming on Peacock from 24 November.
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