COMING TO AMERICA, a film theory.
For a long time, I always assumed that Semi was the servant of Akeem. However, I've been watching this movie a lot this week, and I've come up with a new theory, and that is, Semi is not the servant of Akeem. Semi is the brother of Akeem.
There are two main reason I always assumed that Semi was the servant Akeem. First, when Akeem walks in on Semi and Patrice making out, Akeem asks, "If you are the prince, then who am I?" and Semi says, "My servant." One would naturally be taken for a reversal of the relationship, that is, Akeem is the prince, and Semi is the servant. However, it does not necessarily have to mean this. Through out the movie, it is obvious that Semi is the more lustful. He says, "This trip is an excellent idea! Forty days of fornication!" And, "do you realize that I have not had sex since we got to America?!" This drives Semi much more than Akeem, so he wants to exalt himself up as much as possible to Patrice to make her want him more. Add to this, that before they made out Patrice was interested in Akeem, so not only does Semi exalt himself in saying he's a prince, but also downplays Akeem by saying he's just a servant, which would give her all the more reason to forget about Akeem.
The second reason I always assumed Semi was the servant of Akeem was because of his seeming insignificance in the eyes of the king and queen. They always treat him as a nuisance. But my theory I think accounts for this better.
The reasons I believe Semi is the younger brother of Akeem are these.
First, in the beginning of the movie, look at Akeem and Semi's clothing. The first time we see them both is at the breakfast table. Akeem and Semi are both wearing something that looks like a sports uniform. Notice the numbers on their shirts. Akeem's number is 1. This is not a coincidence, it denotes Akeem's rank as the firstborn son of the king. Semi's number is 4, which denotes his rank as fourth born. Fourth borns are never granted any special significance. The king is a hard, traditional man, and only cares for his firstborn who will continue the kingdom.
The similar clothing continues through out the film. It is most significant in the beginning of the film, because there they are both still in the kingdom. At Akeem's courtship, where he first meets his supposed bride-to-be, notice that he and Semi both wear some kind of wreath on their head, a black sparkly thing. Only royalty would have this kind of headpiece, no one in the audience does. (Some of the men in the audience have hats, but nothing like those wreaths.) Also, in this same scene, notice that Akeem is wearing a leopard around his shoulder, like the king wears a lion around his later in the movie. Akeem wears the leopard to show his status as the prince, and the one who will one day wear the lion. Semi also wears something around his shoulder, a gold chain of some kind. He does not wear an animal because he will not succeed the king, but his strap does denote his royalty, just his lower rank.
Second, Semi has a much closer relationship to Akeem than a servant would have. At the courtship scene, Semi is standing right next to Akeem, in almost the same clothing as already noted. All the other servants are standing back out of the way, because being so close to the royal family at this moment was not permitted.
When we first see Semi at the breakfast table, Semi calls Akeem "the birthday boy." This would be highly inappropriate for a servant to call a prince in front of the king and queen, but he is not rebuked for it. Not to mention the profanity Semi spews at Akeem when they go to work out. It seems impossible that a servant would ever be able to speak to a prince in such a manner, even in the gym.
Third, it is implied in the film that Semi is just as used to being treated as royalty as Akeem. After the breakfast scene, when Akeem and Semi are walking off, Semi says, "Akeem, what happened to the rose bearers?" Clearly, he is used to walking on the rose pedals, which means he is a son of the king. Also, in the scene where Akeem and Semi are applying to work at McDowell's, Mr. McDowell hands Akeem a mop in the water. Akeem of course does not know how to use it and leaves in the bucket of water when trying to mop. Look at the faces that Akeem and Semi make when they look back up at Mr. McDowell. They both akwardly smile and nod. This shows that Semi does not know how to use a mop either, which means Semi does not know how to do the most miniscule of tasks. This would be expected of royalty, but certainly not of a servant.
Fourth, Akeem, while clearly aware of his higher rank as the firstborn, to some degree still acknowledges their brotherly relationship. When he and Semi see the people wearing the clothes they stole, Akeem cries, "Let them wear our princely robes!"
Finally, and ironically, the most striking objection to my theory is from Semi himself. In the breakfast scene, Semi says to the queen, "I was just remarking to my mother the other day what beautiful skin the queen has!" This obviously means that the queen is not his mother. However, we do not have to therefore conclude that Semi is not royalty. Consider the character of the king. It is not a stretch to say that he is lecherous. We know he is not faithful to his wife, since he said to Akeem, "I always assumed you had sex with your bathers, I know I do!" Note the present tense, "I know I do," not, "I know I did." So it is reasonable to conclude that the king has concubines. And since he and Semi are the only two who are so lustful, it would make since that Semi inherited this from his father. So Semi is the fourth born son of the king, born of a concubine, and half-brother to Akeem. This would also explain why the queen detests Semi so much, and why the king does not treat him with near the respect that he does his firstborn.
So this is my theory, go watch Coming to America with this in mind, and see if it doesn't make sense!