Monday, 14 March 2016

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air- African American Identity
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a 1990's American sitcom centred around the lives of an African American family. Will is a character that has come from a poor single parent family in a rough neighbourhood, a more stereotypical African American background, who goes to live with his wealthy middle class Uncle. Although it was and is successful with both black and white groups, it offers interesting representations of race. The Banks family are not stereotyped by race and in many ways represent the assimilation of cultures to attain the American Dream; Philip being a successful attorney and Vivian an English professor. They earn enough to afford a large house and have an English butler. Hilary represents a typical 'valley girl' persona which is normally restricted to white American teenagers. They are educated and have achieved the dream through personal hard work. 

In direct contrast Will's character is represented throughout as 'other' and keen to remain true to his black roots, through dress, language and his assertion that he is from 'the hood' and so is stereotypically street wise and represents contemporary black youth.

'Just for the fact that one of the possible intentions of the series is to undermine the traditional way of portraying African American figures in the American production with the purpose to foster a representation of a multifaceted black community, Will’s way of expressing and behaving becomes even more disputable throughout the episodes just because the audience learns to decode Will’s depiction, that is closer to the traditional black stereotype, recognizing the other characters as authentic even if they do not respect the old representations related to African American people.'(1)

It is down to the audience to decide which is a 'true' representation of blackness. Will character from season one humorously questions the authenticity of his relations culture as he sees them as loosing their blackness to fit in with a world that is largely white dominated. However, it can be seen the the Banks represent modern America in terms of racial discourse becoming more open for African Americans to achieve success and the American Dream in all sections of life.

(1) Undermining Traditional Black Stereotypes in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, Sara Corrizzato <>

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