Jazz's Treatment On 'The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air' Was Tragic
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was known for two things 1) the iconic theme song, and 2) the ability to blend humor and deep sentimentality into almost every episode. Do you want to cry on cue? No need to pull the eyelashes out of your face. Just watch this:
Will might be a kid from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, and his troublemaking antics might annoy Uncle Phil to no end, but that's what makes Uncle Phil's empathy and persistence in guiding Will all the more heartwarming. But there's one character on Fresh Prince who would be perfectly entitled not to get any fuzzy-feelies during those moments, and that character is Jazz.
Do you remember Jazz? He's Will's best friend who made a name for himself by exiting the Banks household like this:
In my opinion, Jazz is the most tragic figure on the show, but it's easy not to feel sympathy for him. For one, he shrugs off punishment from Uncle Phil's tosses like Daffy Duck shaking off a shotgun blast. Also, he makes an effort to hit on Uncle Phil's daughter, Hillary, in just about every appearance. So certainly Uncle Phil has every reason to throw Jazz's rude ass out of his home.
But when you consider Uncle Phil's patience and empathy for Will, you start to realize that Jazz has gotten a raw deal. Yes, Jazz is aggressive in his pursuit of Hillary, but he's no more aggressive than Will is with just about every woman he meets. Yes, Will's abrasive antics could be explained by his hard upbringing in West Philadelphia, but Jazz grew up in Compton, which is arguably an even tougher place to live. The main difference between Jazz and Will is that Will had the fortune of getting to live with the Banks family while Jazz was stuck getting the boot.
Think about how hard this must be for Jazz. Every time he sees the Banks family he's made to feel less than, just for being himself. He even tries to ingratiate himself to the family, like in season six, when he brings Uncle Phil false teeth as a birthday gift, but his gestures are only met with more physical abuse and belittlement. Granted, bringing someone fake teeth as a birthday gift is less a function of lower class and more just being weird, but it still doesn't merit being launched from the front porch like a toy rocket. Meanwhile, Will constantly harangues Uncle Phil for his age and weight and is rewarded by going to prep school.
It's not just that Jazz's current life situation is rough, although that's part of it:
It's that he's constantly faced with what his life could have been like had he just gotten a little luckier. But that's how it goes. It's wonderful to see the transformation of Will's character from pilot to series end, but if you want to know how Will might have ended up without the virtue and love of Uncle Phil, then look no further than Jazz.
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Top Image: Warner Bros/ Quincy Jones Entertainment