The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
If you’ve been listening to the podcast a while, you know that when we find shows we love, we try to bring them to the podcast so we can chat about the characters, captivating plot lines, and of course any mental health implications that stand out. In this week’s session we’re chatting about Peacock’s new series Bel-Air. For this conversation I’m joined by our Associate Producer, Ellice Ellis and Senior Producer, Fredia Lucas.
During our conversation, we explored what we’re loving about the new series, what we notice makes Bel-Air a fresh take on a nostalgic classic, some of the mental health concerns impacting the characters, and of course our predictions for the season. If you haven’t had the time to watch Bel-Air you may want to put this episode on pause and save it until you are caught up because there are definitely spoilers in this episode.
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Our Production Team
Executive Producers: Dennison Bradford & Maya Cole Howard
Producers: Fredia Lucas & Cindy Okereke
Assistant Producer: Ellice Ellis
Session 248: What We're Watching, Bel-Air
Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 248 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into the episode after a word from our sponsors.
Dr. Joy: If you've been listening to the podcast a while, you know that when we find shows we love, we try to bring them to the podcast so we can chat about the characters, captivating plotlines, and of course any mental health implications that standout. In this week's session, we're chatting about Peacock’s new series, Bel-Air, which is a dramatic reimagining of Will Smith’s iconic 90s sitcom–The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. For this conversation, I'm joined by our associate producer Ellice Ellis, and senior producer Fredia Lucas. I think it's safe to say we had a ball recording this episode and we all really love the show so far.
During our conversation, we explored what we're loving about the new series, what we noticed makes Bel-Air a fresh take on a nostalgic classic, some of the mental health concerns impacting the characters, and of course our predictions for the season. If you haven't had time to watch it, you may want to put this episode on pause and save it until you're all caught up because this episode does contain spoilers.
If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or come on over and join us in the Sister Circle to talk more in depth about the episode. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Here's our conversation.
Dr. Joy: I am joined today by two incredible members of our production team to have another producer roundtable. It feels like these are very fitting when we find some shows that we love. Fredia and Ellice are with me today, if you will introduce yourselves.
Fredia: Hi everyone! I am Fredia Lucas, I’m the senior producer for Therapy for Black Girls.
Ellice: Hi everyone! I'm Ellice Ellis, I'm the assistant producer for Therapy for Black Girls.
Dr. Joy: If you got a chance to listen to our Insecure producers’ roundtable, you know we have lots of thoughts about TV shows. A new one that I feel like I had to do some convincing with Fredia, I think Ellice was already on the ball... But I watched the first couple of episodes of Bel-Air and was like y'all gotta watch this. Fredia eventually came in and now I feel like I have sold you.
Fredia: I was definitely hesitant. My partner has The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on DVD in our house, and that is a part of our morning ritual, we'll watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so it's still very relevant for me. And hearing that the new show was a dramatization, it wasn't necessarily something I was running to because I still feel so fulfilled from the original. However, we binge watched the first three episodes and I was like, this is good, good with a capital G.
Dr. Joy: I didn't even know all of that background. I probably catch reruns every now and then, but it definitely is not something I'm watching as a part of my morning routine. You have a stronger connection, it sounds like, in your household to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the original.
Fredia: I know all of the words to the intro, and I'm talking the extended intro when you actually see him on the plane, in the taxi. I am very epic for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and I'm a big fan.
Dr. Joy: Ah, okay. What about you, Ellice? You, I think like I said, I think you were already watching.
Ellice: Yeah. I remember when the original short came out and I thought it was really cool, I thought it was super creative. But when I heard that they were going to turn it into a real series, I think my only worry was that I don't think The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is like outside of people's memories yet. And so I always get a little scared, like if you're rebooting something that people forgot about, cool. But it's literally The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! I haven't watched it consistently in maybe five or six years, but when I was in like middle school, elementary school, I would watch it every weekend. Like binge, I’ve seen every episode, so I was a little worried about that. But of course, I'm gonna watch it. Everyone loves Will Smith and I think because it is still in people's memories, a lot of people were excited to watch it so I was. But I was definitely skeptical of what was going on there.
Dr. Joy: I probably have a little bit of an age advantage on both of you, that's how we'll phrase it, because I remember it coming out in real time. Like I remember gathering with my mom... I think it was on Mondays, is when it like was the actual release of the episodes. And so for me, it feels like it has been some time. Like y'all, it seems, are watching it in the syndication, but I watched it in real time. You know, Ellice, your point around it doesn't feel like it has been long enough out of people's memories, what do you think is a good timeframe for a reboot if it's going to happen?
Ellice: It's a mix of the timeframe and the relevance. I know there are talks of like people wanting a Nanny reboot, of the show The Nanny, and they talked about like Cardi B doing it. Yeah, people love The Nanny and it recently got a lot of chatter because I think they put it on HBO Max. But other than that, I don't think people are really strong about rewatching The Nanny, it's not a lot of consistent cultural conversations, the main character isn't as big a star as Will Smith. I think all those different factors contribute to the need for the reboot and whether or not the reboot has enough like distance from the original.
It's the same way I felt about the Coming to America reboot. It was like, okay, it was a minute ago since the movie came out, but it's such like a big cultural moment that people still talk about it, it's still brought up. Maybe once a week, I see a GIF used from either The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or that movie and so it seems like, okay, it was released maybe 20, 30 years ago, but it's not out of our minds in terms of pop culture.
Dr. Joy: Good point. Any thoughts there for you, Fredia?
Fredia: I think Bel-Air, the reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I hope it energizes people to look into reboots. I think reboots have had traditionally a bad rep and so I think there is an opportunity–or I think it shows me at least, as someone who has often put up a hand to the face on the reboot–I'm like, you know what, they can be done and they can be done really well. And this is an example of that.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, I think like many people, I was a little worried because the original is so like slapstick comedy and so it felt hard to imagine, like how are they going to make this a drama? When I first saw the trailer from Morgan Cooper, I definitely was in. I was like, oh, this is really cool, I could definitely see how this could work. And I think Will getting on board with it, like I don't even know if this could happen if Will wasn't behind it. But I think him getting on board with it and seeing the vision, also made it something that was easier for people to take a look at because you knew that it kind of had his seal of approval.
Fredia: I just want to add that what I think the reboot is doing really well is–to your point, Dr. Joy, about the original being slapstick comedy–you forget how serious the situation was. And I think the story itself actually carried so well to be a drama. Because the circumstances for Will to actually have to relocate across the country, the theme song made it very light, but when you really think about it, he really got in trouble. And so just the fact that this story is dramatic and the relationship between Carlton and Will, it makes me realize truly that the writer’s room for the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, they really did a great job of making it so much fun. But the circumstances, they could have been very not fun for the family. For Will, it was a total culture clash for him as well. And so watching it, I'm like this just really fit. It really fit.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, they did a good job. And you know, we keep using the word reboot but I think the better term, and I think this is the term they use, is a reimagining. Like a reimagining of the story, as opposed to a reboot. Because it definitely, you know, I think keeps some of the plotlines of the original but it is a complete twist on the feel and the tone of everything.
What are your thoughts and feelings around the casting of the new family? That is one of the parts that I'm most excited about because the cast is just beautiful, they are shot beautifully, the scenery is all beautiful. I just love all of that. I particularly love that the cast is mostly dark skinned. Sometimes people get a little funny with casting and you're like, how do they cast this person as the uncle or whatever? So I am a fan of the casting. What are your thoughts?
