Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Will and Carlton
In case you guys have been living under a rock and/or you don’t ever look on YouTube or entertainment websites or ANYTHING EVER, you have likely heard that Will Smith recently surprised The Graham Norton Show (and THE WORLD) with a little help from his friends Alfonso Ribeiro (I didn’t have to Google how to spell it – impressed?) and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Will and his son Jaden were on the show promoting their new movie After Earth and in typical Will fashion, there was rapping and dancing and ’90S NOSTALGIA (my favorite kind). Naturally, it got me in the mood to watch a little Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Not like I need a mood for that, really.) Seriously though, Will and his cousin Carlton were the original cutest boy relationship ever, IMO. So let’s talk.
EINTKILF Will and Carlton
1. HOW TO DANCE. As if this needs an explanation! But one of the very best parts of Fresh Prince is the dancing. I mean, when Will dances alone, when Carlton dances alone, when they dance together, when the whole family dances, when Geoffrey dances… I mean, dancing is a THING on this show. And I swear to God, my older brother dances exactly like Will Smith. Exactly.
2. Race really makes a difference. In college, I was really upset about many different subjects covered in various sociology classes I took, but even though I let everyone discuss the true motives behind Disney movies, when Fresh Prince came up in one of my race classes, I was miffed! There is a lot of critique (in case you are unaware) about not only Fresh Prince, but the Huxtables, as well. As two of the only predominantly black casts on television, Fresh Prince and The Cosby Show are often criticized for being “too white.” Though the Banks family is obviously privileged, the entire premise of the show is built around Will, a kid from the “wrong side of the tracks” of Philadelphia joining his upper-class family. With that, he brings culture and fun and a whole lot of heart. Personally, I never read this show as white-washed, and there are even key times when Will and Carlton in particular discuss the matter of being black in America:
Will Smith, tellin’ it like it is. I just got into a debate with a friend on the same matter a few weeks ago. The unfortunate truth is that racism does exist, and I loved growing up with shows that touched on the issues that were, and are, still very relevant. Ignoring race doesn’t erase racism.
3. Stripping to get out of trouble will only get you into…more trouble. OBVIOUSLY we all know the episode I am talking about when Will and Carlton pawn Viv’s bracelet to make money to invest on an insider stock tip, which really didn’t work out because why would it because this is a 90s sitcom, and in general that was a bad idea, soooooo…Will and Carlton strip to get the money to buy Viv’s bracelet back. Uncle Phil is super pissed when he finds out, but I’m sure it all worked out. I mean, to be honest, I don’t remember much else about the episode besides…well…
4. How to dance in a strip club.
That’s right, boys. Jump. On. It. Even these days!
5. It’s okay to be a virgin. For some time during the run of Fresh Prince, Carlton was a virgin, whereas Will and all of his friends (namely Jazz) were not. I am here to say that it is okay to be a virgin when all of your friends aren’t. Ain’t nothing wrong with saving yourself for the right person. In fact, there ain’t nothing wrong with wanting to give it up but not being able to find someone to holla at you. I was “old” when I lost my virginity, and though a lot of my decision was based on wanting to be with the right person, the majority of it was honestly because I felt like I had never met a person that really would have slept with me. Not that I believe that to be true–I know I am picky (as I should be!) and I know I intimidate men, and I know I am respected to the point that men never want to just hit it and quit it, which is a good thing, obviously. I also know that it is probably really easy to just hit up a random bar and find someone to sleep with, but that is just not special for, you know, giving up your carnal treasure.
The episode that Carlton admits that he is still a virgin, Will ends up feeling bad for dogging him so often because he realizes that his cousin would rather be accused of fathering a child that is not his (Lark Voorhies, holler) than be accused of being a virgin. So, just own it. Everyone works at their own pace. Don’t make fun of your friends for being virgins, you guys. That’s just mean.
6. Admit you are wrong sometimes, at least to your family. I know that Will is a Cancer because I just wrote about it in my horoscopes, but I mean…Leo tendencies in that one. Though admittedly, I can admit when I’m wrong, especially to my family. And you guys are like my family, so I’ll admit that I’ve been wrong before. Once or twice. But not in this article. All of these lessons are truth.
Carlton: Is the great Will Smith admitting he’s wrong? Will: Well there’s a first time for everything… but I guess you knew that.
(More virginity jokes.)
7. But race isn’t everything. Though above I ranted about how important acknowledging race is, I do want to point out that I do not believe that race is everything. There are plenty of things that define a person more than their race does. Everyone should be proud of their culture—Black, white, Cuban, or Asian—as long as we all embrace our differences constructively and out of curiosity, not out of hate.
Something I have always struggled with as a partially Black/partially white woman is everyone else’s inability to “define” me. I “fit into” a lot of “Black culture”—I listen to a lot of hip-hop, I grew up tough, I have big, curly hair—but I also fit into a lot of “white stuff,” so basically what I am getting at is that I hate the way some people are so mean to other people about how they don’t fit into their narrow-minded box of what passes for their culture. Cut that out, guys. It is cruel, dumb, and totally unnecessary.
Carlton: Will, I’ve never judged you, but you always act like you carry around some measure of blackness that I don’t live up to. Will: Wait a minute, you never judged me? You do everything except carry around a big ‘ol gavel. You act like I’m an idiot just because I talk different.
Come together, brothers. We can all love one another.
8. Tupac Shakur is not a Jewish holiday.
9. How to make jokes. One of my favorite things about Will and Carlton’s relationship is their ability to mock each other mercilessly, yet they always make up in the end. Naturally, Will’s jokes usually regard Carlton’s short stature, and Carlton’s jokes usually involve Will’s immaturity.
Carlton: Why don’t you act like an adult? Will: Why don’t you look like one?
And they never get old!
10. But in the end, cousin love is real love. Some of the finest moments between Will and Carlton—when they aren’t dancing—come from their loyalty to one another. The brief, but real moments in which Will defends Carlton are always touching, mostly because I love a man who defends someone’s honor. And whenever tragedy strikes, their true love for one another is proven. In the worst episode ever because it simultaneously scares and depresses me, Will gets shot while withdrawing money from the ATM, Carlton’s world is turned upside-down, because why wouldn’t it be? I hate/love seeing Carlton get worked up in Will’s defense, even prompting him to consider buying a (gasp!) gun for protection. Oh, the 90s were a simpler time.
Carlton loves his cousin more than they usually pretend to love each other. Like brothers, they are. Carlton only has sisters, and Will only has his cousins. I grew up super close to my cousins. They were like siblings to me and the boys, and even though in my old mean age as a curmudgeon who doesn’t talk to almost anyone I am related to, I will always have a soft spot for Will and Carlton, as well as anyone else (fictional or real) who loves their cousins as dearly as these two.