Will Smith: 'The $4 Million Man'
Newsweek features an article that dubs Will Smith â€œThe $4 Billion Man,â€? for topping the Newsweek's annual Hollywood power list. According to the article â€˜The Tomsâ€™-Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise- were the undisputed occupiers of this position, with some appearances from Mel Gibson. However, with Hanks aging and not having any new releases (except â€œThe Di Vinci Codeâ€?), Cruiseâ€™s â€œTomCatâ€? relationship being all over the tabloid, and Mel Gibson anti-Semitic controversy, Will Smith is now the most powerful man in Hollywood. He has had consecutive blockbusters, he appeals to international audiences, and plays characters that all races/nations can identity with. After reading this article, I told my friend about it. She was surprised that Will Smith topped the list, due to his race. My friendâ€™s reaction is not surprising due to the fact that Hollywood is a white/male dominated industry. The article pointed out that Will Smith, other than Denzel Washington, is the only (current) black actor that has an international appeal.
The author goes on to say that â€œSince 2002, domestic box office has been essentially flat. Foreign markets, meanwhile, are expandingâ€¦Black actors have had a tough time appealing to foreign audiences, because the films they're often cast in are specific to African-American culture or historyâ€”they are films about African-Americans, as opposed to films that happen to have African-Americans in them.â€?
Hence, Will Smith seems to be the only â€˜black actorâ€™ in Hollywood whose films enjoy domestic and international success. Although the author seems to credit Smithâ€™s blockbuster success and the missing-in-action of â€˜The Tomsâ€™, one aspect that is as important as how much money he/she can generate is the actorâ€™s race. In my opinion, black actors act in films targeting black audiences or films on black culture, not because those are the roles they want to play ALL the time, but because maybe those are the roles available for them, and have less competition from white actors. Few weeks ago, I told my friend that I was watching â€œThe Best Manâ€? on TV. And she said, â€œI like that movie, but I just donâ€™t get why all those films [romantic movies in the late nineties-early 00â€˜s] had the SAME actors.â€? There are about three or four good romantic comedies that had at least three or four black actors, both male and female, in common (The Best Man, Brown Sugar, Love & Basketball, The Brothers, etc.). The only way these actors can get lead roles in films, especially in the romantic genre, is to act in all-black cast films about black culture. Hollywood has recently opened up to black actors as lead and important contributors to the films industry. In terms of awards, it was only in 2004 that Hale Berry became the first black actress to win best-actress Oscar. Was Hale Berry the first or the only black actress to give an outstanding lead performance in a film? No. Other black actresses have been performing well before Berry â€œopened the doorâ€? for them, however, their skin color played an important role in not being selected for lead roles as well as the prestigious awards. Besides, the Academy Awards as well as the other â€˜importantâ€™ awards are pretty racist. One can observe Hollywoodâ€™s white/male domination by watching these awards. Non-white representation in Hollywood has been very limited, and one hopes that the industry changes, and provides wider representation of non-white populations in America.