Ellice: I enjoy it as well. I think they chose great actors to portray the dynamic between Will and Carlton. This is spot on. Of course, Carlton had to be short, a little geeky, but I just think they're both pretty handsome. But also, it brings so much nostalgia when you do see them side by side, you're like, oh, wow, this really hits the nail on the head. I love seeing Coco Jones play Hilary, I've kind of been waiting for her to get her shine. I follow her on TikTok, she's super funny and I think she might be like my favorite character. I think she just does the casting well, she's really dynamic like the original Hilary, but still kind of brings her own flavor and attitude. And you can very much tell she's supposed to be like very Gen Z and young but she doesn't do it in a corny way, it feels really natural, so I do appreciate that and I think that was probably the most natural fit of the cast. I was like, okay, I see it, I vibe with it, I understand it.
Fredia: As a chocolatey... I would say I'm like a caramel nugget or something. As a caramel, I really appreciate that everyone is dark skinned, and particularly because of how much wealth they have. And I think it is really delightful for me to see people of a darker skin tone who are members of the community, but also people who have done financially well for themselves. I agree with Ellice, I'm a huge fan of Coco Jones. I first saw Coco Jones on the Terrell Show on YouTube. That woman is a powerhouse. I mean, she performed for Terrell’s One Million Show and she performed Get it Together by 702, and she is a mood board. She's a mood board in and of herself. You can make an entire mood board off of Coco Jones.
And I just love the Hilary character because she has a really strong sense of self and I think in the original, Hilary didn't have that much dimension. But now as she's been reimagined in this new story, she is very self-assured, she has a clear skill set. Remember when she was a weather girl in the original? She didn't know anything about the weather. This Hilary has her own special spice that it takes four hours to make–now that's a woman who knows what she's talking about, what he's passionate about. It's very, very exciting. And I also really do enjoy Carlton, I think he just looks so regal on screen when they’re shooting him with the darkness of his skin. He looks absolutely fantastic. It's not often that we see a predominantly dark-skinned cast on a major TV show such as this one, and I hope that it opens doors for more of that.
Dr. Joy: Agreed. I agree with all of what you all are saying and I think... Is the main character's name Jabari? Is that his name, the person who plays Will? He is a star. I feel like they got that casting spot on because he feels like he has some of that jovialness and like playful nature that Will had when the first series came out. I really enjoy his character and I'm looking forward to seeing how they all grow throughout the season.
Let's get into some of the more particular storylines of each of the characters. We've already talked a little bit about Hilary and like this reimagining of her. Like you mentioned, Fredia, she was a weather girl in the first series and now she is what appears to be like a cooking influencer. And it seems like there's some tension between this idea, which I don't necessarily remember in the first series, so y'all correct me if I'm wrong. I don't remember there being so much pressure for her to figure her life out, but in this reimagining, she clearly knows what she wants to do but there's tension between her and mom around maybe wanting her to do something more serious. You hear her talking about taking a gap year, which it turns out she has really decided she's not necessarily going back to college. So there is the tension between mom and daughter, of mom wanting her to do something a little bit more traditional versus being an influencer.
Ellice: I think in the original series, they definitely touched on it. That, oh Hilary, you need to get your life together, you're grown, you need to move out. But it was definitely that like committed trope, of like bringing something up a thousand times and someone never does it. I do enjoy seeing Hilary be really like autonomous and I think her character and her relationship with her mom kind of teases out a very Gen Z millennial trope that's like, oh, we want our own jobs, we want to work on our terms and we want to take the non-traditional route. But then you have your parents who they only know the traditional route and so they're like, well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And so I think that is a really realistic portrayal of someone her age. Kind of like, yeah, I didn't like school, I found this other thing that I love. And this other thing that I love, I can really see it sustaining me. And she does seem like she will be sustained. I think we don't know how many followers she has, but if she has millions of followers clapping back at that company, then she can definitely make something for herself.
I think, just as like a younger person, it is good to see, oh, there is a character on TV who’s like I'm not gonna go to college, I'm gonna do my own thing, but it's actually working. And then, in 2020–2021, we saw a lot of conversations around food media being racist, and so I thought that was a really good touch point that they put in there. Like, yeah, these food companies, their audience does look a certain way, people are diluting their recipes for XYZ reason and we know the reason–for white audiences. So I thought that was really smart to put in there because that is a real conversation happening now.
Fredia: I am very intrigued by Hilary and Aunt Vivian's relationship because of how Hilary challenges her mother about following your dreams. And it seems as though Vivian Banks also was that girl in her respective field, that she was very, very popular and although social media didn't exist at the time, she had a following. And that she decided to transition her life into a different direction. What I enjoyed so far, is that they really do have conversations. When Hilary said, oh, well, like you, when you just stopped doing your art, does that mean that you really cared? And then her mom took the deep breath. Which I would advise a lot more black mothers to do–take the deep breath when you want to hit the child! She took the deep breath and she said, “You know what, Hilary, I'll support you no matter what you choose.” Hilary also, I could see she felt bad when she said that but I really do enjoy the fact that the mother is really trying to do her best to give Hilary her space. Hilary's also trying to do her best to figure out what she wants to do in her life. And at least that they're able to have this dialogue.
Because, at least in my personal experience, when I told my mom that I was not going to go to law school and instead I wanted to be a comedian and a podcaster, she did not hold her breath. She lost her breath. And that can cause a lot of strife in a relationship and so it just makes me happy to see how parents and children can figure out how to have these kinds of difficult conversations without people blowing up. But I think there has to be a way for our generation to coexist and support each other in the way that we want to live our lives. And I do think that their dynamic is giving us a bit of a pathway to see how that can happen.
Dr. Joy: Y’all bring up such great points, I don't even know where to start, it’s so much to follow up on. One, it is making me think... and I'd be curious. You've already shared a little bit, I’d be curious to hear from you, Ellice, around these conversations you have with parents when you are deciding to follow a maybe not so traditional route. Because I'm thinking, like my boys are eight and five and they are already talking about being YouTubers and, you know. And so when they are of age, this will be a more traditional route to follow, that is one piece that I'm thinking about. The other thing I'm thinking about is just this idea that Aunt Viv had maybe similar aspirations as Hilary does right now. And maybe some of what's happening for Aunt Viv is that her not taking the chance is she's projecting that onto Hilary and Hilary actually taking the chance. And it feels like there's something that they have not revealed to us around why Aunt Viv has decided to give up her art. I'm guessing it's around like becoming a mom or, you know, it feels like there's a story there that maybe we will get later. But I think there is maybe some projection going on because Hilary is able to go after her dreams and aspirations in a way that maybe Aunt Viv was not.
Ellice: I really resonate with Hilary. Because when I graduated from college, I had a job, then I got laid off from my job so I had about like an eight-month period where I was just like doing my own thing. I was freelancing and, unlike Hilary, my mom was very supportive of it. She was like you have to create your own job, you can't just wait for you to have your own job. It was almost a little pushy to like get out there and do the non-traditional route. But I definitely have had questions from other people who aren't my mom, like, oh, what are you doing? My job is hiring if you ever want to apply. Kind of taking me working like in podcasting not as seriously and sometimes you just have to let your continued dedication to something be the proof that people need that it’s going to work out.
Because of course, once you get a feature or you work on like a super big podcast, they're going to be like, okay, I get it now. Something they've heard before, something they see on the morning news. Like, oh, my goodness, the host on your podcast, on the news! Like they’ll get it then. But sometimes that dedication, once people see like you're not gonna let your foot up, then they get it. And I think that moment in the show where Aunt Viv’s friends are like “you go girl, like you stuck to it,” she kind of for a second was like, “Wait, maybe Hilary was right.”
