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The birthdays of Justin Bieber and Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) represent a perfect cultural division between two generations.

If you're a true Belieber then you must certainly know that the Canadian Prince of Pomade turns 20 years old today. For a man who can't even drink in the country where he spends most of his time, The Biebs has put on some serious mileage in a relatively short time. This year alone, we've already worried that he might suffer an MJ-like fate as he lives a reportedly drug-addled existence in a spaceship-shaped house in Atlanta, warm in the arms of a Hooters server

On the other hand, actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who famously played the teen mischief-maker Zack Morris, turns 40 years old today.

It may be uncharitable to simply conflate Gosselaar with the character Zack Morris for the rest of his life. But considering that Gosselaar played Morris on three different shows (the ubiquitous Saved by the Bell, its prequel Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and Saved by the Bell: The College Years) and has willingly appeared in reunions, it's tough to see Gosselaar as anything else. Whether he's Franklin or Bash or eventually stars in a Tony Blinken biopic, he will always be an older version of Zack Morris. It's sort of like the reverse of Jim Carrey.

If you think about it (please don't), the character Zack Morris isn't fundamentally too dissimilar from Bieber, but in an early 1990s context. Both are blonde, entitled heartthrobs. Both are defiant toward authority, attention-seeking extroverts, successful business schemers, and existentially agnostic young men.    

Then, there is the music. 

One difference is Zack Morris' ability (as a fictional character and all) to break the fourth wall and call "time out" in the middle of an impending disaster. While obviously not an option for any human, this power seems even more supernatural through the prism of Bieber's fast-moving life, which sways from one disaster to the next without any pause.

Could that be a metaphor for everything that's different between ages 20 and 40 in this era? Let's hope not. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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