The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a classic 90s sitcom. We all knew every single word to the catchy theme song and all the moves to the silly dances (Carlton’s signature dance and the Jump On It number). But, between all the short jokes, pick-up lines and laughs, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air taught us some really important lessons about family, romantic relationships and life in general.
We pretty much grew up alongside the main characters (Will, Carlton, Hilary, Ashley and their parents), as the show lasted six seasons. They were all quirky in their own ways, yet relatable. They had to go to school and struggle during exams, just like us. They experienced awkward first dates and heartbreaks, just like us. They even stood up to bullies, struggled with choosing a career path and were forced to make important life decisions. There were so many lessons that we learned from watching Will and his family, here are just 15.
15. Never Forget Where You Came From
Once you achieve success, or are on the path to achieving success, things can get a little hazy. The lifestyle that you have may be such a contrast to the one you used to know, that you might actually forget what the past was like. This is a dangerous thing, though. While a lot of successful people say that you should never look back, this usually refers to avoiding regrets or dwelling on mistakes you’ve made and keeping a positive attitude. You should look back, however, to see how far you’ve come, to put yourself in others’ shoes and to remember those who helped you out when you were in need. Otherwise, you risk becoming arrogant and detached from your community. Uncle Phil is a great example of someone who came from humble beginnings and eventually achieved financial success. However, in the episode ‘Not With My Pig, You Don’t’ it’s revealed that Phil is somewhat ashamed of his rural upbringing and tries to hide it. Eventually, he accepts his roots and later in the series, goes back to his old community to volunteer, showing that he doesn’t think of himself as being “too good for them.”
14. Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
Throughout the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series, we see that people’s personalities, pasts and behaviors are not always what we would expect, based on their looks. One look at Aunt Vivian (played by Janet Hubert), for example, and we see a stern, strong female figure who has no time for fun. So, when she busted out her jaw-dropping dance moves in a class filled with people half her age, both the characters in the show and the audience watching the show, were shocked. You wouldn’t think that she had that in her, judging by her age or her demeanor. Even her husband, Uncle Phil, was surprised. Will thought that his uncle was a just a goody-two shoe who later became a boring judge. But it turns out that uncle Phil was just as wild as Will back in the day. It goes to show that there is always more to people than you think (no one is one-dimensional) and you just have to give people a chance to show you the various aspects of their personality.
13. Only You Can Determine Your Future
All of the Banks’ kids had a clear path laid out for them: from prep-school to the Ivy Leagues and a successful business career. But, they weren’t all willing to accept that pre-determined life. Instead, they chose to do what made them happy and used their unique talents. While Carlton’s personality was the perfect fit for his family’s plans, Hilary actually went on to host her own talk show and Ashley pursued a career in entertainment. Will, on the other side of the spectrum, came from a run-down neighborhood in Philly where violence and drugs were prominent. Despite his upbringing, he took advantage of the opportunities his family gave him and ended up going to College. We can learn the valuable lesson from them all that you are the only one in charge of your future.
12. It’s Okay To Cry
Quite possibly the saddest episode of Fresh Prince was ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse’. The title sums it up pretty well. Will’s absent father comes to visit him and promises him that they could spend a couple of weeks together. But in the heartbreaking scene at the end of the episode, Will realizes his father will always be full of excuses and he can’t expect much out of their relationship. He starts to yell angrily then breaks down and even makes uncle Phil shed a few tears. The episode shows us that if someone as smooth and cool as Will can lose it and someone as mature as uncle Phil can cry, then so can we.
11. Pick Up Lines Don’t Work
How many pick-up lines did Will drop throughout the series? Probably way too many to count, right? But, there were definitely some memorable ones:
“Baby. You look so good, I wish I could plant you and grow a whole field of y’all.”
“Yo, baby, I know your feet must be tired ‘cause you been runnin’ through my mind all day.”
“Girl, I got to tell you, that suit looks like a piece of ‘Good God’ wrapped up in some ‘Have Mercy,’ with a side of ‘Unghm!’”
But, most of these lines didn’t work. In fact, Will received countless eye rolls and slaps in the face for his lines. As one attractive girl once told him, “If you want a shot at being with me, maybe you should try talking to me like a normal human being. Got it?” Of course, some girls fell for them. But, how long did they stay in his life? Most of the girls that Will had serious relationships with were intelligent, and he connected to them on an intellectual and emotional level.
10. What Goes Around Comes Around
In the episode, ‘P.S. I Love You’, Will takes advantage of Lindsey, a nerdy girl at his school, who happens to have very rich parents. She buys him everything from basketball tickets to a motorcycle. And he happily accepts the gifts, although he doesn’t even like her. In the end, she admitted that she was only using him to get attention from her schoolmates, since he was well-liked. She also took all of her stuff back. It took Will by surprise because she didn’t look like she could hurt him. But this episode teaches us a classic lesson in karma: if you don’t want others to use you, don’t use them.
9. Don’t Play Favorites
In ‘Eyes on the Prize’, two of Will’s friends, Tyriq and Jazz, hear that he’s going to be on the television game show, Double Trouble, which is played in pairs. They both show up at Will’s home, each under the assumption that they’re Will’s partner for the show. But, Will reveals he already picked a partner, and it’s neither of them. Yet, they still demand him to choose which one of them is his best friend. Things turn ugly as the three argue throughout the episode, throwing insults around and calling each other names. But, in the end, they realize that they should appreciate and enjoy each other’s company instead of fighting, trying to outdo each other and picking favorites. The truth is we shouldn’t really rank our friends because each of our friends brings something special to our lives.
