Los Angeles, the city Will Smith makes his temporary home. Also LA is the rival city of New York City which Jay Gatsby makes his temporary home. What makes these comparisons even greater than they originally were is that these cities are so similar in structure with having multiple social districts. We see the home of Will Smith in Bel Air being the home of the young rich and Jay Gatsby being from West Egg, the home of New York’s young rich. These two locations serve as the main staging areas for the characters lives in their stories. Along with that we have New York’s Valley of Ashes which can be compared to Los Angeles’s Compton. The only big difference in these is that no one makes it out of the Valley of Ashes where as in Compton there were the rare few who were able to climb out of the pit. The East Egg comparison is a bit more vague because it would Beverly Hills, but we do not see any major characters come from their in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The city of LA and NYC themselves serve as the mixing pot for these places. Other than Jazz’s visits Will’s house that always end in him being thrown out by Uncle Phil, we never see character from either city mix into places other than the main city areas. One example is Tom and Myrtle, who would always meet up and hook up in New York City, but never at one or the others home. Gatsby, Tom, Nick, and Daisy all start at Tom’s house, but shortly after go into New York. As for Will and company, they are always seen together at school or the mall in the LA and rarely is it more than just family at the Banks house.
Who is Hilary Banks? Hilary is the daughter of Uncle Phil and cousin/step-sister of Will Smith. She is also the host of her own daytime talk show with a title you would never guess, “Hilary”. She is very self-absorbed and ignorant, as well as, having no awareness for the people around her unless it directly affects her. Much like Hilary Banks, Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby is much like her if not worse than her.
Jordan Baker may not have her own TV show, but she is a self-acclaimed professional tennis player. Self-acclaimed because that is a lie, but no one cares to investigate it so she can still live in the lie of her tennis fame. Another her and Hilary share are that for the most part they do their own thing. They both almost completely randomly show up and leave at their own accord and act or build up their reputation almost completely on their own not counting the funds they receive from their parents. Which brings up another point, both of them basically just received money from their parents whenever they want. Hilary made up reasons, whether they were true or not, to get money from Uncle Phil which sometimes worked out, but also sometimes had major backfires. For Jordan, we never really see any interactions with any of her relatives because she is not necessarily a main character, which we also see somewhat with Hilary, although both are still important characters.
The next character in this series is Will Smith’s cousin and in the show is basically his step-brother, Carlton Banks. Carlton is an incredibly book smart young man who has always had a life of luxury and great promise thanks to how his father, Uncle Phil raised him and gave him the ability to have the education he did. He also has an urge to prove that he is better than Will without any hostilities or true competitions, but just by living life in his grand way.
Who else do we know lives like this? Tom Buchannan perhaps. Looking at Tom’s upbringing he had a luxurious childhood living off of daddy’s money and being given a great education, and unlike Carlton was athletically gifted and most likely had special training because of his family’s wealth. Carlton to Will is also like comparing Tom to Gatsby minus the whole thing with Tom basically sending a hitman to kill Gatsby. For Tom and Gatsby, it is a battle between old money and new money. Tom has his club of old money men that they prefer to keep as exclusive as possible, and Gatsby with the new money who seeks to gain popularity and rise to the social stature of these old money men. Carlton and Will do not have as intense of a rivalry and it tends to be more of a back and forth kind of thing where neither side truly seeks to be the other, but in some ways they try to non-mockingly imitate one another. Because of this Carlton is the Tom of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air world.
Who in the world of Gatsby could be The Fresh Prince of Bel Air counter part to D.J. Jazzy Jeff or better known as simply Jazz? Well only one man truly harnesses the spontaneous and free spirited life of Jazz, Gatsby’s music man, Klipspringer. Hearing the words “spontaneous” and “free spirited” would make most think of Gatsby himself, but Gatsby was a man tied down by his desire for his true love. Klipspringer on the other hand is man of action and of the moment much like we see Jazz in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Jazz lives in the moment at all times. We see this when he spontaneously gets married and when him and his wife decide they want kids. He never has a defined plan for what he wants to do with his life, but just goes with the flow. We see this in Klipspringer too. The reader is never informed of how Gatsby and the talented musician came into contact, but we see the same instance go on with Jazz as well. Jazz mysteriously winds up as the caddie for a rich man who is later identified by Will to be Lakers superstar, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem’s wealth is just a tad more legit than Gatsby’s, but both men are extremely wealthy, and both Jazz and Klipspringer appear to just happen to be going with the flow and somehow end up working easy jobs for a rich men and receive great rewards in return as well.
