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Will Smith

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Unless you are a conspiracy theorist and view “the slap heard around the world” as a publicity stunt cooked up by Will Smith and Chris Rock, the episode at the Academy Awards Sunday night left you first puzzled, then shocked. After we caught on, there then ensued an outpouring of opinion and punditry about the incident. But there seems little consideration about how Mrs. Smith might have felt about the matter, or how societal values have dramatically shifted.

Mrs. Smith, otherwise known as the actress and producer Jada Pinkett Smith, is a force of her own. An award winner and named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2021, does she need defending by her husband? Although it was only a quick shot on the camera, she seemed to grimace at Rock’s joke about her baldness. And indeed, alopecia is a serious and anguishing condition that usually occurs when the immune system destroys the hair follicles and causes hair loss that can last for months or years. She had revealed the diagnosis, sharing a video on her Instagram showing herself with a shaved head, in 2018.

Back in the day, my day, women expected the men in their lives to defend them physically. That was the rationale for men walking on the outside of the sidewalk if a man and woman strolled down a street. The man would be there to protect the woman from any danger or even any mud splash that might come from the road. It was part of the definition of manhood that the male was there to protect the female. Is that an expectation today? Do men still take the curb position during any sidewalk stroll? In truth, I haven’t noticed. I haven’t even thought about it. The idea goes with men opening doors or pulling out chairs for women. I suppose it still happens, and it’s thoughtful if it does, but it doesn’t seem like de rigueur today.

This is a significant societal change. I remember an exchange I had in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a graduate student who was a friend at the time. As we were passing an ice cream parlor, he suggested we go in for cones. I readily agreed and stood in front of the door, waiting for him to open it. How surprised I was when he asked, “Why do I have to open the door for you? Is anything wrong with your arm?” He was clearly ahead of his time, believing as he did in equality of the sexes, and I was glad he wasn’t my boyfriend.

It is my sense today that whoever is in front opens a door. Is that correct or am I just an aggressive woman?

Later, when Will Smith won the award for best actor as the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in the movie “King Richard,” he made the first of his apologies, explaining that he had acted because he had become emotional. Hey, again, back in my day, men were not allowed to show any emotion, unless they were wimps. Macho meant the strong, silent type. Men who cried were certainly not poster models for unfiltered cigarettes or Marines. If a man cried, there was probably something wrong with him.

Today, men are praised when they offer their “soft” side. Men are allowed to have feelings and to show them. Even the President of the United States, any one of them, has been seen wiping away a tear. For men, feelings can even be a license for strange behavior, which is how Smith explained his behavior. Never mind that he could have stood up and walked out or even turned his back on the comedian. His feelings freed him to be violent, and in front of 15 million people no less.

I wonder what his wife said to him when they got home.

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) meets the genie (Will Smith) in the Cave of Wonders

By Heidi Sutton

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 27 years since Disney released the classic animated feature film “Aladdin.” This weekend, the much anticipated live-action remake opened in theaters and reviews have been mixed.

Written by John August and Guy Ritchie, and directed by Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes,” “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”), it follows the 1992 film’s storyline closely and includes all of the favorite characters from the original but also expands on some of the characters.

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) in a scene from the movie

The story takes place in the fabled city of Agrabah where Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) adviser to the Sultan (Navid Negahban), seeks to retrieve a magic lamp hidden in the Cave of Wonders. He enlists the help of a street rat named Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a “diamond in the rough,” who becomes trapped in the cave. When Aladdin finds the lamp and polishes it, a magical genie appears and grants him three wishes.

Along with his pet monkey Abu, the genie and a magic carpet, Aladdin spend the remainder of the film disguised as Prince Ali of Ababwa trying to woo Princess Jasmine while trying to stay clear of Jafar.

Massoud is perfectly cast as “Aladdin,” both looking and sounding the part, and succeeds in bringing Aladdin from animation to life. Naomi Scott brings a fresh take on Princess Jasmine, making her a strong political figure who wishes to be Sultan.

Will Smith has the Herculean task of being the genie this time around and pulls out all the stops in ensuring that his character gets the maximum laughs. “Robin Williams didn’t leave a lot of room for improvement in the development of the genie,” said Smith in a recent interview on the “Graham Norton Show,” adding that he wanted to maintain the nostalgia but add a new flavor to it. Although many of his lines are from the original film, Smith, in Fresh Prince fashion, adds rap to his songs, works out a lot and also develops a crush on Jasmine’s handmaiden, Dalia (Nasim Pedrad).

All of the wonderful songs by Alan Menken we have come to love are in the film, including “A Whole New World,” “A Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” with one new song, “Speechless,” performed beautifully by Scott.

Aside from being visually stunning, with many special effects, the film does have its issues. Although not a cartoon, the movie at times feels cartoonish. The animals – Raja the tiger, Lago the parrot and Abu the monkey – are computer generated and look it, and the people in the film look like Disney characters as they sing, dance and mull about in over-the-top costumes.

The length of the film is also problematic. While the 1992 film was rated G and was only 90 minutes long, this version is rated PG and is over two hours long, a stretch for families with young children.

That being said, Ritchie’s modern-day version of “Aladdin” has its own charm and is a fitting take on the Arabian Nights tale for fans of the original.

Up next for Disney is a live-action remake of “The Lion King” set to open in July.