And so I think that's definitely gonna be an interesting thing to play out over the season. But like you said, in about like 10 years, maybe even sooner, I don't think it'll be such a big shock when kids are like I want to be a content creator. I have the tools already, I watch people do it, let me just try and fail. And by trying, you get views, you get followers, you fail upwards and you learn upwards. And I think, right now for creators, there are a lot of resources out there with other creators talking about this is how you do this, so I'm glad they brought that up in the show. I think we'll definitely see that dynamic change over the next few years.
Dr. Joy: I agree with y'all that it was good for her to be able to show Aunt Viv’s sorority sisters and then they backed Hilary up. The only thing I was a little like “I don't know how I feel about this,” is that Aunt Viv had used her personal connections to get Hilary that shot. And so it feels like there is a little bit of tension between how do you not ruin relationships, even if you don't feel like it was a good fit for you? Could there have been another way for her to go about that without blasting the company out on social? But it was also effective. It just feels like that is, I think, one of those generational kinds of things that we will have to kind of wait and see and figure out what's the best way to move forward for things like that that happen.
Fredia: When Aunt Viv’s friend was at the party, the woman in the all off-white beige suit pulled up, I was sweating profusely. Because definitely this woman works in like the PR department at that and so she could have lost her job and that was very serious to me. And even when Hilary dropped the name, I literally turned to my partner, I said “She didn't do it. She didn't do it. She didn't say that.” I thought that that was inappropriate. I thought that she could have picked another name, she could have made up some name or something, but I thought that that was inappropriate. Because your mom set up the interview for you. Also, you might want to work with the company later on. Because these companies, they have different people in these different departments. Hopefully they can evolve and change over time, but to me, you burned a bridge, Hilary. You burned it and it’s on fire. And you know what? *[inaudible 0:23:44]
Dr. Joy: Yeah, like I said, that is one of those things. Because like could she have pitched a way to do that differently? But again, what she did was effective too, even though she burned a bridge. It feels like it's a weighing of like, okay, do I want to set all of this on fire and really make my own lane? Or is there a way to work within the existing system? Which I think is something that, you know, I think especially like people her age struggle with. Like how do we burn it all down versus try to work with what we have? And we do know a lot of the systems we have are not really set up for our success. In some cases, I think burning it down is the more effective route, but because there was a personal relationship with her mom, I think that's what made it a little trickier.
The other, it feels like the largest conversation that has been happening around a character on the show is around Carlton. I do feel like he has been set up to be the villain in this reimagining of the show. I found him mildly annoying, I think, in the original. But in this one, it is like you are actively rooting against him. Which just lets me know, one, that the actor is amazing because you can't even separate him from the character. And it was so funny because I recently saw him like share a tweet that said “If y’all gonna hate on me, at least use the 4K version of my picture.” Like “please stop using them pixelated pictures of me to hate on me,” which I love. But it definitely seems like his character is just really strong and they have set up this dynamic that feels a little more intense to me than it did in the original. What are your thoughts about Carlton?
Fredia: Initially, I wasn't sure. However, the scene with Carlton and Connor, where Connor is saying you-know-what in the locker room, Carlton, you lost me. You lost me. I think that at the same time, Carlton, he seems so in distress and I don't know why. For example, when he was really excited about that internship and he was speaking to the older gentleman who he believed was on the board or what have you, he found out that person wasn't the person he needed to be speaking to. And then when he got home and his parents asked him about it, he said I don't even want that internship anymore. And I'm just thinking, how do you go from wanting something so badly to totally throwing it away?
I'm really concerned about Carlton because, to me, he also doesn't really match his family. To me, he's not fitting in. Everyone else seems more like jovial and sweet and caring and thoughtful. What we've seen of Carlton is just manipulative and the whole scene he had with Will when he was speaking in front of the junior class and Will came up and he did that whole thing to embarrass him, I'm just thinking like this is usually what I see in like creepy white boy characters. Like very manipulative, strange white boy characters. And to see it on such a dark-skinned black man... Yes, this actor is excellent because I'm looking at him, I'm like I'm afraid of you. I'm scared. Because I don't know what he's capable of. Because I really can't understand what he's been through. And so Carlton is definitely giving villain vibes and before he was sweet and lovable in the original. He was nerdy, but he was sweet and lovable. This character, it’s hard to find the love right now.
Ellice: I definitely agree that it's hard to sympathize with Carlton in almost any situation that we've seen so far. But I will say, to your point about you're wondering like where some of his like angst and hurt comes from. I think that the show could do a better job at teasing out him being a black person in this like white space and then seeing Will come in... And this is something we know from the original series that will probably be teased out in this, is that Will’s gonna be very popular. And seeing Will be able to be himself and be very popular. Not to say Carlton's not being himself, but to a degree, there has to be some assimilation and changing of who you are to like fit into that space. And I think that does come with a lot of pressure, and then seeing an outsider come in and just do it so naturally. That's something that I'm waiting for the show to address. Like Carlton is under a lot of pressure, being the only black person in the space.
He plays lacrosse, I play lacrosse. I know it’s not a lot of black people playing lacrosse, especially in California. Now, on the East Coast, maybe. But in California, I'm like who’s playing lacrosse that’s black for real? And so I can definitely understand, like I'm in this space, I want to fit in. I already know I'm dark, I'm black, I'm going to stick out–how can I fit in? And then Will is new so he's already going to be a target and I think it does aid Carlton to kind of tease him and be the guy to pick on the new guy. As opposed to saying like, hey, this is my cousin, he's from Philadelphia, he's definitely not from the burbs of LA, let's include him. That might jeopardize his social status at the school. So I'm interested to see how the series kind of addresses that. And I think, as they address that in (as we know) his drug use, we might be able to have a little more sympathy for that character.
Fredia: That was beautifully stated. I did not once consider how hard Carlton’s life has been as a very dark-skinned young boy and now young man in Bel-Air. I think you're totally right, I mean, remember he said in the episode to Lisa–Carlton’s been doing this since he was in like elementary school. And so that's probably why I can't relate, because my elementary school, I had black kids at the school. I didn't have to grow up around predominately white space, but if I did, how would I be different? How would it have made sense for me to assimilate or just try to figure out a way to fit in and make my life less difficult because I'm already other? I think that was really beautiful, Ellice, and I had not considered that.
Dr. Joy: Look at that! Yeah, I agree. I agree, Ellice, that is spot on. And I feel like that is a part of what's happening. And I think the other piece is that we have to consider their age. We know that there are black people (as adults, as grown adults, 30-plus) who value being the only one in a space. Like that feels very tragic to me but we know it exists. And so it feels like that's a part of what we're seeing him struggle with. But he's also a child, so his brain is not even fully developed, so him grappling with something like that looks more like the manipulation and acting out that we see.
The other thing that I think does give us an opportunity to have some sympathy for Carlton is that all of this happened so quickly. We know that Will was on a flight to Bel-Air in 24 hours of the fight and so what were the conversations with the kids around why Will is coming? It doesn't sound like they have the whole story because you see Carlton repeatedly say like, oh, we'll find out the real reason that you're here. And so it feels similar to what would happen when like there's a new baby in the house. We know from all the research that there are all these things you're supposed to do to prepare kids for a new sibling or a new child coming into the house. Like helping them pick out nursery clothes and doing all of these things, and none of that has had a chance to happen in the past 24 hours. Of course, they're older so he has a different understanding of someone new. But I think in any system, when you have been around a while and there's a new person coming in, there could be some feelings of “I'm not as special anymore” or some feelings of abandonment.
