Fresh_Prince.jpgAuthors Jhally and Lewis took on us a roller-coaster of a ride when explaining the logic behind the popular African-American sitcom "The Cosby Show. By highlighting that in spite of the show's positive effects and popularity, it encourages the fabrication that blacks that don’t make it have only themselves to blame. Totally neglecting the disadvantages and struggles many were born into. However, what happens when other very popular African-American sitcoms come into play? What effect do they also have on today’s society? One of these very admired show’s was "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". This show kind of similar to The Cosby Show gave the world a glimpse of African-American lives on both sides. Showing what it was to be a ignorant African-American and an African-American that had great manners and knowledge. Similar to the Cosby Show, It upset society’s stereotypical view of black fathers. However, unlike The Cosby Show, the parents struggles were actually portrayed in a myriad of episodes.

This sitcom unleashed Will Smith’s career. Audiences all over the nation fell in love with his character as well as his TV family, The Banks family. Everybody did or even just attempted to do the "Carlton Dance". Everytime Jazz was thrown at the house by Uncle Phil, we all laughed. When Will’s father left him in the dust for the second time, we all bawled.  The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was probably the closest to The Cosby Show when it comes to sitcoms focused around the black family. Below is one scene that made us all laugh.

Funny Carlton Dance


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Stereotypically, black men are portrayed as "low-lives". They are never given the sort of recognition they deserve at times because society believes that most if not all black men are almost always out of their child’s lives. However, here you have two African-American families with fathers that play a huge role in the children’s lives. In both shows, there are two strong, powerful black men in very good financial as well as moral standing. The Fresh Prince presents an episode where they portray society’s view of a typical black father when Will’s father comes into his life again and leaves him again for the second time. By placing Uncle Phil in the same scene, they present viewers with the belief that though there are some bad black fathers out there, there also good ones. Below is a video of the specific scene where Will's father leaves him for the second time and Uncle Phil is there to comfort him.

Contrasting Fathers



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In the "Cosby Show" struggles are never really portrayed. However, in the Fresh Prince, Uncle Phil is always shown having flashbacks where his struggles are shown. And though they have a sort of lavish lifestyle, he always remind his kids that he has worked hard for what he has and there were a lot of hardships that came with their wealth. In the below clip, Uncle Phil has a reporter coming over to ask him questions about his childhood. During the interview, he has his family talk about him overcoming obstacles to get into Princeton. However, he fails to include his intense struggles. Even though the clip cuts off, beyond the clip Will goes on to tell the reporter about Uncle Phil's real struggles. Including how he used to feed pigs as a child on his parents farms. Though Uncle Phil didn't want the media to see this side of his life, at the end of the episode cleverly named "not with my pig, you don't" he learns to embrace his struggles and be proud of them.

Uncle Phil's Struggles




In the show, you have a young African-American teenager coming from the hood of Philly to live with his wealthy Uncle and Aunt. What was distinctive about the show was how it showed a major clash between what was a stereotypical black person and a black family that was upper class.In the show, they present Carlton and Will as two very different characters. Carlton on one side is very preppy, book-smart, and has great manners. Will on the other side was very ignorant, with no manners, and didn't really care about school. Unlike The Fresh Prince, The Cosby Show never showed this comparison in its show. They would only show their current lifestyle and would never show any characters that compared two different personalities. Will would indicate that Carlton was not as black as he was himself. However, as Will’s character developed, he snapped out of that when he seen Carlton be discriminated that way by others. Below is a video that shows Jazz (Will's friend), Will, and the Banks family all sitting down enjoying some music. The scene ultimately makes viewers laugh, however, because of the jokes alot of viewers will fail to realize the clash of two different views of african-american people. Having Will and Jazz as the sterotypical blacks and the Banks family as ideal black folk.
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Contrasting Characters/Jazz Gets Thrown Out



Para-social relationships are when audience members develop a sense of friendship with media personalities. Television viewers build relations with the television actors that are much like the current social relations in their lives. By Will Smith using his same name in the show "Will" viewers tend to relate his actions and personality to actual reality. In the media, when Will Smith's name is brought up, even in today's society it stirs alot of controversy. Will Smith has become a phenomenal actor and has played many serious roles. He is often portrayed as the perfect black man to many. So when his name is mentioned in the media, such as the recent rumor of the possible divorce with his current wife Jade Pinkett-Smith, alot of fans are subject to deny that rumor. This is because Will is almost depicted as the good guy in movies and shows, so they often take that as his real personality. Denying the fact that the real Will Smith and the actor Will Smith are two totally different people. Individuals become victim to the media's portrayal of him and become blind to who he really is. Below is a picture of comments that were posted under a youtube video about the couple's rumor of breakup. As you see, even though the topic of discussion is about his real life, fans tend to relate him back to the old days of The Fresh Prince.

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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, though packed with fun and laughs, also had lessons and underlying messages instilled in these episodes. It showed viewers that you can struggle and make it to the top which The Cosby Show failed to accomplish in its episodes. It also showed viewers that not all African-Americans are the same. They did this meticulously by comparing and contrasting two very different African-American men that were considered "fathers". The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air did something no other show had did at that time by placing two very different contrasting characters, Carlton and Will. Showing viewers though they are the same race, they are very different and once again that not all blacks are the same. Though the Fresh Prince only ran six seasons, still to this day, Will Smith's realistic personality is compared to his fiction personality in the show. This shows how dangerous it can be to be an actor in the industry as well as how dangerous it can be to be a viewer that neglects the knowledge to differentiate between a fiction and realistic personality. Now beyond all the hidden lessons and hard to grasp ideals, who didn't learn to love the show? I mean who didn't know all the words to the catchy theme song? "Now this is a story all about how my"...

Fresh Prince Theme Song



Citations:
Cridiron, . (2006, August 15). The carlton dance. Retrieved from Http:www. Youtube. Com/watch? V=zs1cloixsq8.

Cridiron, . (2008, April 1). Best display of acting, will smith. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmerFuzRNZ4.


Mhaster87, . (2008, November 2008). Kathy griffin on the fresh prince of bel-air. Retrieved from Http:
www. Youtube. Com/watch? V=fuys7qrwxrq.

Vilur123, . (2009, February 4). Jazz gets thrown out by Uncle Phil for the first time ever . Retrieved from Http://www. Youtube. Com/watch? V=ifekulmv7eq.

Jhally, S., Lewis, J (1992) Enlightened Racism: The Cosby show, audiences, and the american dream. Boulder, CO. Westview Press.