The next comparison of The Great Gatsby and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is the main character’s love interests. With Will Smith, we see the character’s love interest show up later in the show’s timeline, known as Lisa Wilkes. Lisa shows up in Season 5 where she becomes the first woman who can tame Will’s player ways and turn him into an honest and loyal man. The Great Gatsby’s comparison is Daisy Buchannon, Gatsby’s love interest. Gatsby desires to relight the flame that he and Daisy once had before he went off to war.
How could these two characters’ situations be similar? Well when you look at both of these characters they’re obviously the main love interests, but even more so the runaway lovers of these characters. Will Smith runs off to Las Vegas to marry Lisa Wilkes, although it falls through, and Gatsby and Daisy fall in love before he goes off to the war. Both of these love interests have a first great spark, but then through time have a fall that leads into a kind of silence. Obviously, Gatsby’s relationship fades because he goes off to war, but Will’s fades because of lack of trust in Lisa which even expands to not knowing if Lisa’s name is actually Lisa. Daisy and Lisa both have second chances at the love life, but both are ruined. Gatsby’s was ruined by tragedy and death, but Will and Lisa tried a second time and they have Will’s mother and Lisa’s father go out to dinner together and end up deciding they want to get married making Will and Lisa step-brother and step-sister and keeping them from trying to get married a second time.
This comparison may come off as strange or unseen for those familiar with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. How could Fitzgerald’s storyteller, Nick Carraway, be similar to that of the butler. Well, they have more in common than meets the eye. If you take away from the fact that Nick narrates Fitzgerald’s story, he makes no real impacts on the story by his own device, but instead does what others instruct him to do. Sounds like a servant or perhaps a butler right?
Geoffrey, the do-it-all butler of the Banks household, is an accurate representation of Nick and his role in The Great Gatsby, but Geoffrey does more as a character in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air than Nick does as a character in The Great Gatsby. Nick’s only real role in the story is to be a servant to Gatsby and assist him in whatever way necessary to get him back with Daisy. However, Geoffrey’s role may not to be to reunite Will Smith with the love of his life, Geoffrey serves as Will’s caretaker, as well as, the Banks family. Geoffrey and Nick are both just servants of the protagonists of their stories which is why, although surprising, they are so similar in their roles in the novel.
As stated in my last post, both Will Smith(right) and Jay Gatsby had strong father figures who helped them through their late teenage years into their lives as young adults. Will Smith’s father figure was Uncle Phil(left), is a big part of Will’s maturity and also helps him to realize the bigger parts of life just like Dan Cody did for Jay Gatsby when he took him around the world and taught him about the life he would face as well as making him culturally aware for the world ahead.
Uncle Phil helps Will to mature in the high school and understand the world as a young black man. Will is taught all the disadvantages of being a black man and how to combat these disadvantages that he will face. Not only does Uncle Phil teach him this, but he also serves as an example of how to thrive as a black man in the United States. We see this in The Great Gatsby through Gatsby’s relationship with Dan Cody. Dan picks him up from his job of labor on a lake and takes him sailing around the world teaching him life lessons and getting him in contact with people to help him advance quickly in New York society as well as his fortune when he passed away. Both of these mentors set up these young adults to have successful lives once they are on their own in the world.
Without the valuable lessons, advice and gifts these men gave to these young adults, they would not have become the men they grew up to be even though they still made their own mistakes.
The Fresh Prince, Will Smith, as in the character in the show, shares many similarities with Jay Gatsby. One similarity they have is their beginnings and how they went from one social class to a much higher one. Both Will and Gatsby were born into relatively low class families, but in their late teenage years came across where they would rise in social class. During their time with the people of wealth they also learn plenty of life lessons and how to live in this upper class. Gatsby receives this experience through Dan Cody by sailing the world with him and learning all about cultures and gaining knowledge of life with wealth after Dan Cody pulled him from being a clam-digger and salmon-fisher. Will attains his knowledge after being sent to Bel Air by his mom after being roughed up at home and living with family their, but more specifically, Uncle Phil. He teaches Will plenty of life lessons and teaches him the value of money, as well as important lessons about the society that Will lives in. Another similarity these characters share is the environments these characters move into. Bel Air being in Hollywood and West Egg being in New York City take these young adults into the two largest cities in the United States. Both have to adjust to this new way of life with Will going to a new school along with creating a new image in Bel Air and Gatsby “taking over” a new neighborhood with all his parties while remaining mysterious. Both of these characters also have very little friends when they move, but because of their social abilities grow popularity very quickly. These and even more reasons are what make The Great Gatsby and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air similar even though time and location are different.