The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a story about Will Smith, a guy from Philly who got into a bit too much trouble and ended up being carted off to California to live with his aunt and uncle. His time in the Banks household permanently changed the family, but their habits and lifestyle also rubbed off on him as well.
This was especially true when it came to Will’s relationship with his stuffy cousin Carlton Banks, a full-on Bel-Air socialite with big aspirations and an ego to match. As their relationship grew, both learned from one another in funny, sad, and uplifting ways. Here are just a few of the many examples.
10 Will Learned Etiquette
By all accounts, Carlton Banks was the model son. He scored high in school, he participated on the debate team and the glee club, and he’d been forging a bright future by rubbing shoulders with powerful businessmen and political leaders with pinpoint etiquette and style.
Though he sometimes came off as phony in his attempt to kiss up, Carlton nevertheless knew the finer points of etiquette. He helped Will on more than one occasion, beginning with a hilarious first season episode where he trained Will on which utensil to use at what time while at the dinner table, and also how to abandon his wild 90s clothing and dress like a gentleman.
9 Carlton Learned Street Smarts
It’s safe to say that Carlton’s ritzy lifestyle in Bel-Air had shielded him from the so-called “real life” that everyone else lived each day. As an underprivileged inner-city youth, Will knew this better than anyone. He forced Carlton to live up to the reality that money couldn’t solve all problems.
He also taught Carlton how to recognize the unwritten rules of the street, whether they were honor-based or criminal in nature. He exposed him to a way of life that was shady grey, instead of clear cut black and white.
8 Will Learned The Value Of Hard Work
Will had gone through life a slacker, and that kind of attitude is what got him into trouble in the first place. His carefree attitude didn’t sit well with Phil and Vivian Banks, two politically conservative career professionals who wanted to instill the values of hard work onto their children.
Carlton was there to remind Will that if he wanted the best out of life, he’d have to work hard for it instead of trying to charm his way through. It was a lesson Will took to heart as he started applying his natural talents that had been ignored for so long.
7 Carlton Learned Dating Tips
Carlton wasn’t a model player by any stretch of the imagination, and his love life wasn’t enough to ignite a match. Will was quick to jump in and give him some pointers on how to be cool and attractive to the opposite sex. Naturally, this oftentimes resulted in great hilarity.
Although Will’s cringe-worthy pickup lines and boisterous approach were more miss than hit, he was farther up on the dating food chain than his cousin. When Carlton was able to implement Will’s lessons while mixing his real self into the equation, he did find success. Unfortunately, it was short-lived.
6 Will Learned About The Dangers Of Drugs
Carlton taught Will one of the most valuable life lessons, albeit unknowingly, and certainly not by choice. It all started in one of the show’s best-rated episodes when the pressure of Will’s academic and extracurricular life began catching up to him. A fellow student gave Will some speed pills in order to stay awake and provide a boost.
Unfortunately, Carlton got to them first without realizing what they were. He instantly turned into a motorhead bounding with insane energy that exhausted his body and sent him to the hospital. Though it sometimes appeared like Carlton and Will weren’t real friends, this particular episode proved that Will loved his cousin dearly.
5 Carlton Learned To Face His Fears
After Uncle Phil suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital, the incident scared Carlton so much that he was reluctant to go and visit. It was his first brush with the idea of mortality and the thought of losing his idealized hero.
Will was forced to bring some tough love to the game and remind Carlton that his behavior was inherently selfish. He chastised him for not appreciating the fact that he had a father, while Will did not. It was enough to shake Carlton up and get him to face his fears, which was the responsible thing to do.
4 Will Learned Not To Underestimate Carlton
Fed up with Carlton’s stuck up attitude and rich-boy demeanor, Will challenged him to a bet which involved dropping him off in Compton for a few hours in order to smarten him up. Unfortunately, the entire plan backfired with hilarious effect when Carlton bloomed into an instant tough guy.
Now going by the name “C-Note,” Carlton had won the respect of Jazz’s entire street crew, teaching them the finer points about “douchemarks” and other financial advice. Though he didn’t admit it, Will was secretly proud of Carlton for stepping up, even if he almost took it too far.
3 Carlton Learned To Stop The Cycle
The season 5 episode Bullets Over Bel-Air touched on a poignant subject matter involving Will getting shot during an ATM robbery. Carlton is so traumatized by the experience that he begins to question everything from the justice system to society in general.
When Carlton decides to buy a gun for “protection,” Will instantly realizes that he’s done so out of anger and rage, instead of self-defense. He demands Carlton turn over the gun and cool off, rather than walk around armed with an axe to grind.
2 Will Learned The Carlton Dance
It took some time, but Will finally came around to join in on the famous Carlton dance, even if he didn’t quite have the same swagger and style. Carlton did this dance whenever he was triggered by the sound of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual,” and it became one of the signature staples of the show.
The final episode of the series saw Will coaxing Carlton into the dance one final time, but he also decided to take a stab at it. It would prove to be one of the great bonding moments between the two in an already tear-jerking finale.
1 Carlton Learned To Have Fun
Carlton was by no means a negative person, but his strict upbringing and schedule-based lifestyle meant he’d been effectively stuck in a bubble for most of his young years. Will’s arrival in Bel-Air changed all of that, probably for the better.
Although Will got Carlton into plenty of trouble, he also showed him a different side of life beyond extracurricular activities and studying. It was a lesson Carlton took with him even after the Banks family was prepared to move on.