"The first Aunt Viv was the best Aunt Viv." Not only is this an undeniable fact about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it’s also a line in The Hate U Give. I had been meaning to read it. It was on my list. Then, on Saturday, Lainey basically threatened me over text to start reading. So, I hopped on the Angie Thomas bandwagon and holy sh-t, I am so glad I did. This is a post about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast reunion and I’ll get there, promise, but since the show is referenced multiple times in The Hate U Give, I’m going to use this as another opportunity to yell at you to read it. READ IT. Sob. Laugh. Scream. Sigh. LIVE. Those are all the things that will happen when you read Angie Thomas’s book. She does so much with her words. I’m only on chapter 6 because I keep taking breaks to process and to highlight and to re-read. There are a lot of ways in which I feel connected to Starr but the most superficial connection is our mutual love of Fresh Prince and an allegiance to First Aunt Viv.
The debate over the Aunt Vivs was reignited yesterday when Alfonso Ribeiro aka Carlton Banks posted this to Instagram.
This photo makes me so happy on a lot of levels. Will looks great – front and center, of course. Ashley’s face is the exact same. Hilary is straight fire. She looks STUNNING. Geoffrey’s smile! Carlton has aged exactly how you expected Carlton to have aged, outdated Jheri curl and all. But there are two people noticeably missing from Alfonso’s “Fresh Prince family” photo: Uncle Phil (RIP James Avery) and OG Aunt Viv. Black Twitter hilariously refers to Janet Hubert as “dark skin Aunt Viv.” If you’ve been keeping up with the behind-the-scenes history of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you know why Janet Hubert was missing from this reunion. It’s the same reason why OG Aunt Viv left the show after season 3. To put it mildly, Janet Hubert and Will Smith do not get along. Click here for a refresher on the beef. Hubert has called out Smith publicly multiple times calling him an “asshole” and an “egomaniac.” She said she’d never do a reunion unless Will Smith issued her a public apology. In response, Will took the high road because he’s Will Smith and it’s a dick move to sh-t on the one without a career. So, it makes sense that Aunt Viv wasn’t invited to spend the afternoon reminiscing with the cast but it doesn’t make her exclusion any less disappointing.
The only Aunt Viv I recognize is Janet Hubert. I’m sure her replacement Daphne Maxwell Reid is a nice enough lady but when she came in, Aunt Viv was stripped of all the things we loved about the character. Aside from the uncomfortable cultural implications that come with replacing a dark-skinned black actress with a light-skinned actress, the switch hurt because First Aunt Viv was a badass who stood up to Uncle Phil on the regular and could put the kids in their place with a look. She was bold, always outspoken, hilarious and smart as hell. Second Aunt Viv was soft-spoken, sweet and way too nice. She had us asking, “Where’s Aunt Viv?” for seasons. Janet Hubert is clearly a strong personality and if you believe the rumours, she clashed with Will Smith because she wanted more air time. Not a smart move when the dude you’re beefing with on a show called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is literally the prince in this scenario. So, Janet Hubert may have been in the wrong here but I can’t help but think of what her career could have been if she had stayed on the series.
She may never get invited to any future Fresh Prince reunions but if the Twitter reaction to this photo is any indication, the Internet will always give Janet Hubert the respect she deserves.
Finally, #neverforget this scene. This scene is worthy of all the Emmys.