And it does seem, especially in the scene we see where Will has the basketball game the same night as Carlton has the lacrosse game, and the parents say we're gonna split our time. Well, that is clearly nothing Carlton has had to worry about before and so now the attention from the parents has to be divided. And we see that it looks like Will is having a great game so they don't actually even make it to Carlton's game and so we see him blow up really over that. A lot of this, I think, is just a really difficult transition and it doesn't feel like the family has done the greatest job maybe of talking with the kids about what this change is going to mean and what their expectations are of Carlton. It seems like they have some expectations that he's just gonna take him in and show him around, but clearly those have not been voiced to Carlton, nor has he bought into this idea that he's supposed to be helping his cousin adjust to this new life.
More from our conversation about Bel-Air after the break.
Dr. Joy: The other thing with Carlton, and I feel like ... There was one episode in the original show when Carlton accidentally took the drugs and Will got really scared that he was going to have an overdose or something, I can't quite remember all the details. But here, we see that Carlton is actively using, I think Xanax. Is that what you see? But not like swallowing the pills, like he's snorting it. And so it feels kind of early to tell what's happening there. It feels like some of it is a recreational, kind of like this is what the kids in his school do. But even after like the blow up on the lacrosse match, we see him use the Xanax as a way of coping, it feels like. And so it's kind of hard to tell whether this is a recreational kind of thing or whether there's like an abuse kind of problem here. But this is definitely like a new slant. This is not at all something that was in the original so that is a plotline that they have added. What are your thoughts around the drug use that we see with Carlton?
Fredia: The Carlton from the original show didn't drink, didn't smoke, and had a difficult time courting with the ladies. This Carlton in the reimagining, he is so chocolatey. When he was walking around campus and Lisa had to clean his nose, I said now hold on a second. You didn't see all that whiteness on your chocolatey nose? To me, and Lisa said it first, I'm gonna say it again, Carlton has a problem. If you are taking drugs after you were ejected out of a game and they're readily accessible for you in your locker room, you have a problem. If you're walking around campus with drugs on your nose that can be seen, you have a problem. And I'm worried. He's doing drugs in his house where his mom and father and younger sister Ashley live.
Ellice: Definitely, Carlton has a problem and I think some of it could be attributed to that pressure. Because from my understanding, Xanax keeps you up and keeps you going. And it's like, if you're the star lacrosse player trying to get into Princeton, then you have to deal with your new cousin’s BS, you just got a lot going on. Obviously, I'm not happy that there's drug use but I'm glad it's being addressed. Because I remember Euphoria came out, a lot of people were like, whoa, high school is doing drugs! And I'm over here like, y'all have not been to high school. And I know like this has been happening but people were so shocked and I'm like, no. People of that age experience trauma, pressure, anxieties, that does lead them to get drugs. And whether their parents have a prescription or they know someone or they get it on the black market, it is relatively accessible at that age if you have $50 to get drugs. And so, no, we don't want to normalize the use but we do want to normalize that it is a problem that young people experience, so I'm glad they're showing that.
And my prediction is that his relationship with Will will get better and Will is able to help him through that. Because we know Will comes from, I guess they're trying to portray as like the inner city, and drugs are a little more accessible. They happen everywhere but I bet Will, that character, has seen someone struggle with it and can help Carlton in general deal with pressure. Because Will is a star basketball player, was at his school, growing up around crime, having to deal with like beef and different stuff like that, just stay safe. And I think him in Carlton can hopefully like bond over that and he can be like this is not the only way that you have to deal with this.
Fredia: I have a question for the group. When they were at Connor’s party and Will and Lisa were dancing and Carlton was looking at them, did Will and Lisa actually kiss or was Carlton hallucinating?
Dr. Joy: This was not something that I had thought much about, but again, I've been so obsessed with the show that I'm like going through the hashtag on Twitter. Morgan actually answered this question because somebody else on Twitter asked the question. It was shot to look as if it was only from Carlton's vantage point. They didn't actually kiss; it was only Carlton imagining that that was happening. So shout out to the cast and the crew for being so active on Twitter, answering all of our questions.
Lisa is not a main character but she is clearly a very important character. Lisa appears to be Carlton's ex-girlfriend and it seems like a new friend to Will. Though it will be interesting to see how this develops because, clearly, he has like a crush on her and so I do think it's a little weird to be trying to go after your cousin's ex-girlfriend. Maybe they keep them as friends but definitely there is some interest. We also learned that Lisa's mom, who died I think maybe a few years ago in the show, from lupus, is also Aunt Viv’s sorority sister. And so it sounds like this is somebody who has maybe been around the family even before she started dating Carlton. I love her as a character and I think that she is adding a nice flavor. Like you mentioned, Fredia, it definitely seems like she and Carlton broke up maybe in part because of his drug use. That maybe she felt like it was too difficult to try to maybe keep helping him to stop or whatever, but that she is still there for him in the background, and Will now more actively.
Fredia: When Lisa jumped in the pool to save Will, I said I gotta learn how to swim. Because if my man needs me in the ocean, I need to be ready. That was so sexy. I said not only can she swim, y'all, she's strong enough to pull a young man out of the water. I'm impressed, Lisa! I'm impressed.
Ellice: I definitely like her and I think it relates back to some of the situations we saw in the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Will and Carlton... I wouldn't say they were competing over girls because they definitely had different leagues, but there was definitely tension. Like, oh, Will has a date and I don't. Here is Will going out again. ‘Cause I've been searching, like what are gonna be like the funny points. I guess it can be really sad for Carlton to see your cousin trying to get at your ex-girlfriend but I hope we see a little more like playful rivalry when it comes to dating. Because I think that could be a really good light-hearted thing.
Dr. Joy: Great points there. You know, the other thing that I think we can talk about here is that we don't see Ashley very much in the first couple of episodes. Which also feels similar to kind of like how her character was in the original. Though as she grew up, I think we got more storylines from her. But it feels like in the fourth episode, I think the most recent episode, we did see a little bit more storyline around her wanting to kind of meet up with her friends and those kinds of things. But it feels too soon to tell really what's going to be Ashley's main storyline besides trying to make friends and she's very sheltered and very protected. Especially as dad is running for DA, we know that probably means that she is even more sheltered now because, you know, nobody wants anything to happen to her. But it does feel like her storyline has been minimal up until this point.
Fredia: I'm excited for the Ashley character as she was my favorite character in the original. I don't remember the Ashley from the original series (played by Tatyana Ali) really coming into her own until she had her 13th birthday and when Tevin Campbell performed What a Moment. I wonder how old this Ashley is in this reimagining and then perhaps if that 13th birthday is going to be a marker for her development into young womanhood and what have you. I think right now what's cool about the Ashley in the reimagining is that she seems similar to the Ashley from the original. She seems a baby activist. When she heard how Hilary was standing up for herself, she had a point of view and she was backing her older sister up. And so I think being that the Hilary character is more developed now, I'm really interested to see how Ashley and Hilary as sisters bond and how we see them play out on the screen.
Ellice: I think one of my favorite parts of the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was Will and Ashley's relationship. It was just really cute and I remember being really young and having like older male cousins. I have a younger brother but not an older brother. It was like, oh my goodness, I have a big brother, he's not a dad so it's not like he can really reprimand me, but he's just cool. And so I can already see that the Ashley character might have a similar relationship. We haven't seen too much of it but from what you said, Fredia, she found what Hilary did just really cool. And she was like, yeah, right on. I really did enjoy seeing that dynamic, it always warms my heart. So I hope you get there, that they have a little bond. Everyone uses the meme or the GIF of them dancing in the room, that's my favorite.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, I agree, Ellice. I definitely love that relationship that they had too, and it definitely feels like Will and Hilary are having more of that. I don't remember that as much in the original and so it feels like in this reimagining, at least for now, the relationship that it seemed like he had with Ashley in the original is more of what he's having with Hilary right now. It's still very early, we're still in the very first season. Hopefully, they get renewed for a second season so we can see more of this play out. But I agree that that was something that I really loved from the original as well.
