Deconstructing Will Smith

Race, Masculinity and Global Stardom

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About the Book

Acclaimed actor and rap artist Will Smith has achieved a level of Hollywood fame rarely attained by a Black celebrity. Early in his career, Smith aspired to be the world’s most famous movie star and being named the world’s top film attraction in 2008, fulfilled his goal. While his rise to a place of worldwide prominence and cultural relevance has made him iconic, his accomplishments have not received the full and thorough acknowledgement and analysis they merit. This is the first full-length critical look at the significance of Will Smith’s achievements over a more than 30-year career. Many of his films have broken cultural norms by depicting Black men in groundbreaking social settings, like the role of the world-saving hero in his most popular films. In addition to analyzing Smith’s filmography, this work contextualizes other popular and common portrayals of Black men in media and society. Finally, this book examines Smith’s work in his middle age, ruminating on his ability to adapt to the realities of a new Hollywood.

About the Author(s)

Willie Tolliver is a professor of English at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta where he is director of Africana studies and film studies.

Bibliographic Details

Willie Tolliver

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 237
Bibliographic Info: 37 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7569-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Prologue: A Slap Heard Round the World 1
Introduction: Deconstructing Will Smith 4
One—Reading Will Smith: Floating Signs and the Semiotics of Stardom 11
Two—Culturally Mulatto 34
Three—A Slave to Fashion 53
Four—Hottentot Adonis 79
Five—A Postlude to a Kiss 104
Six—Science Fictions and Racial Facts 123
Seven—Dynamic Duos and Magical Negroes 144
Eight—Genre, Interrupted 167
Conclusion: The Biggest Movie Star in the World 191
Filmography 201
Selected Videography 205
Chapter Notes 207
Works Cited 213
Index 225

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “The book offers profound insights into the career of a Hollywood legend.”—Roland Leander Williams, professor of English, Temple University