The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast reunited yesterday, according to an Instagram photo shared by Alfonso Ribeiro, who played preppy middle sibling Carlton Banks on the show. It was a moment of pure nostalgia for fans of the best sitcom ever — yeah, I said it. In addition to Ribeiro, the photo included Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, Daphne Maxwell Reid, and obviously Will Smith. However, there seemed to be a unified thought on everyone’s mind about who was missing from the picture.
James Avery, the actor who played Uncle Phil, passed away after complications from open heart surgery in 2013. In his caption, Ribeiro acknowledged Avery’s absence, as did many fans in the comment section.
However, die-hard fans of The Fresh Prince are salty about the absence of someone who is very much alive and well. Despite the cast's best efforts to make us like her, the Fresh Prince fandom will never accept Reid as Aunt Vivian Banks. We just don’t see it for her, not in 1993 when they forced her into our lives, not now, not ever. She lacked personality, style, and pizazz, and felt generally stale amongst the rest of her fictional family. Complex ranked her the second most-hated sitcom character of all time — second only to Leonard from Big Bang Theory. The only Aunt Viv we acknowledge is Janet Hubert, also known as dark-skinned Aunt Viv.
The complexion delineator matters. When Smith and his team decided to give Hubert the axe, they started a problematic trend. In addition to Fresh Prince, sitcoms like Family Matters and My Wife & Kids casually replaced dark-skinned Black actresses, casting those with lighter skin. Historically, Black people with lighter skin tones have been privileged as a result of anti-Black colorism. For Black women, those of us with darker skin are often considered less attractive and feminine. Reid’s introduction to the show stung in more ways than one.
The word on the street is that Hubert was difficult to work with and created tension among her cast mates. The hostility between her and Smith has been on display for decades with no resolution in sight. But the unfortunate truth is that Hubert was better for the job. She brought Black girl magic to The Fresh Prince and the show suffered when she left. For fans, her absence from the reunion picture is almost as tragic as Avery’s.