Love Letters: Are Whitley and Dwayne from A Different World a Problematic Couple?

Sheesh, I just read a story about an expected surge in divorces following the COVID-19 quarantines, so I’m halfway expecting a surge of Love Letters questions from couples looking to lay hands on each other.

Everyone calm down. Relax. Relate. Release.

The three of you who got that reference will give me props when we get into today’s topic, I’m sure.

And if you’ve got questions, here’s how to submit:

Send your inquiries to, or find me on Twitter @etbowser. Just provide your initials, or a fun nickname. 

Here’s today’s question:

I was watching the Facebook Live show you have with your wife last week. You both mentioned that the Internet is now saying Whitley and Dwayne from A Different World were a problematic couple? Since when? I have to hear more about this. Make it make sense!

Leave My Memories Alone

Sorry playa, I just report the foolishness, I don’t make it up.

So yeah, a little backstory: For those not in the know, my wife and I share a weekly Facebook Live show called Party of Two. It’s essentially Love Letters in video form. Go follow the page and watch some episodes, please.

Last week, we discussed our favorite TV show couples and of course we had to mention the gold standard of early 90s TV relationships – Whitley Gilbert and Dwayne Wayne. During that convo I mentioned an infamous think piece that’s been floating around for years, one that claims that DWAYNE IS AS TOXIC AS A COVID FACE MASK and Whitley should have instead married Byron, the rich senator with the personality of a dead iPhone.

Do y’all watch TV or just skim through it?

Look, all y’all are entitled to your opinions, no matter how wrong they are. But this short-sighted revisionism falls in the same faulty bucket as Gen Z calling Richard Dawson a rapist for kissing women on Family Feud or R&B Twitter claiming Boyz II Men were sweater-wearing lames who were too nerdy to get women.

Like LMMA said above, y’all better stop playing with 80s Babies’ memories before Lutha has to pull up like he did in Meteor Man.


Anyway, to the topic at hand. The general criticism of Dwayne is that he’s a selfish screwup who wouldn’t commit to Whitley until she moved on, then he came running back with the infamous BABY PLEASE wedding crashing scene that have every woman in America squealing in 1992.

Also I realized that many of you reading this probably weren’t even born in 92 and I’m depressed. So allow someone who actually lived through this story to explain what REALLY happened.

Yes, Dwayne was a screwup. At the beginning of A Different World, he was a girl-crazy geek who chased pretty much every woman on campus EXCEPT Whitley. Over time, Dwayne changed, becoming much more level-headed and cool and, sure, his friendship and later relationship with Whitley was a huge part of that.

But what the critics seem to miss is that Whitley was FAR from the flawless girl who made Dwayne better. He made HER better as well, helping transform her from snotty, delusional mean girl to a caring woman who used her privilege to help others. That’s something Season 1 Whitley would NEVER have done.

A Different World is such a great show because we saw so much growth between characters – and that growth is so evident in the evolving love of Whitley and Dwayne. I know that’s a foreign concept today, where growth is criticized as “being inconsistent” and people are expected to NEVER EVER CHANGE, but the real world don’t work like that, homie.

Truth be told, using fictional characters as barometers for real-life relationships is unwise because, duh, they’re not REAL. But in the case of the Waynes, their evolving relationship is as authentic as any I’ve seen. No matter what Twitter told you, life is NOT black and white. There is rarely a clear-cut hero and an outright villain in every situation. We change, and hopefully through life’s experiences, we get better.

Sure, Dwayne messed up many times. Yep, Whitley fixed him. But Whitley messed up just as many times and she herself admitted that it was his love that broke her cycle of materialism and self-centeredness.

Over the course of six seasons, we saw two very annoying teenagers cast off their flaws, rebuild themselves and grow into adulthood because of EACH OTHER. It’s not something they would have achieved alone – it’s a victory they attained together. That’s why we love their love.

The only person I feel bad for is Byron. That wedding sure looked expensive. I hope he at least got to keep the gifts.

Let’s get in a bonus question before we bounce:

My grandma had an old saving: “Be with the one that loves you more than you love them because they are always going to have your back.” Do you agree?


That sounds like something a grandma would say, one of those quips that SOUNDS wise but the message could be lost in the translation.

It’s that “loves you more than you love them” part that causes concern. Don’t get me wrong, I’m picking up what grandma is putting down here, but in more inexperienced ears, it could sound like she’s saying that you need to find a mate who is totally enthralled with you – more so than you are with them – for the sense of security. Almost like having a man-sized puppy who will blindly do whatever you command. I’ll pass on that. That’s not an equal partnership.

I think a more accurate version of grandma’s phrase would be: “Be with the one that loves you UNCONDITIONALLY because they are always going to have your back.” That I can get with.



  1. Beautiful piece. I will always love A Different World and Whitley. While I don’t think it’s bad to look back on things with a more critical eye, sometimes people can do too much. Your point about how Twitter expects people to NEVER CHANGE was spot on.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.