We can talk about Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil together as a couple. They give me very much “President-First Lady Obama” vibes. Especially Aunt Viv, she feels very much like she could play Michelle Obama in a movie at some point. I love like them as a couple, it feels like they have really great chemistry. But again, like I mentioned earlier, I am interested in hearing more of this storyline. Because even with her sorority sisters, it seems like there was conversations about how her star was supposed to take off. Like she's clearly this brilliant artist and had shows. And at some point, the decision was made for her to kind of take a step back from that and so I don't know if it was her becoming a mother, if as a couple they decided that it would be his career that would kind of be in the front.
Which seems a little interesting to me, given time. Because I don't know how old they're supposed to be in this show, but they're clearly not from like the 40s and 50s. And so it seemed like, timewise, it would have been like 80s, 90s, maybe 2000s, depending on the ages. And so to me, it seems like there were more choices that women were making in terms of being able to balance career and family. It seems interesting that she felt the need to kind of make a choice of her art versus the family. But again, it feels like they're alluding to something that we will find out later.
Fredia: I mean, if Hilary went to college and then has been in her gap year for two years, she's about 21 years old, which means she was born in 2000. I think what I'm thinking about right now truly is when we saw a flashback of Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil in the original, and they were in the activist time with the Black Panthers and putting up their black fists, will we be able to see how this Aunt Viv and this Uncle Phil developed their relationship, began their family? There was an episode in the original where we saw them go to the first apartment that they had, where they actually began in LA. And so I think it is interesting to think about in the year 2000, what would have been the rationale or the stakes that would have led to Aunt Viv becoming a teacher at this time? What would have been the rationale for that?
Dr. Joy: Yeah, ‘cause in the original, Aunt Viv is a professor. Like we see she still has a very active career. And thus far, it doesn't feel like anything outside of the home has really been developed for this Aunt Viv. Clearly, she's not really actively painting anymore and it sounds like there's some volunteerism and philanthropy maybe related to the sorority and other things in the community. But it doesn't seem like she has like some nine-to-five or some career, so to speak. Like a professor, like the original Aunt Viv did, so I think...
Ellice: I thought they mentioned that she was teaching art.
Dr. Joy: Oh, was she?
Ellice: Yeah. But to your point, it does seem like the original Aunt Viv was very esteemed. It was like, oh no, she's a professor, don't mess with her. This one, it does seem like she's (not that it's a bad thing) just a bit more domestic and has like traded her career for her family. I do agree that it does just feel a bit dated, considering where we are and considering the age of their children so I am curious to see like why that is. Because you can already tell there's a story behind it, just by the way she looks at the art, how people mention it. I know we're gonna get it; I'm just curious to the why.
Fredia: As you all were talking, it reminded me that in the original, the passion that was put to the side for the dark-skinned Aunt Viv was dancing. And then we got that iconic moment in the studio where she had to let the people know what she was about. And so I'm sure we'll talk about this later, but I would love to see a gallery show in this season for Aunt Viv. I would love to see that. I think that that would be fantastic.
Dr. Joy: Well, we already see them clearing a space for her new painting, so it's clear that it’s in the storyline, to kind of bubble up her doing more painting. It'll be interesting to see how much of that we see, at least in this first season. The other thing that I couldn't quite remember, but clearly, we have a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air historian with us on the call! To me, in the intro meeting between Uncle Phil and Will, some of those first scenes with him in this reimagining felt more tense than I think I remember the original feeling. Again, you know, they already have three children so I would imagine the decision to bring another 16, 17-year-old (however old Will is) is not an easy one. But it feels like there was a little bit more tension around the decision for him to come to Bel-Air than I remember from the original. Do y'all have any rememberings of that?
Ellice: I agree. I think the most tension we got was Carlton. And I think, yeah, Uncle Phil, he was always stern but this Uncle Phil is grudgeful. I'm like, why did you agree to it if you were going to act like this from the jump? Like not even be welcoming. And I do see the stress of the campaign adding to that. Because I do remember (Fredia, correct me if I'm wrong) the original Uncle Phil also had like a campaign but it was like later in the series. It wasn't Will coming up and being Will during the campaign, so I get it. In the first like two episodes, I was like can you cut him some slack? You know what he's been through. Yeah, you can be hard, like this isn't what should be going on.
You know, I wanted him to give him more grace because like the environment where he's from, that is a very realistic thing to happen. Really, in a lot of environments. And he's... Is he supposed to be like 16, 17? Yeah, I'm like this man is way too grudgeful for me. We're seeing a better side of him get teased out, but I do feel like Will’s also a *[inaudible 0:50:24] from the jump. In the original, Uncle Phil and Will, they were cool. It wasn't like, oh, you're here and I don't want you to be here. That was just Carlton, so different.
Fredia: Yeah. In the first episode in the original that I remember, Carlton and Will really go back and forth about (immediately) what is blackness, who is black, who is not black? This Uncle Phil, the thing that was most jarring to me as someone who watched the original, in the reimagining, we see Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil talking about sending Will back. And that's not something that I remember from the original at all. I think that it was in the first or the second episode, they're like, if he can't come correct, we’re gonna send him back. And I think that's where a lot of the tension and the drama from Uncle Phil really came for me. Because everything else had been not so direct, more passive, we're not sure how he really feels about him. But when he finally opens his mouth, he's like we could send this young man back home. And that was tough to see because that's harsh.
Dr. Joy: Right, especially given the circumstances. Like you know what you would be sending him back to. I agree, that felt very harsh and a departure from the original. But again, they have taken some liberties because this is a reimagining, so it didn't have to be a carbon copy. I just thought that that was interesting that they showed more of him not necessarily being as welcoming as I maybe kind of remembered from the original. More from our conversation about Bel-Air after the break.
Dr. Joy: The other thing that I thought was really interesting with Uncle Phil's character was this scene where we see him at the picnic with his fraternity brothers. One, I know this is not a show that maybe as many people are watching as Insecure, but I definitely did not see the uproar on the timeline around the Alphas and their letters and all kinds of stuff being shown, as when the AKAs or the letters were on Tiffany in Insecure. I don't know if they were more involved. Because this was extensive, right? Like in Insecure, it was almost like a flash. This was very clearly a whole production, so my guess is that the Alphas were super involved. That was my one thought.
But that conversation or that line around the thinking, similar to when he was on the radio interview with *[inaudible 0:52:48] around like how steeped into the community has Uncle Phil been, really since undergrad? It seems like fraternity brothers are saying they haven't seen him, it sounds like somebody had fallen on tough times and like they didn't know where Uncle Phil was or he didn't even know this has happened. And so it seems like there's this undercurrent of “have you still been really connected to blackness maybe and to your community in the ways that are meaningful to people?”
Fredia: On the Alpha tip, my partner is an Alpha, and I turned to him, I said this is what y'all be doing? I don't know if what Uncle Phil performed was an official Alpha sanctioned or certified piece of choreography so I'm not sure if that was the stamp of approval for them, but my partner seemed very happy. And he's one person, obviously, but he seemed very happy to get the representation. And then to Uncle Phil's defense, I thought that what he said in response to the Reverend, he said, “Do you want me to apologize for making a life for my family or for pursuing success?” And I thought that was a really great piece of language to try to identify. Are we punishing people for the pursuit of success? And if that's not the case, how do we want to encourage people to show up for our communities? Because when Uncle Phil arrived, he just got the cold shoulder, the Reverend wasn't happy to see him really liked that.
