I’m so Fre$h

For my next installment of Television and the 90s Chick I’ll be looking at a 90s classic, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. My project focuses on all aspects of femininity and sexuality in 1990s television so I am looking at television from different races, ages, social groups, and locations so this one is a good point of view in regards to different races and social classes in comparison to Full House since the Banks family is an upper class black family while the Tanners were a middle class white family. For background on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air you can check out its IMDb or Wikipedia pages. A good source to look into for race in 1990s television is <em>Color by Fox by Kristal Brent Look in which she discusses the development of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The basics of the show are this: it ran from 1990 to 1996 and starred pop culture icon Will Smith as Will Smith “a street-smart teenager from Philadelphia” who moves in with the Banks Family in Bel-Air in order to get away from the trouble in his neighborhood. At this point I’m sure you’re thinking “what does The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have to do with 1990s femininity?” well I’ll tell you. The show features many strong female characters such as Aunt Vivian, Ashley, and Hillary. During the series it shows how Will and the other men of the show such as Will, Uncle Phillip, and Carlton interact with women while also showing the reactions, experiences, and troubles of the male and female cast members.
Moving on to look at some actual footage of the show I will be mostly looking at scenes from this YouTube video, which is titled Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Funny Moments. The first I will be looking at starts at 00:33 and features Will in the basement with his new girlfriend Kathleen and they are kissing. He makes a comment to her saying “I love you for what is on the inside” then as they are kissing he accidentally pulls a piece of her weave off her head before screaming and throwing it to the side. This here shows Will in an attempt to be progressive by saying to his girlfriend he doesn’t only care about her looks but loves her for her personality and character. This statement is then put to the test as they are kissing and he accidentally grabs the hair off of her head and is immediately scared of it. This puts into perspective Will’s understanding of female identity, especially of black women such as Kathleen, who often wear weaves. While he appreciates her trying to look pretty for him, he does not understand the work that goes into it and when must come face to face with it he is scared.
The scene continues with Will sitting on the floor with the weave now on his head as he sings “I’m stuck in a basement sitting on a tricycle, girl getting on my nerves. Going out of my mind, I thought she was fine but I don’t know if her body is hers.” Here the shows dialogue mentions two things I want to discuss: Kathleen’s bodily autonomy and the craziness of all women. While this show is based on comedy it is still making comments about the world in a large context. In a society where plastic surgery and ways to change ones body for “the good” run rampant, I wonder if comments such as these could shape a generation and create the world we live in today? Clearly Will does not find Kathleen’s attempt to be conventionally beautiful good enough due to the flaws such as Will’s ability to remove the hair. This could lead to girls making more permanent changes to their bodies in order to appear “natural”. The crazy woman trope is another common aspect of television, especially sitcoms such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. We see it briefly mentioned in this episode so I won’t go into too much detail now but will come back to this topic in future blog posts.