Final Paper-2 - The television series Fresh Prince of...

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The television series Fresh Prince of Bel-Air , released in 1990, is a show that is filled with racial representations, stereotypes, and messages- an apt show to racially analyze in terms of those aspects. Through the characters of William "Will" Smith, Geoffrey Butler, and the Banks family, various stereotypes are reinforced, fought against, and satirized, sometimes all within a single episode. The Banks are a wealthy Bel-Air family who take in Will, a Philadelphia inner-city black male and nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Banks. The family butler, or servant, is Geoffrey. Will moves into a place highly different from the one he came from, and race issues ensue under the use of comedy. By watching episodes from this series, many analyses and significant observations can be made about the representation of race in it. The personalities and backgrounds of the characters in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air can be seen as a distinct portrait between members of the working and middle class. The show uses Will as a primary source of comedy and satire that houses the key stereotypes of the impoverished African American, which is contrasted against his sophisticated upper-class relatives. As entertaining as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is, one of the largest problems it faces is the minimization of the Black struggle. The entire sitcom revolves around African American characters that live an unrealistic life. The Banks are barely seen facing any discrimination or prejudice, though they live in a predominantly Caucasian area. Philip is a prominent Bel-Air judge yet is never seen struggling or facing any prejudice in the working world. Will and his cousin Carlton attend a mostly Caucasian preparatory school but they never face any problems with their classmates, even though Will is far different from his fellow peers. Since the Fresh Prince is a sitcom, the characters aren’t full developed complex characters. To keep the show light and humorous, it never delves too deeply into the psyche of
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the characters yet certain personality traits are still apparent. Though Will is portrayed as a stereotypical ghetto Black man, certain situations highlight that Will doesn’t necessarily believe in violence and does indeed care about receiving an education and becoming successful, though many Black men are wrongly stereotyped as such violent, uneducated drug-dealers or low-lives. Will tends to break out of his mischievous, carefree role occasionally when he is portrayed as being highly concerned about his future and his concerns for his family. The rest of the Banks family tends to stick within the narrow portrayal of White Nero’s. Phil and his wife Vivienne are depicted as intelligent sophisticated African- Americans who reject the “ghetto culture”. They are sometimes depicted as pompous and superior to other African-Americans who have not achieved the same level of success as they have.
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