On my recent vacation, I saw Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness, and was more than pleasantly surprised. Usually, I stay away from schmaltzy inspirational films (especially sports-themed movies – you’ve seen one Titans or Coach Carter you’ve seen them all). But this one was special. At the end, both my wife and I had tears streaming down our faces.
But most notable is what this film did NOT say about race. In fact, its total silence on the race issue said volumes.
When Will Smith finally achieves his objective, after losing his wife, having to sleep in a subway bathroom with his son, and suffering many other indignities, he gets up from his chair and, with tears in his eyes, struts across the room with his chin jutted out in defiance and victory.
But what was beautiful about that moment is that he had every right to be proud and triumphant – through his own virtues of hard work, refusing to play the victim or blame anyone for his state in life, he had overcome and succeeded. At that moment, I thought "if ever a man had the right to be proud, that was it."
The difference between this man’s success and that of today’s thug rappers is like seeing night and day – one man taking on life with virtue and a right attitude, the other with arrogance, racial blaming and victimization claims, intimidation, and the glorifying of thug life. Examples like this make me want to play this movie in every ghetto school rather than allowing the likes of MTV to promote the worst possible character flaws as ways out of poverty.
As one reviewer put it
Pursuit of Happyness isn’t just a balm intended to heal negative depictions of AWOL African-
American fathers. The movie pays respect to all single parents striving to do the right thing with few resources.
Bravo to Will Smith and company for a truly inspiring movie, rather than racial blame-gaming and patronizing the angry black man.