There are few television shows from my childhood that really stand out. I’m not talking about the ones I watched in reruns that originally aired decades before I was born. I’m talking about shows like Family Matters, Full House, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In my opinion, those were the greatest after school sitcoms around.
Out of those three, Fresh Prince was the one that I have tried to base my life on, in the sense that it instilled some great values, and tackled some huge issues in a way that television shows of my time weren’t tackling. Full House and Family Matters tackled a lot, too, but Fresh Prince has always been at the top for me.
I recently came across an article that lists the 13 most emotional episodes from the Fresh Prince. Going through that list, and trying to read through my tears (seriously, the first one gets me every time), reminded me of how important taking these issues on is. Fresh Prince took on absent parents, teen sex (see number 3 on the list), racial profiling (number 2), aging (number 7), and even the fear of losing a parent (number 12).
When Hilary talks to Ashley about the decision to have sex, it wasn’t just “don’t have sex, it will ruin your life”, no, it was empowering! It was progressive! Hilary made sure to tell Ashley that she is in control. “Only you know if you’re ready or not. Ashley, for as long as I can remember, you have been independent, responsible, and smart. I know you’re aware of all the issues, and whatever decision you do make, I’m always here for you.” This episode aired in 1995. 21 years ago, Hilary told Ashley that she was in control of her own body. That is an amazing message to be delivering!
I see more and more shows trying to take these issues on nowadays, and I hope they succeed. When we look around us, and see everything that’s happening in the real world, we need to continue to spread the messages that I was fortunate enough to see from my parents, and on the shows I liked to watch (because let’s face it, kids don’t listen to their parents, so let’s hope they’re getting the message somewhere!). Acceptance, diversity, responsibility. I’m making sure that when my kids want to sit in front of a tv all day, at least they’ll have quality programming (because I’m making them watch Fresh Prince).