People in their late 30s and early 40s are facing a unique time where this new generation has started to point out some of the problematic things when it comes to the movies and shows we used to love. What are some of their examples? Topanga from “Boy Meets World” made a terrible decision regarding college (she did, though), Steve Urkel’s constant pursuit of Laura Winslow on “Family Matters” was not only problematic but a little #metooish (shhh, it kinda was), and Zack Morris of “Save by the Bell” was an obvious sociopath (FACTS! And his adult character in the reboot being governor of California is problematic and super realistic.)
Essentially, we Gen Xers have found that some of the shows that brought us joy when we were younger have us over-explaining what the writers “really meant” to our nieces, nephews, and kids. This usually results in us screaming in exasperation, “It was the 80s/90s!”
Hey guys? We get it. Our childhood movies and shows are problematic by today’s standards. We knoooooooow!
But there is one opinion that I will not stand for in this here Twenty of Twenties:
“Whitley should’ve ended up with Byron Douglas instead of Dwayne Wayne.”
I came across this asinine opinion post after following a thread about “A Different World.” And then the keyboard warriors started to chime in:
“Yaaaas! He was a senator. She deserved to be his wife.”
“I AGREE!!! Dwayne was a nerd, and plus, he liked Denise anyway.”
“Right?! Dwayne Wayne didn’t have the money to handle what she needed. Byron and Whitley are relationship goals.”
“In real life, they would have never ended up together.”
What?! Are you people insane?
This is why you–this is exactly why your last relationship—-I cannot believe you have the audacity to think—-
(Hyperventilates into paper bag)
Ok……ok. It’s been a while since we’ve talked so maybe I need to approach this with a touch of intellect, as I often do, so that you can understand why Whitley ending up with Dwayne was the most perfect of endings of any sitcom from that era….and LIFE!
The Reason Why Dwayne Was The Best Choice
The rules for this argument are simple: Only Debbie Allen’s version of “A Different World” is canon. This means the main characters’ ages and Dwayne’s crush on Denise are the only things that carry over from season one. That’s it! (Plus, true “A Different World” fans only acknowledge Seasons 2-6.)
Now, I could base my argument on the fact that Whitley and Dwayne being a thing was first hinted at in Season 2: Episode 4, when she starts having Freudian dreams after an encounter with him at a party. This interaction (albeit problematic) ignites romantic feelings and confuses them both. And although they both try to dismiss it, it is mutual.
Or I could use the argument that by Season 3: Episode 1, Whitley realized that Dwayne could be suave and debonair and goofy, depending on what the situation called for. Thus making him a renaissance man of sorts.
Or I could use the argument that by Episode 5 of that same season, they finally gave in to those feelings after Denise legitimately pulled the worst possible lead-on in the history of romantic misunderstandings. (If you wanna talk about problematic, let’s talk about Denise Huxtable in that episode.)
Or I could use the fact that he was always Whitley’s shoulder to lean on, chest to cry on, and her most trusted confidant.
Or I could use the argument that in Season 4: Episode 8, they had a very adult conversation before they started their real relationship. Apologizing for their past mistakes and setting guidelines for their future. (And they reestablished some more ground rules in Episode 9)
Or I could absolutely use the argument that on her wedding day (after the attempted closure between her and Dwayne), there was a twinge of sadness when she spoke of marrying Byron (Season 4: Episodes 24/25), which was partnered with her desperate, passive-aggressive attempts to get someone, anyone, to stop the wedding.
And while Dwayne and Whitley did have setbacks, misunderstandings, and arguments, ultimately, when they did end up together, they were good for each other. They were friends first. She kept him from being too rigid, while he kept her grounded and encouraged her to discover that she wasn’t just “arm candy” for some man; she was Whitley. (An actual thing she acknowledges in Season 4: Episode 24)
I could use all of those as arguments. And collectively, they could show that sometimes the goofy 19-year-old nerd, and a 19-year-old bougie princess, can grow up together and be compassionate, loving, challenging, caring partners who embrace the individuality and vivaciousness of the other person.
But instead… Imma use this single argument:
Whitley turned 21 in Season 3. She and Dwayne graduate and get engaged in Season 4. By the end of Season 5, she was getting married (spoiler alert) to a United States senator at a wedding that ultimately got interrupted. That means that on her wedding day, she was 23 years old.
Byron Douglass III was an established alumnus of Hillman who had spent years building daycares and restaurants all over the state of Virginia before he decided to run for the U.S. Senate, which has a minimum age requirement.
A 23-year-old woman, fresh out of college and a long-term relationship, was marrying a man she had known for three months that was, at the very least, 10-12 years her senior!
If you don’t think that would have been an obviously problematic relationship and the exact recipe for disaster…well then…I have this book you should probably read.
Yeah…this was a long commercial for the book. I mean, you might as well go read it. It’s not like you don’t have the time.
You know I’m right.