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please don't whip my annie's hair
how will smith is ruining my pop culture with his children
by alex b (@Lexistential)
pop culture

Somebody stop Will Smith.

Though I've liked him since lip-synching "Parents Just Don't Understand" at my seventh-grade talent show, I believe Will Smith is on the verge of committing a second pop culture atrocity. Already guilty of purposely retooling The Karate Kid as a star vehicle to launch his son Jaden with, Smith is angling to remake the classic musical "Annie" for his daughter Willow- who hasn't got any proven acting skills past smiling. ("Whip My Hair" does not count as actual training.)

In spite of my dropped jaw, I'm sure Hollywood will greenlight the proposed "Annie" remake. Willow Smith will warble "It's a Hard Knock Life (For Us)" with no real comprehension of struggle, but enough saccharine adoration to make media outlets fawn and blitz. Will Smith will continue to lead a life on a level that way, way supersedes Daddy Warbucks's while making another ton of money to sit on.

Though I'd be lucky to remotely afford one percent of his lifestyle, it isn't the money that Will Smith has (or is set to make) that irritates me. The guy proved his musical and acting chops a long time ago, and while the Men In Black movies are basically cheesy, I don't hate his success. Smith won his fame fair and square.

Plus, just like gray hair, remakes are inevitable. While I oppose a Whedon-free Buffy reboot and am sure that we don't really need another Superman relaunch, the recent "Battlestar Galactica" series and The Departed are proof that remakes aren't always terrible excuses to milk an idea for a little bit longer. I sang "Annie" songs as a child, and welcome its return to the big screen after nearly thirty years.

And, Smith's nepotism doesn't bother me since it isn't new. Hollywood is full of working actors who got their start through their parents. Colin Hanks and Jessica Capshaw are among the less obnoxious examples of successful nepotism; Gwyneth Paltrow is irritating for a thousand organic, colonic reasons, but not because she was born to Bruce Paltrow and Blythe Danner.

What bothers me about Jaden and Willow Smith isn't just seeing them succeed, but watching them receive the higher echelons of creative opportunity. Classic stories like "Annie" shouldn't be retooled for a kid who hasn't earned his or her chops. I probably wouldn't have minded seeing "Karate Kid" if Jaden Smith was 17 years old and had already established his talent; instead, I hoped he would fall off the stage while performing at the Grammy Awards. I resent the "Annie" remake, not only because Willow Smith should have more experience past singing "Whip My Hair", but since a deserving child actor won't have the chance to play the lead part- and won't have that opportunity in the movies for another generation.

But, clearly Will Smith is a guy who thinks in big, blockbuster terms. The comparatively humbler idea of having his children gradually earn their credibility with smaller parts may be lost to him. It's even understandable that Smith would like his children to succeed in the entertainment industry without running into any of the catastrophes struggling actors endure.

That said, it's too bad that Willow and Jaden Smith are being given such great opportunities right out of the gate, for they won't have the same magic that makes child stars appealing. Part of what makes a child performer appealing comes from knowing that he or she successfully won their part against the odds. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson were each selected for the Harry Potter movies from a huge pool of competition; apart from any sobbing Hogwarts contenders, nobody resents them.

Hell, even as I hope to never hear "Baby, Baby, Baby" again, I respect Justin Bieber for earning his opportunities instead of being just another Disney kid.

Instead, Willow and Jaden Smith are beholden to their parents for any sort of credit, and receiving any individual recognition based on their own talent will take much longer- if at all. They're missing out on the very basis that made their dad a superstar, and won't know the same respect he earned.

In any case, I know I can't stop Will Smith's machinations of greatness for his offspring. Nor can I save my beloved musical of "Annie" of being maligned by him and Jay-Z (and possibly even Ryan Murphy) for his twerpy little kid. If "Annie" is indeed greenlit, I am poised to run, hide and buy earplugs- though not in that order.

But please, somebody stop Will Smith. (And if you perchance succeed, force him to remake Wild, Wild West with his children.)


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

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tracey kelley
2.21.11 @ 7:33a

I heard this song for the first time yesterday. What an annoying piece of crap.

We should all be so lucky to have such indulgent parents.

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