And it doesn't seem like in the times when maybe Uncle Phil was taking the time to do what he needed, that anybody was reaching out to him either to check in on him. And we know that sometimes, oh, yeah, they're good, they got money, they have a wife, they have kids, they're fine, we don't need to check in on them. So I just wonder sometimes, how do we have those conversations where we’re like, hey, I needed you to show up for me, I need you to show up for this community in this way? Can you do that? I don't feel like Uncle Phil has been given the opportunity to turn things down. It's more so people are expecting him to help everyone at the same time. And it's like, that's actually not how time and space work.
Ellice: I thought that was definitely very interesting, to see his relationship with his fraternity brothers and for them to question his commitment to the community. I think that's something I imagine comes up a lot as you move to like a different socioeconomic status. How do you stay connected with, not necessarily the people who helped you get there, but the people who are your foundation and who you built memories with or who you just network with? Because that's what a fraternity and sorority is, like a networking opportunity. And so I could understand his fraternity brothers kind of feeling used. Like we haven't seen you in 10 years and now that you're running for something, here you are popping up. You could have been helping out with XYZ but you haven't.
But at the same time, it's like sometimes as people transition throughout life (whether that means getting a new job, making more money, moving somewhere), especially if it's a good thing, people are like, oh, they don't need us. Or like they're doing that thing over there, they don't check in, like Fredia said. So I'm interested to see how that's gonna play out, especially in terms of his campaign and people kind of continuing to question–you live in Beverly Hills but now you want our support, but we don't know you. I think it'll be interesting.
Dr. Joy: Yeah. And of course, it's a TV show, it's on NBC Peacock. So of course, there's gonna be this after school resolution Phil. But I did think it was very funny and I don't think that this is how this would happen in real life. It's like he does one step and now y’all welcome him back into the fold. Like that's not how that's gonna happen because he, you know *[inaudible 0:56:39] a chance, you know. But of course, again, it's a TV show so there needed to be some resolution. But to your earlier point, Fredia, going back to Carlton, we see all this happen with him trying to get the internship. I hadn't thought about that, but I wonder what happened there. One, we know that the guy that he talked to wasn't actually the chair anymore and so he was gonna have to put him in touch with other people. But I also wonder if his mind changed because Will was such a star at the step show part of it. It almost felt like Will was instrumental, and he was, in like getting the crowd to turn in favor of Uncle Phil. And so it'll be interesting to see what happens, like why he wasn't any longer interested in that internship. Was it just because he didn't want to have to talk to a new person or was he in his feelings about the way Will showed up at the step show?
Fredia: I think it was definitely, once again, this feeling of being replaced and that Will’s being the star and infringing onto his life. But also, more specifically, the older gentleman that he was playing chess with, he said that the person who is now head of the organization that Carlton wanted to intern with was the man in the yellow shirt who asked them to get the chairs out. And Carlton had said some slick stuff to him and he was like I probably should like just walk away.
Dr. Joy: Good point, I forgot about that. Yeah, ‘cause he did not actually help so it's like I can't give you no good recommendation because you wouldn't even help unload the chairs. Very good point there. It'll be interesting to see how all of that continues to unfold. Let us maybe talk about Geoffrey, before we talk about Will.
We will just start with what everybody is thinking: this is a gorgeous character. I’m saying if we get a chance to meet the cast and do an interview in real person, it could be a problem. Yeah, so gorgeous casting here, clearly. And I love like they have reimagined this character in some ways that I think are very cool and fresh and like add this dimension. He's clearly much younger than the original Geoffrey. What is his title? Like the house manager, I think is his title now? He is who meets Will fresh off of his drop off from Jazz and clearly is kind of like running thing. But also has this like really interesting relationship with Uncle Phil that definitely feels like it is beyond house manager. I'm very interested in seeing, especially after what we saw in Episode 4 of the show about what's happening and how he has connects to Philly. Will says I'm struggling because this guy has now found out that I'm in California and Geoffrey is like I'll take care of it. And so I really want to hear what is the backstory for Geoffrey and more about his relationship with Uncle Phil.
Fredia: I love how they really added a cool factor to Geoffrey. When Will tried to sneak out of the house and Geoffrey leaned over Jazz's car, I was just like it feels like he has eyes and ears on everything. And I think that's particularly cool because he's international. It seems like he's from the UK but by way of one of the islands, so you can hear both accents bouncing in between when he's speaking. And he just exudes what I feel like is international coolness. International suaveness. Yeah, I'm really into his character. I wouldn't be surprised if whatever ties Uncle Phil has to perhaps the underworld or the other side of the coin, that Geoffrey is connected to that. Because the way that they were playing pool and drinking their dark liquor, I'm like there's something here. They really feel like a true partnership. And I think that we saw that sometimes in the original. For example, when Geoffrey and Uncle Phil in the original went to go play pool and get Will out of trouble at the pool hall, that episode. To me, that was one of my favorite Geoffrey episodes because Geoffrey is cool. And so now they're really highlighting that and it's just very wonderful, very exciting.
Ellice: I agree with everything you're saying, Fredia. I do love how they add it that he's from like an island. I think that was really cool. I always thought the original Geoffrey was cool and was rooting for Will. He had to have that British shade, like they had to have it in there. It's nice to see him be even cooler and less strict and proper and more like “I'mma just tell you about yourself on the side and we're gonna leave it at that. But I'm gonna have your back always.” Overall, I think it's a lot of people being hard on the Will character so it’s nice to see him supporting him and just trying to make sure he's good. I guess that's obviously the job of the house manager, but it goes beyond just “do you need your bags picked up or do you need water or coffee or whatever?” And so, I'm very curious to see what is really his relationship with Uncle Phil like. Did they go through some ish? I need to see on that immediately.
Dr. Joy: Immediately. Send us a copy of the script, please.
Ellice: Screener, screener.
Fredia: My question though is, at least to me again, Geoffrey seems like he has a hold of the house. He knows what's going on. At the same time, does he really not know that Carlton has a drug problem?
Dr. Joy: Hmm. That is a good point. I mean, given what we've seen how nothing gets past him. Because he clearly knew where Ashley was even though she was supposed to be with Hilary at the record store, so it would be kind of shocking if he didn't know. I wonder if maybe it's just something that we have not seen yet, like how he's tried to intervene or maybe he's trying to like do something behind the scenes without getting the parents involved. Although that doesn't seem like something you would not tell the parents. You’re right, you bring up a really good point, Fredia. Like if he knows all this stuff, how could Carlton really be using all these drugs under the roof without him knowing? Good point. Something to think about.
Again, I hadn't even thought about the call back to the pool scene in the original. There are all these little Easter eggs (I think is what people call them) about the original that it makes sense in the reimagining. But it is a nice callback to those who did watch the original, who clearly watch it as much as you, Fredia, that you pick up on all of those things. I just think that it's so cool, that they make those kinds of tie ins that makes sense. But it's also just a very nice touch for people who really love the original.
The other thing that I love is the incorporation of Jazz. I love that they also have some of that same like, oh, what's gonna happen between him and Hilary, because we know that he had a huge crush on Hilary in the original. And so I love that it feels like more of a mutual thing is popping off between them, at least initially, in this reimagining. And I love the Jazz character, I love that he is kind of like Will’s lifeline and like out from the family and kind of keeps him connected to the cooler parts of Bel-Air, I guess. I really like how they are using that character and making him a part of the scenes.
Fredia: I was always rooting for Jazz and Hilary in the original. I am elated about the idea about Hilary and Jazz. If that were to happen, I think that that would be really smooth. You know, if they are complementary to each other.
Dr. Joy: Yes. I don't know if I was playing on my phone–how did Will end up getting a ride from Jazz in the first place?
