Can we please go back to the 90’s? When windbreakers, stereo systems, and those brown sandals that your uncle wore at every cookout were still a thing? The 90’s were great, weren’t they? As a 90’s baby, I remember turning on my TV and ALWAYS being entertained. Entertainment back then had real substance. It was funny, witty and taught you something. At the end of every Black sitcom, there was always a focus to resolve whatever problem they had. 90’s TV shows still impact our culture today. Here are my top 5 90’s TV shows.
1. A Different World
Black excellence at it’s finest. The show premiered in 1987 and was a spin-off from the 80’s hit The Cosby Show. A Different World set the course for the millennial Black culture. The female characters set the tone for Black sisterhood, and the male characters displayed Black manhood in it’s rawest form. America watched these young Black college students confront common issues in a setting that people had not seen Black people navigate on television, college. The main characters showed the many faces of the Black experience. Whitley is that bougie friend who we’ve all encountered that’s always decked out in the latest fashion trends. Lena was the girl who was street smart and killed it in the classroom, and Winifred was the pro-black, free spirit. Dwayne, the guy who grew from being a dork to America’s sweetheart who got the girl in the end. The funny sidekick Ron, who was outspoken and the life of the party. And sexy Shazza was that smooth-talkin’, woke brotha who could got any woman he desired. A Different World was a pivotal moment in Black television. It gave the world and us a sense of who we are and who we could be if we worked hard.
2. Living Single
Television’s ode to the Black sisterhood. We watched Black women come together and navigate dating, relationships, work and most importantly, friendships with both men and women. Living Single gave us a sneak peek into the everyday lives of Black women and taught us how to be real friends to one another. Black women in television were viewed as neck rolling, loud-mouthed, and bitter women. Living Single countered that stereotype. Encouraging us to be our best selves with many laughs in between, it showed us another side of Black womanhood. It also taught us that being a single Black woman isn’t a bad thing. Settling down may have been a goal of these four women, but it wasn’t the end all be all. For myself, Living Single reminded me to get my priorities straight and to be more selfish with my time and energy.
3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Where flava’ meets prestige. Fresh Prince was that show that you could turn on and get a good laugh and learn a lesson. The biggest lesson; to never forget where you came from. Although Will lived with his rich aunt and uncle, the 90’s TV show always kept a piece of Philly with him, and he still executed his goals. Sure, Will got himself into a few awkward situations, but that’s what made him human and authentic. It’s what made the show so vibrant. It was a remixed version of The Cosby Show in the sense that it displayed Black people “making it.” The uncle was a successful judge, and the aunt was both a lawyer and professor with prep school kids. America got a chance to see the many faces of the Black family, making the show gold.
If you EVER needed a good laugh, Martin gave it to you. The 90’s TV show, showed us a variety of people and personalities in the hood. The television appropriate versions of course. Martin taught us how to laugh in unfortunate and incredibly awkward situations. It took us through a journey of the Black male ego as we watched Martin make decisions based off of his pride and his definition of what being a man was. It showed us the soft side of a Black man when it came to love. The chemistry between Martin and Gina was undeniable and showed us that Black men can still be down with his boys and have an honest relationship with a woman of substance without being called a sucka. Martin was the epitome of 90’s television and was a mixture of Black friendship between men and women and their everyday lives.
Moesha was the IT girl of teenage Black television. She was living most Black girls dreams. Growing into a young beautiful Black woman who was seeking her independence in her own way. Mo was sassy, smart, a good friend, woke and dated all of the fine guys. It was nice to see a Black girl take the center stage and become a household name. Moesha along with the movie Poetic Justice made braids popular. It helped many Black mothers find a cute new comfortable style for their daughters to wear. Not only did Moesha give Black girls, a “look,” she also taught us how to be independent young women and to chase our dreams before any boy. Mo was Black girl magic and let us know that it was cool to be a Black girl, even when people tried to tear that notion down.
These 90’s TV shows were a critical part of my foundation as a Black woman millennial. In times where things are constantly changing, and people try to change with the times, Black television in the 90’s was a defining moment in Black entertainment and moved us forward.
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