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5 Lessons Learned from Moesha

Thanks to Netflix’s Strong Black Lead Initiative, some of our favorite Black sitcoms are coming to Netflix. So far Moesha, Sister Sister, and Girlfriends have been added to the list of available titles with more to come this fall. With Moesha being available first, I took the liberty of binge-watching like it was a Saturday in 2004. Watching the series from beginning to end with an adult lens helped me to receive a lot of the characters differently, including Miss Moesha. I am going to share a few lessons I learned from the characters on friendships, family, and just navigating life as a young adult. Spoiler Alert!

 

Lesson 1: Mind the Business that Pays You

A common thread in Moesha’s character was her ability to overstep her boundaries with virtually anyone. Maybe that is just the entitlement of being a “know-it-all teenager”, but Miss Moesha managed to stick her nose in everyone’s business. Season 2 Episode 6, Moesha practically outs Hakeem’s (Lamont Bentley) Cousin Omar after she accompanies him on a date where an old friend of his crashes the date. Now the episode simply alludes to the young man being gay but does not confirm. This leads to Moesha sharing her suspicions with Niecy (Shar Jackson) and Kim (Countess Vaughn) and rumors about Omar’s sexuality flood Crenshaw High. Omar denies the rumors, but the episodes close with a scene where Omar shares something with Hakeem at The Den while Moesha recites poetry. The episode concludes with a somber score.

I understand that this took place in the 90s where there still were not many gay characters written for tv, and the idea of someone not being straight was shocking to the mind of teenagers who were. However, the old saying “If you don’t have nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all”, still holds no matter what period. Had Moesha kept her opinions to herself, she could have saved Omar a lot of embarrassment. There are plenty of other examples of Moesha’s meddling ways, but I’ll let you binge and decide.

Lesson 2: Manifestation is Real

Kim Parker was one of Moesha’s best friends, sassy, witty, well dressed, and determined to get her man Hakeem. Kim unfortunately was the not-so-smart character, but she had other talents; she could sing, design clothes, and was the only character to successfully keep a man as she would say. But Kim had a big crush on Hakeem and the feelings were not mutual. Although, Kim had boyfriends throughout the series she still chased after her longtime crush Hakeem. Season 4 Episode 20 is the prom episode. The ladies have their dresses picked out, dates confirmed, and all that is left to do is hair and makeup. While at The Den the girls are discussing their dresses and dates. Hakeem approaches confidently thinking that Kim is awaiting his invitation to the prom. To his surprise, Kim already has a date and completely rejects him. This turn of events was refreshing because Kim deserved better and it was nice to see her win. Later at the Prom, they share a dance. This goes to show that all the time Kim spent chasing Hakeem, he enjoyed that attention and once she was no longer in pursuit of him, he did not know how to receive it.

Lesson 3: To Pity is Not to Be Kind

Season 5 Episode 17 Moesha’s Quirky roommate Theresa struggles with dating and finding her way in the college social scene. Theresa is a plus-sized girl from Alaska who is having a hard time adjusting to LA living. Moesha takes it upon herself to set her up with Hakeem’s friend Noel who is a cute nonshallow coed. He takes her on a date and they really hit off with the two sharing a kiss to end the date. Moesha has trouble believing Noel would truly be interested in dating Theresa. Theresa later confronts Moesha for playing matchmaker and being superficial.

I love that this episode acts as a mirror. In society, we decide who is valuable or attractive, and when someone does not fit that standard, we struggle to see how others would find someone “unconventionally attractive” attractive. It serves as a reminder that one standard of beauty does not fit all. We should see people for there personality and what they put out in the world as opposed to what they look like. Physical appearance should not determine how we treat each other.

Lesson 4: Fight for What You Believe In

One thing I love about Moesha’s character is her diligence to fight for what is just and fair. During Season 3, Frank Mitchell forces Moesha to leave Crenshaw High and attend Bridgewood Academy. Moesha gains an arch-nemesis, Mary Ellen, who brings her a lot of grief. In episode 14, Moesha and other young ladies are preparing for the upcoming Debutante Ball. Frank and Dee are very excited for Moesha to participate in this coming-of-age moment. There is a hick-up when Mary Ellen is dismissed from the Ball due to becoming pregnant. When the girls hear of this, some gossip and shame her. However, Moesha immediately comes to her defense. Moesha felt that Mary Ellen being pregnant should not disqualify her since she sold her ad spaces and attended all rehearsals. Moesha tries to talk to the director to change her mind, but that does not work, so she encourages the other girls to join her in boycotting the ball. Moesha is the only participant to follow through with the boycott. I enjoyed this moment because Moesha acted totally selfless and fought for equality even though Mary Ellen did not appreciate or support the boycott.

Lesson 5: Secrets and Lies Can Be Destructive

Season 5 of Moesha takes a more mature tone as Moesha enters the workforce after high school and starts college. Brandy’s brother Ray J joins the cast as Dorian Moesha’s cousin and Frank’s secret lovechild. On Episode 14 an older relative accidentally reveals that Frank is indeed Dorian’s father. This hits the Mitchell family like a wrecking ball leaving Moesha angry and Stepmother Dee (Sheryl Lee Ralph) feeling betrayed as this was a surprise to her as well. Throughout the rest of the season, we watch as the family, especially Dorian, cope with this new revelation. Dorian feels his whole life has been a lie, Dee questions her marriage to Frank, and Moesha avoids her father to cope. Frank had an affair that produced Dorian and after he was born was raised by Frank’s sister. It had been a family secret until Dorian was sixteen. This big lie was devasting and caused a lot of pain and confusion. When it initially aired this was a major plot twist because Frank Mitchell had such high expectations for his children and emphasized family values. This episode also served as a mirror; it is common for families to hold in a secret that would be damaging if it ever rose to the surface. It also humanized the image of this picture-perfect family.

 

I am a Junior studying Fashion Merchandising at UNT. I enjoy binge watching Netflix and Hulu. I look forward to covering current trends and new designer collections.
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