Fredia: Dr. Joy, I have this exact same question. I don't know what I was doing, I don't know if I was in the kitchen. Ellice, please tell us you know. Please.
Ellice: I don't know either. I remember watching it and I was like did he just see another car? Like I was so confused.
Dr. Joy: Yeah. I mean, Jazz did have a card and so I wonder if he was kind of like at the airport as like a taxi kind of thing and saw Will and said, oh, I can take you. Because he did give him a card that said something like personal transportation or something. Because clearly, Geoffrey and the family had made other plans for his ride and then he shows up with Jazz, so I wonder if he was just kind of waiting and saw Will and said, oh, I can take you. Okay, so we didn't miss anything; they just never made that clear. As a way to introduce Jazz!
Fredia: Or we all consistently missed it and we were all on our phones at the exact same time.
Dr. Joy: Trying to tweet and watch at the same time! Let us get into the main character. There are so many wonderful characters. It feels like you don't even have to talk all about Will, which I think is also cool. But definitely this reimagining of Will, I think there are some real close ties to the original but we also see like this fresh twist with who he is. Just so many things it seems like he will be dealing with as this season unfolds. Again, we've already talked about it was less than 24 hours probably, by the time he had this fight and he's on a plane to California. And so I'm imagining there is some grief related to like having to let go and leave his old life in such a quick pace. He didn't even have a chance to say goodbye. Then we find out that his friend Tray has been shot after he’d left and so there's some guilt it feels like he's dealing with because he feels like they're out to get me, basically, but Tray is the one who's left.
Trying to fit into this new environment that feels very foreign to him. It feels like basketball was clearly his thing and now he has to try out for the team. And like the place that really gave him solace and allowed him to shine, it feels like, was going to be a bit of a difficult thing for him. But he was able to humble himself enough to try out and clearly on the team. And so I think that there will be a lot of like transitions, and transitions that we've already seen with his character as the season continues to unfold.
Fredia: Can I call out another Easter egg?
Dr. Joy: Yeah!
Fredia: The Easter egg is that Allen Payne played a character in The Fresh Prince where he was a basketball player competing in the Bel-Air Academy league. And he's the only other black player in the league and Will and him are competing, I think, for a top tier spot to be recruited for a university. And Allen Payne's character has a child and Will ends up “letting Allen Payne's character win.” Because he's like, you know what, I'm gonna toss the game because I want this guy to go and have a future in college and play and I'll be okay. I'm pretty sure the black character that Will speaks to during the game in the reimagining, where he said “You really from Hollywood?” Whatever. He said “you really from (whatever his jersey said)” and then the black guy in the reimagining says “Are you really from Bel-Air?” Will laughed and then he like takes off and does a layup. I'm pretty sure that's the same character.
Dr. Joy: Do you think that that is the Lance character or the son?
Fredia: I think that's the Lance character. Okay, so that character in the reimagining, he's from Malibu. The other character is from Malibu and I think that's him.
Dr. Joy: Look at that! See, not many recap conversations are gonna have the benefit of a historian like we do.
Ellice: I was like, I didn’t know all that.
Dr. Joy: I am reminded, now that you say it, but I definitely did not remember it in real time. What are your thoughts about this reimagining, Ellice, of Will?
Ellice: First of all, I love, love just the actor and like the energy he brings. I think the casting was spot on. He does have that same energy that Will Smith had playing Will in the original, just very friendly. He's tall. I'm like the casting is perfect, the acting is really good. I am definitely excited to see how he starts to like acclimate to the school. Just because I feel like, to a degree, in the original, Carlton was a little more on his side, a little more open to like showing him things. Yeah, they had tension, but this Carlton, as we said, he is the villain. He's praying on Will’s downfall so I'm interested to see how he's gonna... ‘Cause I'm predicting that he'll eventually be like popular and have a lot of friends, but how that's gonna play out, I think something that is really real and almost really heartbreaking is like having to know that somebody is looking for you but that you kind of left home and things are better for you now. Of course, he has family and there's privilege in that situation, but I know a lot of people will resonate with that story as kids who go to college and their friends don't, and they're kind of in a new environment.
My brother, one of his friends was killed while he was away like on a trip or something. I was like, wow, this is such a real thing. Like you go on to other opportunities, whether it's just for a weekend trip or going to college or starting a new job, and you have people who are “left at home.” And so kind of having to deal with that trauma and just that anxiety. It’s like is my mom going to be okay, because she's a single mom? Are my friends gonna be okay? Are the people back home gonna forget about me or are they gonna think I'm a sellout? And so I definitely think it's gonna be interesting to see Will grapple with that. Especially as you can already tell he kind of views Carlton as a sellout and Uncle Phil as, okay, they're removed from what's really going on. It's like now you're in that position so how are you going to handle that? I think it's going to be interesting. I think we also see more of the tension which is part of the reimagining of back home in Bel-Air. Before, we didn't really see any of Philadelphia or what the original Will was going through. Like, yeah, his father came and, yeah, his mom came, and some other family, but that's really all we knew.
Dr. Joy: That's such a good point. You're right, Ellice. We didn't really see very much about the aftermath of what happened (after he left) in Philadelphia. It'll be interesting to see if mom comes to visit because we know that that was like a key part. She would have pretty frequent, I would say, visits in the original so I'm looking forward to the first visit. And it seems like there's something between the sisters. Again, I don't remember much about the original, but it definitely didn't seem like there was tension. In this one, there’s feeling like there is some tension. Now granted, the call that we see between Will’s mom and Carlton’s mom is around Carlton having pushed her child in the pool, so of course that's gonna be a tense conversation. But it also feels like maybe something else is there and so I'm just interested to see if maybe she does a visit when there's some conversation between Aunt Viv and Will's mom.
The other thing that I did not initially pick up on but that I am interested to see how it plays out, is like the flashbacks that Will is having related to the incident with the police. I think that that is very timely and seems like it's being very well done. I'm always on the lookout of like is a therapist going to be involved? Are they going to have him see a therapist? Because the flashbacks he's having are consistent with what we might see with a PTSD diagnosis. This idea that something traumatic has happened to you or someone else in your life, and then you have these flashbacks of the scene or the experiences he has whenever he sees like somebody in uniform or a person in authority, very much feel like what we might see with a PTSD diagnosis. Of course, it's very early to tell and he doesn't have multiple symptoms, at least at this point that we've seen, but I think it will be interesting to see how they continue to play out that storyline. And like who is he going to tell? When is an adult going to know that he’s experiencing this? Similar to the drug use, right? It definitely feels like there are these mental health storylines that are bubbling under the surface and so it'll be interesting to see like when an adult gets involved.
Ellice: To your point, it does seem like he tried to bring it up to Uncle Phil. When he was playing basketball and he was like have you ever been detained or anything? He was like no, and I think he's saying... Yeah, he did say like this is the reason I've been off my game, and so hopefully they'll push that a little deeper because it definitely is the reason. You kind of see him freeze up when he ran away from the guard. He just doesn't know how to handle that situation. Because before, it was just not a good situation, they were slamming him on the ground, he was like “my arm, my arm,” so that will definitely be interesting to see.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm, and I wonder if this will be a situation where we see some follow up from Lisa. Because we also see the other incident where he has one of these flashbacks is when he runs into Lisa's dad in the restroom and we find out that he is like the chief of police for LAPD. And so then he kind of like has this altercation with Lisa, like why didn't you tell me your dad was a cop kind of thing? And she's like, well, it didn't even come up. I think that there will probably be some follow up conversation between them and maybe he will share with her what's happening. But I definitely would love to see talking to someone about that because definitely we see how it's playing out and that he's having trouble focusing and he's having the flashbacks. I would just love to see how that plays out as the season continues.
