2.04.2011

Life After the Bell: Lisa Turtle

Continuing my examination of what happened to the characters of Saved by the Bell once the lights turned off.

Ah, little Lisa Turtle, Fashionista of Bayside and token minority. When she wasn't fighting off the unwanted advances of Screech Powers, she was showing off her money with "totally outrageous" outfits not seen outside a San Bernadino mall in the late '80s. She was, aside from Slater, the Bell gang's token minority, but Zack and his pals were super progressive so they didn't give her too hard a time about it. There was one awkward point when Kelly let the N word slip, but Lisa was cool about it. She just explained that they might be close enough to call each other that, but Kelly could never call her that. She forgave her because Kelly was originally from Iowa or something.

Lisa popped up in Vegas for Kelly and Zack's wedding, serving as the Maid of Honor since Kelly had long since alienated everyone around her with her whiny college bullshit. She fell for a smooth-chested hitch-hiking magician (oh, PS, that's the stuff I'm not making up yet. This shit was seriously in the wedding episode.), but after a tawdry Vegas fling she just felt dirty, and used. Lisa used to fantasize about dominating the catwalks of LA, New York, and Paris with her fashion creations, but her taste couldn't evolve with the times. She studied Fashion Design briefly before dropping out of school out of frustration at the lack of interest in bedazzled denim and huge, dangling, plastic jewelry. She was plucky, though; she convinced herself she could do it on her own.

With her mother co-signing, Lisa opened "Fabtastic Fashions" in the Bayside Mall. The store sold her own designs exclusively, but aside from a few pairs of jeans Screech bought in the misguided belief he had seen her wearing them earlier, she wasn't able to move much merchandise. It seemed the public too, had passed her fashion sense by. 

Lisa bounced around between low-wage retail jobs longing for acceptance. She felt stuck squarely in the middle; she had completely alienated herself from the black community, but to her friends she was always "my black girlfriend." She re-enrolled in community college with a new major: African American History. She learned about her culture, her roots, and her people's struggle. She briefly dated a Muslim named Shabazz, but found his militant stance on establishing black identity in the white hegemony too confrontational. She read Maya Angelou.

But deep down, she still didn't get it. The whole time she was "getting in touch with her roots" she felt like she was betraying who she had been. She nearly threw up the first time she tried to eat collard greens. It just wasn't who she was. Lisa fell into a deep depression and rarely left the house, save to restock her chocolate bon bons. She ballooned to 223 pounds. Her extra-high-waist jeans now barely contained the large gut she stuffed into them each morning. Her denim jackets no longer fit, and were replaced with sweaters. Sweaters with turtles on them.

She took a job at the Wal-Mart in the Valley because she had to; her mother may have been a rich physician but she wasn't going to continue supporting her deadbeat daughter. It was there that Lisa met Frank, a System Administrator who was buying a 12-pack of Mountain Dew and a Hot Rod Magazine. Frank was a bashful, nebbish, balding man in his late 30s. He had only been with a woman once, and his shyness disarmed Lisa's fear of rejection. They began a slow, lengthy courtship. Frank supported Lisa's fashion dreams, and encouraged her to "jump on the retro thing" and begin again. With Frank's salary taking care of the bills Lisa saved her Wal-Mart money and began creating custom '80s fashions to sell on her Etsy store. She makes a pittance and is lucky to sell three items a month, but the work gives her an amazing sense of accomplishment and she's regained her high hopes of one day being a name in the fashion business, although now instead of New York and Paris she dreams of "Lady Lisa" turtle sweaters carried in Wal-Marts across the country.

Lisa and Frank live in a modest but comfortable two bedroom home they rent in the Valley. Lisa still beams with pride at remembering what Frank was buying when they first met, and her wincing is barely noticeable when Frank launches into one of his "jungle fever" jokes. Because of their incredibly conservative world views, Frank's parents have yet to meet Lisa and do not know that the two have lived together for the last seven years. Lisa and Frank have had sexual intercourse only twice; partly because of Lisa's low self esteem and body image issues due to her weight gain, but also because Frank has poor hygiene and an incredibly pungent crotch which sets off her gag reflex. Because of his sexual inexperience, he's okay with the two of them "taking it slow," although some day he would like to have "little mixed babies."

Aside from an occasional email or Facebook message from Kelly Kapowski, she has little contact with the Bayside gang. She does miss the heady days of dances, bands, and teen gossip lines, but her turtle sweaters keep her more than busy enough.

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