December 14, 2006, - 5:30 am

“The Pursuit of Happyness”: Message of Pro-Merit, Pro-Fathers Movie Lost on Star Will Smith

By Debbie Schlussel
The Pursuit of Happyness” is one of the great movies of the year (perhaps the decade) and a rare product from Hollywood.
In theaters Friday, the film presents a male character and father in a positive light. And it shows the virtues of merit–not race-based preferences–in America. It is the story of the high hopes–and achievement of those hopes with hard work–that are only possible in this great country.
In a day when men are portrayed as losers and dopes, absentee fathers, and deadbeat sperm-donors who don’t care about their kids, Happyness tells us the real story of most American fathers. They love their children and work hard to give them a good life.


In this case, it’s the real story of Chris Gardner, a down-and-out-on-his-luck bone-scanner salesman who succeeds to become a multi-millionaire, all while raising his young son alone. Gardner’s wife, the mother of his two-year-old son (in the movie, he’s five), has no faith in him. After bitching and moaning endlessly and trying to kill his dreams, she leaves Gardner to raise his son on virtually no money.
Gardner, without a college education, enters an internship for stockbrokers at Dean Witter. But he’s paid no money, and must raise his son and succeed in the internship while homeless. The scenes of Gardner living with his son in homeless shelters, subway station bathrooms, and cheap motel rooms are no exaggeration.
Most of all, Happyness is the story of the love of a father for his son–in the face of incredible difficulties. Every disaster in the world, every bit of bad luck happens to Gardner. The scanners he sells are stolen or fail to work, and he is arrested for unpaid parking tickets on the night before an important interview, evicted from his apartment, evicted from his cheap motel room.
Throughout all of this, it is not just his drive to succeed that motivates him. It is, above all, his love for his son, the custody of whom he refuses to give up. And although Gardner is a Black man, race is never mentioned and never plays a part in the Chris Gardner story.
Still, it is important because the Black fathers we see on television are portrayed most often on venues like the Oprah Winfrey show. To Oprah, Black fathers are absentee millionaire NBA players who cheated on their kids mothers and didn’t pay child support. She’s also portrayed Black fathers largely as extramarital cheaters, gospel singers addicted to porn, spending addicts, married gay men on the “down low”, and assorted other highly unflattering presentations America is shown daily on her syndicated daytime talk show.
The true story of Chris Gardner did not originate on Oprah. It originated on a solid news show that doesn’t engage in male-bashing, ABC’s “20/20.”
Happyness is the story of hard work. Only one person out of many in the Dean Witter internship gets a permanent job. Gardner was the chosen one.
But Gardner did not get a break because of his complexion. He was chosen on merit alone. In the stockbroking business, race-based preferences can’t help you sell stocks and make money for the company. Gardner was chosen because–with his pluck, initiative, and sticktuitiveness–he sold the most stock and financial pacakages for Dean Witter. In the movie–which Gardner says is true to his life (but for the age of his son at the time)–race has nothing to do with it.
Sadly, this message is lost on Happyness star, Will Smith. In an interview with Detroit Free Press film critic Terry Lawson, Smith says he is upset that Michigan voters voted for Proposal Two, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which ends affirmative action in public hiring, contracting, and college admissions. Given his role as Gardner, Smith’s psychobabble is jarring:

As a Black American, I am 100 percent in favor of affirmative action. But Jada [Pinkett Smith, his wife] always talks about the beauty and the pain of the true political process. She believes every paradigm ends in paradox, that the result can be the worst thing and the best thing at the same time.
The very thing that sparks one person can break another. For Chris Gardner, defeat only made him work harder and believe in himself more.

But Chris Gardner didn’t succeed because he got special treatment for being Black. The company he founded, Gardner Rich & Co., didn’t prosper because of race preferences either. He succeeded because of hard work and resulting profits. The movie’s script makes the point that equality of result is not guaranteed–that the Declaration of Independence specifies only the pursuit of happiness as a right, not happiness itself. Gardner succeeded because he was smart, resourceful, hard-working, and dedicated to making a better life for his son.
Those should be the only reasons anyone succeeds in America–not the coincidence of birth with a certain skin tone or set of internal plumbing.
Smith–of all people–should know this. Hollywood is full of unemployed actor-model/waiters of all races. Those few who make it don’t get there because of affirmative action. They made it because they appealed to the audience marketplace on merit and talent alone.
Will Smith did not initially succeed because he was “The Black Prince of Bel Air,” but because he was the talented “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

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11 Responses

Can’t find the perfect Hollywood actor huh Debbie?
When you thought that Will Smith would say something reasonable after his performance in that movie you described above, when you thought that maybe, just maybe something sane, intelligent can come out of the mouth of these Hollywood idiots, you got disappointed again.
There’s no hope in Hollywood. There were some great actors in the past in acting and in person.
Today, it’s all about Britney Spears’ Vagina!!