8. Don’t Take Anybody For Granted
The Banks family was clearly well-off; the two heads of the household had respected careers and were smart enough to invest in their children’s education. They had a pretty sweet house and even a butler, too. But, it was obvious that they often took Geoffrey for granted. Anytime the doorbell rang, they expected him to get it, even if he was busy attending to their other needs. They also didn’t pay him so well and rarely showed their appreciation. So, when Geoffrey is tricked by Will and Carlton into thinking that he won the lottery, he quits his job immediately, but not before insulting the entire family. Left without a butler, the family was in chaos. In the end, they begged Geoffrey to come back, gave him a reasonable raise and spoke about time off. The episode teaches us the classic lesson that we should never take people for granted because they may be gone one day and we’ll realize how much they meant to us and regret the way we treated them.
7. Don’t Rush It
Will and Lisa had a great relationship; he respected her, they had fun together, challenged each other and cared for each other. But, they rushed into marriage and ended up breaking up because of it. They weren’t even financially independent and were struggling to find money for their wedding. Eventually, they both felt nervous and unprepared for marriage and ended their relationship. If they hadn’t rushed it, perhaps that fear wouldn’t have been as big of a deal and they would have stayed together. It’s a lesson we should always keep in our minds, not only for relationships, but in any area of your life.
6. Set Realistic Expectations
In ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse’, Will gets overly excited and starts making plans with his dad, expecting him to follow through. But, Will knows his dad has never been there for him. So, when his dad tries to leave without a word again, Will experiences a flurry of emotions: disappointment, sadness and anger. Sometimes, we know better than to set unrealistic expectations, but we do it anyway. Whether it’s regarding your career, relationships or personal life, it’s important to be practical. Otherwise, you’ll be discouraged by the hurdle of expectations that are way too high. And it’s important to remember that while high expectations aren’t good, neither are expectations that are too low, so you should always keep a positive attitude.
5. Try New Things
When Will first came to Bel-Air he brought along his slang, street clothes, hip hop music and womanizing ways. Uncle Phil thought that he would be a bad influence on Carlton and Ashley, who were always prim and proper and followed a strict schedule. But, in the second episode ‘Bang the Drums Ashley’, Will showed Ashley that she doesn’t need to be exactly like her father. She didn’t enjoy playing the violin, yet she sat through torturous lessons, although it really wasn’t necessary. Some could even argue that if it wasn’t for Will, Ashley would become a lawyer who hated her boring life instead of pursuing her passion for entertainment. Will also helped Carlton to come out of the little bubble he lived in, always encouraging him to go out and have fun (which we all know he needed to do). It showed that he really did care for his cousin because he understood what was best for him, even though his parents thought it was wrong.
4. Embrace What Makes You Unique
No two members of the Banks’ family were alike (though Carlton and his dad were pretty similar). They all had their own little quirks and unique personalities, dreams and likes and dislikes. Yet, they always embraced what made them unique and didn’t let others’ opinions bring them down. Hilary was a shopaholic who took pride in her appearance, but definitely wasn’t the smartest of the bunch. And although she hit a few bumps along the road (see the episode, ‘Knowledge is Power’), she embraced herself and used her personality to her advantage, by hosting her own talk show. Carlton was another great example for us because he never really changed although Will constantly made fun of his interests, his clothes or the way he spoke. And of course, there’s Will, who was always confident being himself, although he stood out (and not always in a good way) amongst the high society of Bel-Air. The contrast in the characters’ personalities was a big part of what made the show fun to watch.
3. Know Your History
In ‘The Ethnic Tip’, Will complains that his bad grades in history are due to the fact that Bel-Air Prep doesn’t teach black culture. But, when his aunt begins to teach black history at the school, she calls Will out for not even knowing his own history. Will thinks that because he read Malcolm X’s biography multiple times that he knew everything about black history, but Aunt Vivian shows him that what he knows are just generalizations. For example, he recognized the slave songs but didn’t realize that they were actually secret codes used for slaves to escape via the Underground Railroad. It’s important to know your whole racial history, from multiple perspectives, rather than focusing on understanding only certain parts.
2. Don’t Do Drugs
It’s a simple lesson that we hear throughout our lives: don’t do drugs. But, in the episode, ‘Just Say Yo’, we got a realistic picture of what can happen if you take drugs. Carlton accidentally overdoses on speed that he found in Will’s locker during prom, thinking that it was Vitamin E (to get rid of his huge pimple). He ends up passing out and going to the emergency room. It was an emotional episode, with constant reminders that Carlton could have died. At the end, Will realizes that even though he didn’t actually take the drugs himself, even the thought of considering it was pretty stupid.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Dance
Carlton was probably best remembered for his signature dance moves throughout The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Whenever he was down, he just put on his some music and started dancing. In ‘The Alma Mater’, Carlton is down about college admissions but gets a visit from his musical idol, Tom Jones who shows him the light. Carlton tells Tom he’s so depressed that he wishes he had never been born, but Tom shows him what life would be like without him. Carlton realizes that his family wouldn’t be the same without him (Ashley just dances all day, Uncle Phil spends the day painting and Hilary combs his hair all day). Mr. Jones ends the visit with a song and dance, of course. Even uncle Phil got his groove on once a while.