Ericka Blackwell
Intro to Mass Comm Midterm Project
November 2, 2011

The Positive Effects of a Male Role Model

According to the U.S. Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statistics, in mid-year 2008, there were 4,777 black male inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents being held in state or federal prisons and local jails, and approximately 70% come from fatherless homes. This is compared to 1760 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 residents and 727 White male inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents. In 2000 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college. This number jumped enormously from 1980, when there were 143,000 black men in prison and 463,700 enrolled in college. Why are so many African American males in jail instead of higher education compared to any other race? There are approximately 72% of African American unwed mothers in the United States. The negative effects of fatherlessness in the African American community are clear, but a strong male role model can make all the difference in a child’s life.
The series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air showed a family that consisted of a father Philip Banks who was a lawyer, a mother Vivian Banks who was a college English professor, and their three children Hilary, Carlton, and Ashley Banks. The Banks family lived a very comfortable life in Bel-Air in California. They owned a couple cars and a mansion in a upscale neighborhood where they also employed a butler by the name of Geoffrey. Vivian took in her sister Vy's son Will Smith to live with them after his mother sent him out there to stay out of trouble. Will Smith’s mom was a single parent home. Will didn’t reunite with his father until he was in college after he left when he was five years old. His mom wanted him to have a better life, so sending him off to Bel-Air from West Philadelphia was her plan to help him elevate in life from his poorer circumstances to more opportunities.

Uncle Phil, as Will called him, became Will’s male role model. He nurtured Will like a son. He gave him advice like a son. He even punished him like a son. When Will first came to Bel-Air he was uncouth and rough around the edges. But as the series progresses on, the viewer gets to see the transformation that Will takes on. He goes from the hood kid to finding his own way and self, being more under control and goal oriented trying to find his purpose for his life.

In an article titled “Black Boys Need the Emotional Support of Their Fathers”, by Rosie Milligan it is stated that “having a father as a role model and teacher is critical for a male child. The male who understand this best is the male child whose father was present and participated in his life”. President Barack Obama addressed an African American congregation in Chicago on Father’s Day in 2007. He said, “What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child---any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.” The website gives a list of statistics on the effects the fatherless home has on African American males. It is as follows:
  • 63% of youth commit suicides
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prison grew up in fatherless homes
  • 5 times are more likely to commit suicide
  • 32 times more likely to run away
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of high school
  • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
  • 20 times more likely to end up in prison
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air showed the viewer a contemporary view of the father role. Uncle Phil was not only father of his own children but of his nephew as well. There was an episode when Will’s father Lou came to see him in Bel-Air. Vivian and Philip were upset that Lou came knowing the history that he had with Will and his inconsistent ways dropping in, but they couldn’t stop him and Will from meeting and interacting. Lou spent a few days out there with him, getting reacquainted. Will thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and spending time with his birth father, asking questions and going out. They went to a fair together and Will proudly told an on-looking young boy who questioned who the guy was that, that was his father.
As the show went on Lou promised Will to take him with him for the summer on his trucking jobs so they could spend more time together making up for lost time between the two of them. Will full of excitement bought a gift that was a statue of a father holding his son for his Lou to present to him on their upcoming travels. But as Will is packing up preparing to meet with his father, Lou receives a phone call from his trucking company for a job that has to be done in a short time period that will pay good money. Lou tries to sneak out but Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian catch him creeping out. They confront him. He simply says he has to go but Will should understand and he will call for him soon. He asks Uncle Phil to let Will know of the change and he till be in touch.
Will happens to walk in as this scene is playing out. Lou tells him of the change of plans. Will knowing the inevitable realizes that his father has done it again, walked out of his life indefinitely. Lou walks out and says see you later son. Will says bye Lou. Lou exits never to appear in any other episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Uncle Phil comes in the living room after Will says good bye. Will has an emotional scene venting to Uncle Phil about how hurt he is and how he doesn’t understand why his dad does not want him. Uncle Phil and Will hug as Will cries. In this scene Uncle Phil lets Will know that he has a father in his life. It may not be his birth father, but he has him as his father and male role model.

The impact that Uncle Phil plays in Will’s life is evident. Will transforms into this mature and responsible man. He graduates from high school and goes on to college. He seeks better for himself. Yes, he still has his playful and childish antics that brought comical relief to the series. But the underline lesson is subliminally given; a male role model has a positive impact on a child’s life. Everyone in the family has to play a part in raising a child. It does take a village.


Works Cited
U.S. Department of Justice: Burreau of Justice Statistics. (accessed November 2, 2011) (accessed November 2, 2011)
Nseng Burton. "72 percent of African American Children Born to Unwed Mothers". (accessed November 2, 2011)
Rosie Milligan. "Black Boys Need the Emotional Support of Their Fathers". Los Angeles Sentinel.
My Alkon. "Why are so many Black Children Fatherless." (accessed November 2, 2011)
"The Sick face of racism in the U.S. More Black Men in Jail than College". (accessed November 2, 2011) (accessed November 2, 2011)
"The Fatherless Home Crisis". (accessed November 2, 2011)