Willard Christopher Smith Jr
How one man built a global movie-magnet machine (2007)
By Rebecca Winters Keegan
Although mainly written as a time timed success story of Will Smith, this article , does raise questions about the contemporary representation of American Americans thought famous black icons. filled with dates and statistics, it is easy to understand from this article to rapid success rate of Will Smith. As a man who has travelled the world, earned large sums of money and raised a family, while continuing a highly pressured, publicized and scrutinized career.
The question of 'identity' is a recurring subject on the topic of African-Americanism, from abolition to the civil rights era, the establishment of group identity was being developed. What makes up an person/groups identity and how or who is to represent this groups identity to others. forms of voicing and representing African Americans is ever more frequent , through Television, film, music and politics key individuals are created as 'icons' of that community. However, as with any group there are those who vary in class, education and social standing. Through these demographics are a fruitful source for film makers to recreate stories and with films such as 'Boyz in the Hood' (1991) and "Menace II Society" (1993. representing the dark, dangerous of urban gangland violence. this represented a mainly negative appearance of living and social conditions of African Americans at that time. However, with creation of "The Fresh prince of Bel-Air". Starring Will Smith as the Fresh Prince, this took away this image of the Ghetto life and placed a character from the suburbs into a his families Hollywood mansion.. This was a new type of representation for African Americans, showed a comparison between a young, black, immature, urban street teen and that of a well educated, rich black middle-class Family. With controversial issues of race, money, education, sex and politics infused with comedy, music and dancing.
"From his father, who worked seven days a week running a refrigerator company, Smith inherited his work ethic. From his mother, a school-board employee, he derived the notion that "education is the elixir for all problems,"
This section of the article, reviles that the impact of having working class parents instilled a number of ethic views that remained with smith during his career. Establishment of a strong work ethic is regarded as a key American ideal. However when concerning the work ethic ideals of African-Americans, it has been show in the past that they were not considered part of this ideal collective. " at school when it came to the section on Negro History 'it was exactly one paragraph long' and told how the 'slaves....were lazy and dumb and shiftless (Malcolm X 1985 -Campbell and Kean page 92) then the high levels of unemployment of African-Americans in the 1960's. For a individual such as Will Smith, to encompass these beliefs about work and education is a representation of progressive black attitude and identity
The focus on his work is a key section at the bottom of the article; how he is not only an actor but works to achieve greater personal recognition "He has built his global audience systematically: with each film, Smith introduces himself to a new people, often piggybacking on a local event that will attract worldwide attention." buy establishing a fan base in a number of countries, he is able to institute a mechanism that maintains his continued recognition for his work as well as high financial income. This
Through his acting Will Smith has portrayed a variety of different characters, both real and fictitious of different eras in different professions such as a struggling black single father (pursuit of happyness 2006), to Alcoholic superhero, (Hancock 2008) or a member of law enforcement (Bad Boys,1991) or Muhammad Ali (Ali 2001) by representing this variety of characters, he identifies some of the key individuals and groups that make up the growing sections of African-Americans. Although I could be argued that , while portraying these characters, Will Smith is alienated from the day-to-day goings on of average African-Americans, who don't live in Californian mansions, or are worth $200 million (2012) this aspects could lead to marginal alienation with fans. However, as and 'icon' he is someone to aspire to an appreciate for many people.