The idea that NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, starring Will Smith, isn’t set in the wealthy neighborhood of Los Angeles, but the actually the afterlife, initially seems preposterous. However dig a little deeper and you’ll see there are nearly a dozen reasons why such an outlandish theory could make perfect sense. But be warned, you may never look at this feel-good 1990s comedy the same again.
10. Smith was killed in a brawl
The whole theory begins with the “one little fight” that the titular character refers to in the show’s infectious theme tune. Could it have turned out to be a fatal one? Some viewers believe that Smith was sent to the afterlife after being stabbed or shot during the scuffle.
Indeed Smith claims that his mother sent him from his West Philadelphia home to his aunt and uncle’s house in Bel-Air, Los Angeles, to save him from a life on the streets. But the character, essentially a fictionalized version of the real larger-than-life Smith, may be unaware that it is already too late. Sure this is a dark theory, but it’s one which surprisingly holds some weight.
9. Smith had to be put in a coma
However according to some, Smith didn’t die instantly. In the show’s theme tune, the character raps, “I begged and pleaded with her day after day. But she packed my suitcase and sent me on my way. She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket. Put my Walkman on and said I might as well.”
This could suggest Smith was put into a coma following his “one little fight.” And to make matters worse, his mother may have then been forced to make the agonizing decision over whether to disconnect her son’s life support machine. Could the ticket she gave him have been a one-way journey to heaven?
8. The theme tune references Smith’s concerns about heaven
And then there’s the following verse, where Smith wonders how he’ll cope living with a different class of people in Bel-Air. Or if the theory is to be believed, what his life will be like in heaven. He raps, “First class yo this is bad. Drinkin’ orange juice out of a champagne glass. Is this what the people of Bel-Air live like?”
Smith continues, “But wait I hear they’re prissy, bourgeois, and all that. Is this the type of place that they just send this cool cat? I don’t think so, I’ll see when I get there. I hope they’re prepared for the prince of Bel-Air.” Of course, Smith soon discovers that he fits right into the place with the utmost of ease.
7. God is Smith’s taxi driver
There’s also a theory that the mysterious taxi driver who transports Smith from West Philadelphia to Bel-Air is a well-known face. Indeed, many believe that it is none other than world-famous music producer Quincy Jones. The star is best known for his pioneering production work with Michael Jackson.
Jeffrey Townes, who played Smith’s best friend Jazzy Jeff in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, has dismissed the idea as “another urban legend.” However there’s another theory surrounding the cabbie’s identity which still prevails: the driver is none other than the almighty God.
6. The Bel-Air house is heaven
The opulent Bel-Air mansion that God, or whoever the taxi driver is, takes Smith to could be deemed heavenly. But some believe that Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian’s home is actually heaven itself. The fact that both its exterior and interior is predominantly white is seen the most glaring proof for this theory.
And there’s a further theory to back up this argument: Will’s lack of any genuine hardships. His luxurious lifestyle while residing at the mansion apparently suggests that he’s actually in heaven.
5. The episode that alludes to Smith’s tragic demise
There is one particular moment in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s long run where Smith is forced to confront something more serious. And that’s in the season five episode “Bullets Over Bel-Air.” Here Smith saves sidekick Carlton’s life, jumping in front of a bullet for him after getting caught up in a gun-toting ATM robbery.
While recovering in hospital, Smith is visited by Carlton, now brandishing a gun for self-defense. The pair get into a heated conversation about the dangers of such weapons before Carlton hands his friend the gun. According to some theorists, this story represents Smith coming to terms with his own mortality.
4. Jazz is terminally ill
Perhaps the darkest part of the theory relates to Jazz. In a running joke, Uncle Phil is often seen literally throwing the mischief-maker out of his house. Jazz’s constant attempts to hit on Smith’s eldest cousin Hilary is the main reason why he can regularly be seen hurtling through the air. However could this visual joke represent something much more macabre?
Some fans believe that Jazz is actually constantly toing and froing between the real world and the afterlife due to a terminal illness. When he’s in the mansion he’s seeing the white light. But when he’s yanked out a doctor always manages to save him.
3. Smith’s parents are in fact visiting his grave
Smith’s loving mom Viola very rarely makes the journey to the Bel-Air mansion to see her son. Could her occasional appearances in fact represent the times that she makes the trip to his grave?
Meanwhile Lou, Smith’s estranged father, is an even less frequent visitor. Indeed he only arrives on the scene towards the end of the fourth season in the “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” episode. But could his lengthy absence be because he’d only heard about his son’s death much later than everyone else?
2. Boyz II Men are angels
Boyz II Men once scored the US Billboard Hot 100’s longest-running chart-topper with “One Sweet Day.” The collaboration with singer Mariah Carey was written about a lost loved one shining down from heaven. Could this have been inspired by their guest appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air two years previously?
The R&B vocal harmony group famously saved the day when they performed “Silent Night” in the festive episode, “’Twas the Night Before Christening.” The group showcased their famous harmonies while walking down the church aisle at Nicky’s christening. But some believe that instead of playing themselves, the quartet were actually portraying a choir of angels.
1. Jazzy Jeff is wowed by the theory
In 2015 Jazzy Jeff – aka Jeffrey Townes – jumped into the debate surrounding Smith’s supposed death. Admittedly Townes did tell the Huffington Post that he found the theory so far-fetched it made him laugh. However he was still impressed by the commitment fans had to justifying the idea.
Townes said, “To see someone take all of that stuff and almost create a whole world around it, you’re kind of like, ‘Wow, it wasn’t that deep.’” But the actor – whose character is supposedly stuck in some sort of purgatory – wasn’t finished. “That’s amazing that their brain took it there.” Amazing indeed!