Blerdy Ish – 04. We’re All ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’

uptown-fresh-princeTo be a blerd is to live at a crossroads. We’re typically lodged somewhere between stereotypically Black, incredibly geeky, and subconsciously bourgie. We are current and classic. We are nerdy and trend-setting. And a certain teenager from West Philadelphia and his crew epitomized living at the crossroads of blerdy and bourgie on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Yes, I’m talking about Cousin Will and the Banks Family, one of the first accidental blerd ensembles to steal our hearts.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, another in a long-line of period-defining and long-running Black sitcoms, is a hallmark of blerd-dom for a plethora of reasons. There was Geoffrey, the “quick with the shade” butler. There was Jazz being literally thrown out of the house upon every visit. And there was Uncle Phil (no explanation necessary because he is literally everyone’s dad).

The characters were what made the show memorable for any watcher. For blerds, there were a couple of features which took our fandom to the next level. Blerds remember the notable guest stars like Tyra Banks and Nia Long. Blerds can do “The Carlton” better than Alfonso Ribiero. Blerds wanted to go to ULA – the University of Los Angeles – and be a Peacock (don’t act like you don’t know the song…you’re probably humming it right now). We all knew full well it was not a real school. We just hoped it was.

Blerds have an open debate on which Aunt Viv was better (despite her current trend of public sensationalism, the original still wins). The show was executive produced by Quincy Jones and directed by Debbie Allen so it basically hit all the notes necessary to qualify for top-tier blerd-bourgie status. And blerds know the entire theme song, not the TV version but the FULL version.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was innovative because it showed the fullness of the Black family. It allowed for the intersections of stereotypical blackness, worldliness, sometimes politics, nerdiness, and even mainstream pop culture (remember Ashley’s singing career?) to coexist. The comedy was hilarious in the “That’s what I was thinking!” kind of way. And, the show even managed to work through serious issues of adolescence in ways that were graceful and mature. Let’s just say, the last episode, when Will turned the lights off, was one of the sadder points of childhood.

In all, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air represented bourgie-blerds in the multi-faceted way we needed in the nineties. Let me just close with this.

“Peacocks, we’re marching down the field!

Peacocks, and we refuse to yield cause we are rougher and we are tougher.

We are the peacocks of ULA!”

Okay. Now you don’t have to feel bad about knowing the words anymore.

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.