Independent Conservative on December 14, 2006 at 6:51 am

I would only offer that Smith *might* be saying what he thinks he should be saying as a prominent Black man.
As to Jada, the goofy psychobabble was not a big surprise.
The fact is, most film actors are VERY stupid, and even a goodly number of the ones who appear intelligent to the casual observer are just mouthing sanctimonious pronoucements of the Left.

Red Ryder on December 14, 2006 at 9:15 am

I used to hold your racist views. I used to believe that all men and women could succeed through hard work and perseverance. But I’ve seen the light! Through the inspirational words of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton I realized how wrong my views were and have repented. I’ve joined with the NAACP, the State of Michigan and the United States Supreme Court and now hold that Blacks and Hispanics are inherently inferior to Whites and Asians. It was a difficult adjustment, I had to overcome the entirety of my upbringing but it was well worth the effort. I feel like a new man now that the burden of prejudice has been lifted. It’s good to see that Will Smith is on board and I revel in his mediocrity.
President Bush talks about “the soft bigotry of low expectations”. Join me, the NAACP, the State of Michigan and the U.S. Supreme Court in the non-bigotry of no expectations. Don’t be a racist – gloat about the superiority of the lighter skinned races. You’ll be much happier, I promise!
ps Give Robert Byrd a call, he has a membership card with your name on it…

Curly Smith on December 14, 2006 at 10:16 am

Debbie, Debbie, Debbie—An actor for 20 years—The industry has had more than affirmative action, we have had race based hiring, sex based hiring, and politics based. Race and sex were mandated by SAG and still are mandated, reference last week’s news that a “survey” showed that Hispanics weren’t hired enough. This survey is a direct threat to producers to shape up. Women have been (and are) a particular pain in the ass because there is no bankable woman, and other than a one year period when Julia Robert’s agents ran ads claiming she was bankable, there hasn’t been one since the consent decree separating studios and theatres (bankable means a movie with a particular individual can “open” a movie and make back the entire cost of production–without addional help). This means that movies featuring women are continually made that have no chance at making a profit. There are no Black stars (having a leading role and being able to draw $100 mil on the opening weekend), no female stars, and no Hispanic stars—however the huge foreign market means that times they are a-changing—and no Republican stars because they are frozen out. Hollywood is completely separated from merit employment, employment based on the “best reading for a part,” or best script (especially best script—stories are often changed so that race preferences are added to the plot).
There is no other activity in America where merit has less value than in Hollywood. You better hope that the Hollywood “system” isn’t put in place for brain surgery.

Duke on December 14, 2006 at 10:36 am

How My Grandad Invented the Holocaust

Test Test on December 14, 2006 at 12:30 pm

I see, maybe, 1 or 2 good movies a year, if that.
I see brilliant books made into crappy movies all the time. It only takes one person to write a book, but apparently several people need to collaborate on every script and every line to meet every need of every demographic.
I’ve seen kids in high school plays who are far more talented than 90%+ of the actors I see in movies.
I’ve seen girls at the beach who are far better looking than 90%+ of ‘hot’ hollywood actresses who are just there for eye candy purposes.
Hollywood is mostly crap, to many chefs in every product are spoiling the food. Too many PC decisions, too much who you know and what race or ethnicity you are goes into casting and directing decisions.
Some people’s talent is so great that it will win out no matter what, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

dll2000 on December 14, 2006 at 12:57 pm

I don’t care how good the storyline is for this movie I will not see it. That’s because Will Smith stars in it. Mr Smith makes a habit of slandering and slamming the USA when interviewed in Europe. To Hell with Mr Smith and his movie.

TheOmegaMan on December 14, 2006 at 1:23 pm

my favorite hollyweird moment?
Selena get murdered so they try and make a tribute to her. Thousands of Texanas try out and the libs from Cali decide they must have a latina to play the Mexican Madonna.
So they picked a Puerto Rican!!!!!
Arent they all the same?
And the director couldnt tell the diff or understand the clamor.
You cant write this stuff…

playertwo on December 14, 2006 at 2:20 pm

Katherine Hepburn said it best, “Acting is an idiot’s profession.” I thought that Will Smith had some decency, but I am not really too surprised that he does not. He’s an actor.
Again, I refer to my quote of the late Ms. Hepburn.

Loser on December 14, 2006 at 10:38 pm

I agree with the other posters. Will Smith, while apparently a family man and former “clean” rapper, has made some very ignorant comments about how he feels repressed as a black man. He has a little of what Kanye West has up his butt.
Will Smith- Victim of the white man. uh huh.

Samoyed on December 14, 2006 at 11:27 pm

You all should check out the youtube video from 2000 of Gardner being interviewed in a taxi in Chicago. It shows even a successful black man can still be a victim af racism.

SMD on December 25, 2006 at 6:52 pm

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