Bayside junior Lexi feels the weight of the transgender community on her shoulders in Season 2 of Saved by the Bell.
After parents at fellow Southern California high school West Beverly sue to get a trans girl kicked off the soccer team in Episode 5, Lexi’s friends, as well as members of Bayside’s faculty — including Slater and Principal Toddman — struggle with how best to support her. At one point, Lexi’s English teacher puts her on the spot and asks that she educate the class on the history of trans rights.
Reluctant yet compelled to do her part, Lexi opts to rewrite the school play as a way “to solve transphobia the way Hamilton solved racism,” which proves to be an impossible endeavor. But the undertaking forces Lexi to reckon with her privilege and the fact that she’s never had to deal with some of the challenges that face other, less fortunate trans women.
“A big theme of our show is privilege, and I think privilege exists on so many different levels, even within marginalized communities,” star and producer Josie Totah, who plays Lexi, tells TVLine. “Everyone has privilege in some capacity, and Lexi has had this privilege to not have to face, you know, certain obstacles in her life because of her socioeconomic status, and because of her popularity at school. Getting to throw something at her that forces her to reckon with that, and to face that privilege, was very fun, and the idea of this show that she comes up with to attempt to solve transphobia is very funny to me.”
The same episode introduces LGBTQ club PRISM, run by fellow Bayside student Chloe (played by One Day at a Time‘s Ariela Barer). Lexi enters expecting to find everyone wallowing in their collective sorrows, but instead finds a lively community of fellow students readying for a lip-sync battle.
“Chloe says that joy is a form of resistance, which I think is very accurate and very cool,” Totah says. “When you come from a community that is disenfranchised, it can be a sad world to live in. But just being joyful, and you just being happy, that’s a form of protest in itself.”
In the following episode, Chloe meets Aisha at Bayside’s annual career fair, and the two strike up an unexpected relationship. It forces Aisha to reckon with her sexuality and be honest about what she wants.
“There were certain moments this season where playing Aisha got me emotional,” portrayer Alycia Pascual-Peña tells us. “In Season 1, she’s kind of the it girl. She knows who she is in her relationship [with Jamie], and she knows who she is playing football. At least she thought she did. It’s all stripped away from her after the pandemic, and it forces her to reckon with how she identifies. We see her advocate for herself in class as an Afro-Latina [in Episode 7], and we see her come out as bi [in Episode 9]…. It forces her to evolve, and it forces her to live her truth, which is really exciting.”
Living her truth ultimately brings Aisha closer to Jamie’s current girlfriend Lexi — a friendship that Pascual-Peña was pleased to see strengthened in Season 2, when it could have just as easily gone the other way.
“As women, we’re so accustomed to media wanting to pit us against each other and tell these catty stories,” she explains. “I love Mean Girls as much as everybody else… but we’re just so accustomed to seeing women fighting, and women tearing each other down, when in reality, as a woman, that’s not what I experience. I experience us growing and holding each other accountable, which is what Lexi and Aisha do this season…. They hold each other accountable, and they make each other aware of their blind spots because they’re so different, racially and socioeconomically. This character that is bi and this character that is trans get to discuss being a part of the queer community, and are there for each other, and support each other through their different experiences.”
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