Months ago | 2nd June 2012 03:02
The Rise of the NBA Nerd (from Grantland.com)
A couple of paragraphs from the article...
Carlton Banks wore his polo shirts, khaki pants, and cardigans tighter than a young black kid would dare in 1990-anything. The joke was that he and his two sisters were culturally white, and the secret of Carlton is that he began to see himself the way both his hip-hop cousin, Will, and the show saw him; and as he began to gain a black consciousness (like when he discovered Public Enemy), he gradually came to resent the laughter.
Carlton was something new for TV. The Huxtables of The Cosby Show were upper-middle class. The Bankses were rich. And Americans weren't used to seeing rich black kids, which is why we were asked to watch The Fresh Prince through the eyes of a poor black one, and, in his discombobulation, Will saw in the Bankses what an indigent black kid from West Philly might: cartoons. Turning Carlton and Hilary into jokes made success look silly. The story of black men on television in the 1980s was always lightly Dickensian â upward mobility in the hot air balloon of rich white guilt: Benson, Webster, Arnold, Willis. The Fresh Prince was the same formula but with intraracial chafing.
All the interesting comic tension of the show was in how long it would take until Will got Carlton to do something black. How long until he, say, wore a track suit or stopped dancing like Belinda Carlisle and started doing the running man. This, of course, is also what people spent Sammy Davis Jr.'s entire career hoping they'd see, that he'd replace the skin he'd seemed to shed, that he would change back. The tragedy of Davis is the triumph of Carlton: Neither did. You know who changed on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Will. Carlton got Will educated, enlightened, prep-schooled, and blazered. It's only a mild overstatement to say that Carlton changed us, too.