Life After the Bell: AC Slater

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

When he first arrived at Bayside, many looked at A.C. Slater as Zack Morris's biggest threat and eventual usurper. However, Zack's cunning and guile soon reduced Slater to little more than a lackey, muscle for his ever increasing army of popular kids. The transition's effects were lost on Slater, whose dalliances with performance enhancing steroids in the quest for athletic supremacy left him unable to see beyond his own ever-increasing rage at the world. An army brat upbringing and an absentee mother forced Slater to grow up a lot younger than most teens. He was exposed to harsh realities, and his father's overcompensating, ridiculous ideas of what "manhood" consisted of heaped enormous pressure on his son. 

With no female influence to soften him and his father's Type A aggro military personality his only barometer for what constituted manliness, Slater became increasingly aggressive. Mr. Belding, sensing the troubled teen's angst, helped to channel this energy into success on the football field and wrestling mat. But despite his achievements, true happiness eluded Slater. He sank into a booze-fueled depression and hit his low point when a drunk driving accident kept him out of a football game.

With that wake up call, Slater re-doubled his efforts to be the best athlete in Bayside history. He even managed to secure a partial scholarship to California University. But once in college, away from the warm influence of Mr. Belding and out from under the oppressive thumb of his father, A.C. Slater struggled with life. 

Slater had always struggled to relate to women. His brief pursuit of Kelly Kapowski fizzled when she fell for Zack once and for all. Sensing the need to have a girlfriend to maintain his social rank, Slater seized on the first opportunity that arose: Jessie Spano. She was a staunch feminist and environmental activist. She hated his music. He hated her favorite movies. They fought like cats and dogs, annoying everyone within earshot. But for some reason Slater would always come back; even he didn't know why. Years later he would realize he wouldn't LET himself know why. For all her flaws (and Slater would be the first to tell you she had many), Jessie had one virtue that would never be sullied: faith in her convictions. And it was one of those convictions, her belief in saving oneself for marriage, that made life bearable for A.C. Slater in high school.

He would play the games, talk the talk, and commiserate with his friends about his "lame" girlfriend who "wouldn't give it up." Once, in an act of desperate and impotent attention-seeking, he told Zack that he had finger-banged Jessie. Zack had immediately called his bluff and asked Jessie, leading to one of their more memorable fights. He had wanted to hit her so badly, but he needed her. For the truth, the simple truth that A.C. couldn't even admit to himself, was that he got far more pleasure from stealing secret glances at the sweaty cocks and asses of his teammates as they changed in the Bayside locker room than he ever could have gotten from Jessie. Men just seemed so much simpler, so much more comfortable, so much more manly. And he could respect that; he knew the work it took a man to maintain a rock hard body. A beautiful man was an equal.

But his father would never allow for such talk, and his father was all he had in life, so A.C. knew he had to live a double life. His first experience with California University athletics was a dismal one, as he soon realized he was suddenly a small fish in a huge pond. Athletes from all over the country, men with real heart and determination who didn't just sail by on natural talent, made him look foolish on the football field and in the gymnasium. He quietly quit the team. He began drinking.

Jessie came to visit him that semester, worried about his failing grades and obvious depression. She forced herself on him that night; he was drunk enough at first to think it might work, that he might be able to cross over fully and become an entirely new person, but his body betrayed him. He knew in that instant that she saw through him, and though her words were kind he knew she'd judge him like all the others. He threw her out, screaming insults at her that he meant for himself. He took a semester off and returned to Bayside.

At first he felt reinvigorated. The previous years' sophomores and juniors still remembered him well enough. He would hold court at football games, he was a guest of honor at The Max, and he even spoke to the school's varsity wrestling squad about hard work and determination. But he was hiding in plain sight, and he knew it. One sweltering May night, at a high school party in the hills, Slater ran into Violet Ann Bickerstaff, onetime girlfriend to Screech Powers. They exchanged pleasantries and Slater was about to leave her to the party when she touched his arm. 

"Slater," she said, "I don't know how to say this, but..." her eyes lowered, "I just- I want you to know it's okay to be who you are, you know?" Tears welled in his eyes. Jessie. It had to be. The bitch had poisoned the well; she'd told everyone his secret. It was out. His life was over. He could only see his father's face, red-faced and screaming, as he struck Violet in the mouth and knocked her to the floor. She was so stunned by the blow she didn't have time to scream before he was on her, throwing her sundress over her head and ripping his acid-washed jeans off.

"YOU THINK I'M A FAG?!" he shrieked as he slapped her repeatedly in the face. Her hands moved instinctively to cover herself from the blows and he used the distraction to force himself on her. He felt nothing as he fell again and again with all his weight inside her, pumping like a piston. "WHO'S A FAG NOW, DAD?!" he screamed. Violet's tears streamed down her face and mixed with the blood from her nose as she sobbed quietly, begging him to stop. All Slater heard was his father. Eventually the blood stopped roaring in his ears and it was as if he came out of a dream. Violet was bleeding and crying below him. He ran into the hills, afraid for his freedom.

But the police never came. For some reason Violet never reported the incident. Slater didn't know if he should apologize or thank her. He wanted to do both, but wouldn't dare risk seeing her again. He had to leave Bayside, he knew. Zack wouldn't take his calls; Slater tried to convince himself it wasn't because he had heard about Jessie. He had to escape. He needed discipline. He knew his only choice was to join the military.

Slater enlisted in the United States Marine Corps with hopes of becoming a platoon leader. He was killed during a live-fire training exercise when the grenade he was throwing downrange prematurely detonated. His father keeps A.C.'s ashes in a small unmarked tin in a kitchen cupboard.

1 comment:

Mark Scott said...

Dark... but absolutely fabulous.

Love them all, wish I would've seen half of this coming those rainy afternoons in 6th grade.