Behold: powerful, public parenting in action
Jada Pinkett Smith and Willow Smith attend the Miami Heat vs. the Philadelphia 76ers game at Wachovia Centre. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo
Today’s children of celebrities have it too good. Call me nostalgic, but in my day celebrity brats had to work really hard to steal the spotlight away from their preening parents.
Getting caught underage in the Viper Room, stealing a car before getting involved in a high-speed car chase, or snorting a line of coke off a stripper’s cleavage and then getting arrested for carrying a concealed weapon were time-honoured rites of passage for the offspring of Hollywood stars.
Nowadays, standards have slipped to the point where all a celebrity kid has to do to bring disgrace on their family and generate click-bait for Facebook is cut their hair.
Willow Smith attends the "Men In Black 3" New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre. Photo: Stephen Lovekin
That’s right. Earlier this year Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s then 11 year-old daughter Willow attracted the attention of the world’s media BECAUSE SHE CUT HER HAIR.
And, no, she didn’t do a Britney and cut it herself in front of the paparazzi, raising questions about the state of her mental health. She just appeared in public with a shaved head. (Of course, a shaved head is only worthy of comment and moral hysteria if you’re a woman. Those among us who possess a penis have license to change their hair without comment).
Willow’s parents even gave their blessing to the whole thing, so it wasn’t even an act of rebellion.
Luckily, though, The People’s High Court of Social Media, no doubt feeling cheated by the whole non-spectacle of it all — I mean, what are celebrities and their children for, if not to cause outrage and make the rest of us feel morally superior — turned on the Smiths.
The tut-tutting echoed through the fiber optic cabling as self-appointed parenting experts, armchair child psychologists, and vigilante moral guardians condemned the celebrity couple as indulgent, boundary-less parents.
The Concern Trolls predicted with that level of certainty which only a certain kind of internet user can muster, that Willow will end up bored, dead, a drug and sex addict, or worse, a lesbian.
Fortunately, thousand of helpful folk jumped online to offer the Smith’s unsolicited parenting advice and inform them of the catastrophic trajectory Willow’s life was taking.
‘brew8jn’ for example took the opportunity to remind us that, ‘I think alot (sic) of you are missing the point about the "it's just hair", etc....It's not the hair...Kids not only need boundaries, they WANT boundaries...’
‘Ccjourney’ chipped in with, ‘Why would any parent allow their 11 year-old daughter to shave her head?! ...And why would a young girl want to be practically bald anyway?? She looks ridiculous! I believe in letting a child have some choices, but that's going too far at her age.’
And ‘MsG7 (whose tag line is ‘Know Jesus..don't leave here without Him!!!’), brimming with Christian charity, wrote: ‘Letting your kids do as they please will come back to bite you in the butt...Will and Jada has (sic) got something on their hands for sure...but hey, they created it and allowed it..soooo.’
Pouring oil on the fire, Will Smith defended his role as accomplice in the hirsute massacre, telling Parade, ‘If I teach her that I'm in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she's going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world...She has got to have command of her body.’
But despite this eminently sensible and refreshingly feminist justification from the former Fresh Prince of Bel Air, doubt still lingered over the Smith family’s parenting philosophy and just over a week ago, Jada Pinkett Smith hit back.
Jada posted a letter on Facebook explaining why she and Will had no problem with Willow cutting her hair. She began by explaining that it wasn’t her place to tell her daughter what to do with her hair.
‘This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination’, wrote Jada Pinkett Smith. ‘I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain.’
She added that her lack of concern about the length of Willow’s hair is ‘a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.’
Nice try Jada. But with reasoned, intelligent words and sensible parenting like this, you run the risk of raising a level-headed, independent young woman, depriving us of the entertainment of watching Willow’s future emotional turmoil splashed throughout the tabloids.
Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 4 books 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child. www.kaseyedwards.com
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