Fredia: I think it's really powerful that this show is showing us visually what it's like to have these flashbacks. What they look like and how they can manifest in real life. Because there are things that I wouldn't even have thought about as someone who's never been arrested. When I watched the flashbacks Will was having in the reimagining, I asked someone I love who I know has been involved in the past with the police. And I said, have you ever experienced like flashbacks, where you're just doing something and then you feel like you're transported back to that experience with the police? And they told me yes. And I had no idea.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, you're right. I always think it's helpful, especially when it's well done. When you can see something and then you have language for this thing that you didn't even know existed. I think for so long, conversations around PTSD were only associated with like war. And we know that people have very traumatic experiences, especially black people dealing with the police. And so I think looking at that kind of framework, and especially given what we know Will may have seen interacting with the police with other friends or other people in Philadelphia, I think that that probably is adding to the stress he's experiencing related to these flashbacks as well.
Ellice: Right. And then he already knows that he is the unfamiliar black kid in the school. Even before he got to school, there was a fight video, so they already have these preconceived notions of him. And so I think anyone in that situation, you're aware that, yeah, people view me like this so I do have to keep my guard up to a degree. And so I think that's like another added element of some of the stress he's experiencing.
Fredia: Are there any resources you would share for people who think that they may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD or having those kinds of intense flashbacks, Dr. Joy?
Dr. Joy: Yeah, we've had a couple of really good conversations here on the podcast. In Session 104 with Jason Phillips, we talked about prolonged exposure therapy, which is one of the treatments that is often used to help people who are struggling with PTSD, so that would be a good episode to check out. As well as Session 25, we talked about what in the world is EMDR with Kelli Davis. EMDR is another treatment that is often used to help people with symptoms of PTSD. Both of those would be great episodes to check out and they had lots of great resources they shared in those episodes.
Fredia: I was just gonna say, I think Will's mom shared a really beautiful affirmation. In the episode where Will called his mom and he was like complaining about the situation. And then his mom said think about where you were yesterday and look at where you are now. When I heard it, I wrote it down because I do think that is an important affirmation to have in your back pocket. Think about where you have been, and then when you are feeling low, look at your surroundings of what you've been able to accomplish or been gifted or been able to access in your life. At times when you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, what have you. I thought it was just a really short but very deep thing to add to your wellness package.
Dr. Joy: I like that. Yeah, I love that. And that's why I'm also hoping we get to see more of her because I really love her interactions with Will. We've already gotten into some of this, but what are your predictions for what we might see? You know, they gave us the first three episodes on Super Bowl Sunday and from here on out, they are weekly releases on Thursdays. And so there are 10 episodes that we're going to get in this first season, and hopefully we get renewed for a second season, but what are your thoughts about what you might see or hope to see as we continue with this first season?
Ellice: Fredia mentioned this before. I definitely want to see more about Aunt Viv and her past life, hopefully present life as an artist. Hopefully, we can see more Will and Ashley interactions. I'm just curious as to where Hilary's character is going to go and if they're actually going to give her a real relationship with Jazz. I'm already thinking that Uncle Phil will not like that. Hopefully, we get Uncle Phil's real backstory. And I think those are the things I'm the most excited about. And then hopefully, just any situation where I can have some empathy for Carlton.
Fredia: I think Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian have something to do with Will’s dad. There was something that was said about... Aunt Vivian said “we owe it to him” when she was trying to make a case for Will staying. And when Aunt Vivian picked up the phone from Will’s mom, Viola... Dr. Joy, we're talking about the tension? It once again seemed like Aunt Vivian knew that it was really she owed it to her sister to do this. There's something about Will's dad that seems like it's connected to Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil so I really would like to flesh that out a bit more. I would love to see who Hilary's friends are. I think Hilary is just so fly. I want to see more of her, I want to see her friends, I want to see what they do, I want to see her like making content on the back. But maybe I should just follow Coco Jones.
Dr. Joy: Right, what you really want to see is Coco Jones!
Fredia: And then I want Carlton to be exposed as a drug user so that way he can get the help that he needs.
Dr. Joy: Very good point.
Dr. Joy: Right, how soon is that going to happen? I agree, I also am really interested in Aunt Viv’s backstory and I really want to see if they allow her art to flourish again this season. And, like you mentioned Fredia, can we see a show? Like what's going on there? And what is the story behind how she decided to kind of move out of her art career? I really want to know more about that. But I'm also really interested in how they are going to follow these mental health angles. Is there going to be a school counselor that they introduce? What is the conversation around like the flashbacks that Will is having? What is going to be the conversation around Carlton's drug use? How are they going to really tie these mental health angles together? That is what I am really, really interested to see.
Fredia: I have a question for you, Dr. Joy. If they were to bring in a therapist or a licensed professional, which actress would you cast to be either a school counselor or like a family therapist?
Dr. Joy: Ooh, this is such a good question. I feel like Angela Bassett would be incredible. I feel like she is the perfect person to be added to this cast. Although, most of these people are relatively newer, so let me think about like a newer person. I can't think of anybody. My mind settled on Angela and now I’m going blank.
Fredia: I think you made the right choice.
Dr. Joy: I mean, can you go wrong with Angela, really? No. Any final thoughts about Bel-Air and what we’ve seen or what we hope to see for this season?
Fredia: Well, we have six more episodes so we're gonna have a total of 10 episodes. I think it's just incredible that this began as a short film, and to see where it is at now, I'm incredibly impressed. I saw on Rotten Tomatoes that the critics rating is 65% and I would like to heavily push back on that and give my official rating that Bel-Air is a solid 90. Solid 90. A-minus, okay? And if you haven't watched it because you think that you love the original so much (which is me), I would say give it a chance. Give it a chance.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, I think most people will be shocked by how much they actually enjoy it once they get past the like “oh, I loved the original.” Because, like we've been talking about, it is not really a reboot, it really is a reimagining of the story and they take it lots of different places. So I agree with people giving it a chance.
Ellice: Like Fredia said, I'm happy to see it come from the mind of like a smaller creator. And they're like I'mma put in the work on this, and people loved it, and it blew up. I'm also really happy because something I worry about with reboots is it trying too hard to create some of the magic that the original did. I think Bel-Air kind of establishes that this is very different, we’re our own thing but we're gonna pay a lot of nods and obviously use the characters. But pay a lot of nods to the original show but do our own thing and make it really fresh. I think fresh is like one of the best ways to describe it. I'll leave people with this. If you are into high school dramas like I am, I would categorize this a bit. This is better than a lot of the high school dramas out there today, I'll say that. It's on the better end. It's a little less corny, where I think some storylines are more in depth, more fleshed out, they're not touching and going on every like hot topic in the universe, so I'll give it like a solid 80.
Dr. Joy: Ooh, these are so strong rankings. Yeah, so overall, we definitely encourage you to check it out if you haven't. You can stream it on Peacock. I believe the first episode is available for free, but the rest of them... And there may be some kind of trial period with Peacock, I'm not quite sure. If there's not, then we may need to see if we can get one for people. Because it definitely is something that is worth your... Maybe you want to wait until all the episodes are there to binge them all, but it definitely is something I would encourage you to check out.
Ellice: And if the folks at Bel-Air, Peacock, would like to give the Therapy for Black Girls production team an insight into Season 2, please contact us as we're invested and we'd love to continue to support this incredible production.
Dr. Joy: Love it, love it. I'm so glad we were able to chat about one of our new favorite shows. If you haven't already, make sure to head on over to PeacockTv.com and sign up to catch up on all the episodes of Bel-Air. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory.
And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis, and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.