Lessons We Continue To Learn From A Different World
A Different World is hands down one of the best television shows ever – period, full stop, end of sentence. Agreed? Agreed. Even though the groundbreaking show went off the air 23 years ago, its relevance and messages remain important today.
And though ADW producer and director extraordinaire Debbie Allen said she’s working on a reboot of the show, fans have yet to hear any good news when it comes to an update. While we wait patiently for that glorious day, there are still lessons we can learn from Whitley, Dwayne, Kim, Freddie, Ron (and let’s not forget Denise in Season 1) and the Hillman College crew.
Dwayne and Whitley’s love story is one for the ages. So is Freddie and Shazza’s. Seeing these couples on screen in all their goofy, sometimes awkward, and almost always fun glory is a reminder that we need more depictions (varied depictions, please) of Black Love on television and in film.
We tune into shows for entertainment, but A Different World was a show that not only entertained but did so in a way that stressed the importance of activism in our everyday lives. Whether the characters talked about apartheid in South Africa, AIDS, or depictions of blackness in characters like the Mammy figure, ADW reminds us that there are always opportunities to learn, grow and to change the status quo, and to stand up for ourselves and each other.
Nerds Are Hot, Too
Nerds on television are still typecast in a very particular way. They typically have no style (or game), talk fast and have encyclopedic knowledge of subjects most people care nothing about. But Dwayne Wayne defied the nerd stereotype. Not only did he have a way with style, and was very good at math, but he was also kinda hot.
Saving The Planet
Freddie was the self-proclaimed Queen of Caring. But her insistence on saving the planet often fell on deaf ears. That’s still very much the case today when it comes to people spreading the word about environmental issues in particular.
There was no shortage of Black excellence on ADW, and there’s certainly no shortage of Black excellence in the real world today.
Even though it was clearly a fictional college, some folk swore up and down that they were going to attend Hillman. All joking aside, how many people attended an HBCU based on what they saw on ADW? Anyone asking whether or not HBCUs are still relevant or necessary doesn’t understand their tremendous value and importance.
Dwayne and Ron pledged Kappa Lambda Nu. That is, until Dwayne quit. Whitley and Kim were sisters in Alpha Delta Rho. No other television show paid homage to Black Greek Life quite like A Different World. Watching the show today is a reminder of the vital role Greek Life has played in countless communities.
How many times did Colonel Taylor, a.k.a., Dr. War, go above and beyond to help his students learn important concepts? He is one of a few reminders from ADW that a phenomenal teacher can make all the difference in your life. That’s the case whether you’re in elementary, middle, high school, college or post-graduate school. We never forget the teachers that influenced, encouraged, believed in us and steered us on the path toward self-discovery.
It’s not often that we see Black characters on television going to therapy, even in a comedic sense. But rest assured, its stigmatization wore off – even if just a little – when Whitley learned how to relax, relate, release.