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September 10, 1990 the original hit series The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, premiered nationwide on television. Young rapper and actor Will Smith starred in the television show that drew families to their televisions. The family of seven if you include their helpful butler, was full of wit and love that everyone could enjoy watching. Will Smith the main star of the show, put a spin on humor like none other with jokes about life, love, and most of all family. Smith started off as a rapper who showed off his ability to multi-task in Hollywood. Producers loved him and his unique style and gave him the role of a lifetime.
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Jhally and Lewis authors of Enlightened Racism, Introducing "The Cosby Show", their successful family was an admired African-American television show. The show unlike other African-American shows of that time didn't speak on racism, however had a diverse audience nation wide. The authors specifically touch on the black characters were relate able to white audiences as well. Explaining how The Cosby Show was more "sugarcoated" than reality of the average African-American family. Not as open as, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was, The Cosby Show was an example of how an upper class family should be have in society. (Jhally, Lewis)p1-5


The show including famous actors such as James Avery and Janet Hubert, was displayed as a wealthy African-American family in Bel-Air that get a spin on life when young Will from West Philadelphia joins the family to get away from the dangerous street lifestyle for a better opportunity at life. The show started off with a hit, and audiences were captivated by the funny jokes, the families on-screen problems, and lavish lifestyle. Till this day the show is praised and shown on television. Successful African-American parents Judge Banks and Professor Vivian Banks, were role models for their children who they worked hard to provide nothing but the best. They taught their children morals and life lessons. Even though the show grabbed the African-American audience, other races tuned in as well and enjoyed the show. The show seemed to be an example of an African-American family with money and lavish lifestyles. Will, being the average African American coming from the lower class joins their family and shows the different experiences he is introduced to in the upper class world. Attending dinners with other aristocrat families, and a prestigious boarding school. Instead of becoming a chameleon, Will stays true to his roots and brings culture and humor to his new surroundings. As much as the family tries to show Will the upside to living an aristocratic lifestyle he does things with his own style until he learns his lesson.
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external image tumblr_ltdpcvmhbv1r4c20xo5_250.gifexternal image tumblr_ltdpcvmhbv1r4c20xo6_250.gifWith the given opportunity, Will learns how to work hard for money, what family means, and finds love. But the main purpose of the show is never really achieved, or is it? Essentially Will is supposed to be victorious at the end with a fancy career or aristocrat lifestyle. Moving away from the lower class area his oppertunity was given to him in Bel-Air with everything it had to offer. Although Will was never one to follow what he saw, he didn't really take advantages of what he was offered such as education. He didn't look consider college as an option for himself until others really suggested he look into it. For example, the episode he had to meet with the Princeton college recruiter, he was nonchalant, and his only concerns were about the female students. This shows the laid back attitude he had toward his future education. In other episodes, his uncle Phill, being a well known judge helped him with job positions, and words of wisdom every chance he could but instead Will always went his own way. Being that his character can be represented as the young average African-American male, is this what would happen if they were given the chance at a better lifestyle? Would the money be the motive and not the educational or career achievements?

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Although Will was never one to follow what he saw, he didn't really take advantage of what he was offered, such as education. His uncle Phill, being a well known judge helped him with job positions, and words of wisdom every chance he could but instead Will always went his own way. Being that his character can be represented as the young average African-American male, is this what would happen if they were given the chance at a better lifestyle? Would the money be the motive and not the education or career achievements? The show was full of funny scenes no doubt, but there were also serious moments. In one episode will learns his lesson on how important education is when he thinks about dropping out. He is given the opportunity to work at a car dealership, but his uncle persuades him that giving up his education would be a foolish mistake. In another episode Will's aunt Vivian is his substitute teacher that teaches him about African-American history. While she's his teacher, she teaches him the importance of significant African-American men that have come before his time, and why he should want to excel in life.
" 'Will' Smith: I read the autobiography of Malcolm X. Vivian Banks: And that makes you a serious Black History student?
'Will' Smith: It's a very important book.

Vivian Banks: Will, you can read the books, you can wear the t-shirts, you can put up the posters and you can shout out the slogans. But unless you know all the facts, you are just trivializing the entire struggle. "

Will did learn a few things overtime in Bel-Air but he did not use his resource to his full extent. White audience could proclaim he was an example of the average African-American society becuase he didn't fit will into the aristocrat society. Could this be found true of all African-American males welcomed into the upper class no, but it shows the possibility. Like the Cosby's, not every home has a well knit family with succesful parents. Both shows were an allusion of what reality would be like.
The Fresh Prince himself Will Smith was instantly popular amoung young adults with his rapping and unique humor played on the show. His celebrity status rose quickly, his charm and witiness was unlike any other, everyone wanted to be like the kid that move to Bel-Air. Even though Smith's character was very similar to his real life, he was different as well. While he was still an upcoming actor he struggled financially and had marital problems. Many people didn't see him behind the scene, the para-social mind set made people only want to fall in love with the character of Will from the show.

Overall, it was hard not to fall in love with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the show was funny and gave an inside look of what a wealthy African-American family would be like. Jhally and Lewis said it well when they said "Americans, whether black or white, do not want to see working class black people play a part in television's stories or to see those stories deal with problems of crime, poverty, joblessness, broken families, or drug addiction."(Jhally, Lewis)p.144

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Dominique SaintfortProfessor CirucciNovember 2nd, 2011
Work Cited
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (2011). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/549893/Will-Smith>

Jhally, & Lewis, Enlightened Racism: Introducing The Cosby Show, p(1-5, 144)

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