As an 80’s baby, I grew up watching A Different World. I can honestly say that the show affected my life in a number of ways. It was the reason why I wanted to attend an HBCU. Consequently, I attended both Albany State University and The Fort Valley State University for undergrad. The first time I ever heard Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping” poem, was while watching an A Different World episode. I was just a kid but I still remember thinking to myself, “Wow I have to find this poem.” Did I mention, I’m also a poet?
The power of A Different World was its complete grounding in the African American experience. It was when Debbie Allen stepped at the beginning of the second season that the show really started molding towards this trajectory. A Different World started off as a Cosby Show spin off, following Denise to college and ended as a show with a massive following and fan base completely its own.
There are a slew of memorable episodes but here are my top 5.
1. The “A World Alike” episode aired in 1990, when I was five years old. I saw it a number of times as a re-run. It was one of the first times I heard African Americans speaking about what I would later come to understand as Pan-Africanism. The students at Hillman College were putting pressure on their school to divest from South Africa and cut off all connections with any companies that engaged in business with South Africa during the apartheid era. It was real life worldwide protests like this that supported South African freedom fighters and helped bring additional awareness about the horrors of apartheid in South Africa.
2. The “Mammy Dearest” episode aired in 1991. Kim, an aspiring doctor recounted how she was called “Mammy” as a child, after she dressed up as a queen. The pain of this stuck with her, as a young dark skinned Black girl. Meanwhile, Whitley struggled with the new found knowledge that her family had owned slaves. It was during this episode that Kim triumphantly performed Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping.” She shed the mammy stereotype and was re-crowned queen (I’m pretty sure I practiced this scene about 10 times. My favorite line was, “I turned myself into myself, and was Jesus.”
3. The “No Means No” episode aired in 1989. In this episode Dwayne learns that one of his friends is a rapist. His friend Garth bragged to him about forcing a girl to have sex. Garth says, “Once we got started, she started putting up a fuss. You know how they are. They wanna do it but they just can’t give it up. It’s our job to let them off the hook.” Dwayne then realizes that his friend Freddie who has a date with Garth, is in danger. He rescues her right as Garth is trying to rape her. This episode does a great job of defining rape with its mantra, “No means no!” There is no confusion or excuses.
4. The “Love Taps” episode aired in 1992. In this episode Gina attempts to hide her abusive relationship with Dion, a local rapper. With black-eyes and bruises, Gina is caught in the cycle of abuse and is unsure how to escape. Her friend Lena tries to help her but she is too ashamed to accept assistance. Once the rumor spreads about her painful truth everything unveils and her circle of friends comes to support and protect her. This is what needs to happen in real life. So many Black women are in abusive relationships and not enough receive the support that is needed in order to break away from them. The episode also touches on the recursive nature of abuse. Dion recounts how his father beat his mother. In real life many abusers grow up in domestic violence environments and grow up to become perpetrators themselves. Most importantly this episodes shows Black women AND Black men coming to her defense.
5. “Save The Best For Last”, known to many at Whitley and Dwayne’s wedding episode is one of my absolute favorites. It aired in 1992. I don’t advocate someone storming into an ex-girlfriend’s wedding to confess their undying love and steal the bride. However, this episode showcases a powerful bond and love between two Black people that is not seen enough on television or anywhere in the media for that matter. I also rewound this scene a number of times.
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Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
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11 thoughts on “Top 5 Phenomenal A Different World Episodes”
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I spent two hours watching all of these episodes yesterday like I’ve never seen them before.
The Love Taps episode was a good one. I like how Ron instantly took up for her. He was ready to rumble for real.
I am plesantly pleased to see that 40% of your reviews made references to mutual and global topics, as oppossed to hating on males. We need Black woman to engage on a positive spend on the subject of relationships. There is way too much focus on enpowering women until Black men are deem worthless. Majority of the Black females are buying into this self hatred. If you Love yourself and your Race, and you have a good man, why does it matters if he dosn’t make as much money as you do? Consider yourself just as able, as a man, that provides for your family, and supports another adult that has equal choices and responsibilities on making decisions.
Your comment is so ignorant and beside the point of this post that I threw up in my mouth a little bit.
Typically unable to swallow the TRUTH… My point exactly…
I was a big Lisa bonet admirer so I was a little put off as her presence decreased and nerdy Dwayne’s and Ron’s, Whitley’s snobbish, and other goofball characters increased, but soon Dwayne won me over as did Ron and Whitney (though sinbad never did) and I began to enjoy it more…even the preachy years, though I couldn’t hang til the end. It just got too preachy / message-moral driven. But overall one of the better black shows in the history of television. Nice post! Maybe I’ll give these a second look. Haven’t watched them since they were first run. Maybe the nostalgia factor will increase my enjoyment of them. I wonder if they’ve stood the test of time, or are too dated though. Btw, I’m a child of the 70s, when good times, Sanford &son and the Jeffersons ruled black television. We’ve come a long way, in some ways, but in others, not so much. From What’s Happening and Different Strokes, to Cosby and different world, to NbA wives and love & Hiphop… Nuff said
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip back in time. A Different World was a great show! Lots of lessons there.
I love A Different World, it was one of my top 5 favorite TV shows of all time, and I STILL get to watch it Monday-Friday on TV-One!!! Yay, for Dwayne!!
I recently found a DVD of A Different World that belonged to my older daughter and gave it to my 21 year old daughter. She enjoyed watching the episodes and has asked if I had anymore. I don’t, but I will tell her to look for episodes on TV-One. I must say that I also enjoyed watching these clips. I think it inspired many Black youths to want to attend college, particularly the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. But, I look at the youths of today and I wonder. Are the students of today investing more into the college life of fun and games than they do into the academics? How prepared are they for life after college???
No better show than a Different World, So refreshing and positive. Nothing but the best memories and laughter for a show well done.
Everyone who knows me knows I LOVE LOVE LOVE A Different World. Watching this show growing up made me want to go to Hillman so much that when it came time to choose a school for my undergraduate experience I only had eyes for an HBCU. I started at Hampton University and finished at Morgan State University. I don’t know why there is only a dvd set for the first season because there were so many powerful lessons to catch in watching this series. AND YES MY FAVORITE EPISODE OF ALL TIME is the wedding when Dwayne shouts “BABY PLEASE!” that makes me tear up everytime. Can somebody please let Ms. Allen know we need this on DVD?