It’s almost 11pm and I’m wide awake watching episodes of A Different World. If you ever watched it, you know why! As a kid, I wanted to be Whitley Gilbert. I wanted a best friend like Kimberly Reece, a crew like Ron, Freddie, and Jaleesa, and a one true love like Dwayne Celophus Wayne!!!!!
Even now at 29 years old, I smile ear to ear watching Whitley fuss about the difference between opera and rap not knowing she’s speaking to legendary rapper Heavy D himself. Or when Ron dated an older woman and didn’t quite understand why she’d pass up front row seats to the Heavy D concert to stay home with her kid. This show was the epitome of life lessons. They were second only to grandma’s wisdom and even then, I think grandma stole a few of her one-liners from Mr. Gaines and Colonel Taylor.
This show literally gave us the recipe for surviving all sorts of situations. It covered multiples ranges of emotion and tackled youth and adult hardship as we watched these characters develop from awkward freshman to confidence and maturity. Most memorable for me was when Whitley turned over her boogie- rich girl attitude and sacrificed for love. That Kenu had Whitley so jealous! But it didn’t matter cause when Dwayne stormed down the wedding aisle screaming “Baby please!,” I bout died! I look forward to the day when I can jump on a bed lip synching “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with my man! (But maybe not wearing the same shirt for a whole month straight.)
Remember when Freddie evolved from her hippie loving ways to the proud Black sistah having to defend wearing her hair straight rather than her iconic curly fro? Or the maturity Kim displayed when she found out Ron and Freddie were dating. Kim also handled herself with such class when people teased her about dating white boy Matthew. Oh, and don’t get me to talking about Shasta and his sexist ways!
I personally think a new age Different World is exactly what these kids need. I probably wouldn’t like it but it’s important that kids see examples just like we had. Like when Charmagne gets called a hoe and learns a lesson about assuming or when Dorian has to hold firm to his personal morals as a Christian even though Lena had ol’ sexy Picallo in her ear or when Deon and Gina’s relationship turns violent. I suppose the new age version would need to cover sexting, online dating, and homophobia. And of course we’ll need to revisit police brutality, underage drinking and drugs, and safe sex.
The reason I related to Whitley so much always intrigued me. We’re nothing alike. She’s skinny, light skinned, and rich. I’m not. But her journey of self, her big mouth and wide eyes, her eagerness to accept people unlike her… qualities to admire and adopt. Kids today need a Whitley and Dwayne and Ron and Kim!