Undermining Traditional Black Stereotypes in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air"


  • Sara Corizzato




In this paper I will suggest that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the
African American sitcom aired in the 1990s, can be considered a
vehicle through which the traditional representation of black
characters in the last part of the twentieth century has been
undermined, questioning the old stereotypes about African
Americans, according to which a character had to be poor,
ghettoised or a criminal in order to reliable.
Moreover, having analysed the first season of the series, I will
offer some observations related to the role of the main character,
starred by the actor Will Smith, and his relation with the other
members of the family, highlighting that the protagonist’s task to
consider his relatives’ social status and behaviour as lack of
Blackness is a strategy that allows the other black characters to
subvert the traditional image of African Americans offered by
American mass media all over the world. The aim of this approach
can be considered a way to translate the new black socio-cultural
environment of the last decades of the past century in the USA,
allowing viewers of the countries where the sitcom was aired to
meet and understand key aspects of the American black
community of that period.
In order to make the analysis clearer I have classified the
examples taken by the various episodes according to the topic
they presented or according to the characters involved in the
circumstances. Moreover, I have specified the episodes taken into
consideration through the abbreviation S for season and E for
While not exhaustive, this study offers a clarifying reading of the
first season of the sitcom, suggesting possible explanations for the
choices made by the producers of the series.






Articles: Special Section