A Dwayne & Whitley Kinda Love
A Different World is hands down our favorite television show of all time.
While Dwayne was not above reproach, he was Whitley’s perfect partner. Their story also affords us some useful insight into the complex ways that individuals and relationships evolve during the undergraduate years and the formative stages of adulting.
The Whitley Gilbert of seasons one and two was a sheltered, spoiled, mean girl, majoring in wealthy husband acquisitions. You can’t really blame her though. Like many, Whitley was raised to believe that her success would be predicated on the type of man she’d marry and not by virtue of her own intellect, talent, and skills.
Dwayne didn’t pursue Whitley romantically at first. Their relationship evolved from cordial acquaintances to a committed friendship. Although Dwayne wasn’t the type of guy that Whitley imagined herself falling for, their chemistry was undeniable and became more and more apparent as the show progressed.
From reconnecting on their flight back to campus after Dwayne’s first internship to their first kiss at Walter and Jaleesa’s wedding in season three to when they made it official in season four over ribs from Ray Nay’s after KinuGate of 1991. All the way to the greatest wedding scene of all time.
Dwayne helped Whitley to see that she had more to offer the world than her beauty and social standing. Similarly, Whitley taught Dwayne that real love requires time, patience, perseverance, sacrifice, and compromise. They were kids who were just figuring it out.
What I love most about their love story is that we watched it evolve. We saw them grow from immature, inexperienced, short-sighted kids who didn’t like each other into maturing adults who came to appreciate their complexities and recognize the ways that their differences complemented and enhanced one another.
As someone who studies higher education, this is what makes A Different World such a gift. It really serves as a lens for understanding the various perspectives and experiences that exist within the contexts of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Dwayne and Whitley are just one representation of the many dynamics and dimensions of student development and adulting that intersect and influence each other. Their love withstood differences in social class, background, opinions, and beliefs. It overcame mind games, manipulation, robbery, financial strain, the L.A. riots, and even some infidelity.
It wasn’t ideal, but it was real.