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Stop Picking on Willow and Jayden Smith

Photograph by Getty Images

Well, those kooky Smith kids, the progeny of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, sure have upset the Internet apple cart, haven’t they? They are all over my social media feeds today, trending on Facebook and finding themselves on the receiving end of a whole lot of cyber mockery.

I think we can all agree that the Smith kiddos, 14-year-old Willow and 16-year-old Jayden, have some hardcore, seriously healthy self-esteem. They love themselves! They love their thoughts, their music, their energy. Their voices, combined, sound like chocolate tastes. Mmmmm, good!

Why would any of us expect anything different from two teenagers raised since birth in extreme privilege? Their parents are huge celebrities and monster money earners. I know nothing about the child rearing of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but my guess is that they value expression, creativity and progressive thinking – things their children delivered on with abandon in a recent New York Times interview.

I’m struggling today because I see so many adults getting in on the mocking action. People I like and admire taking time out of their day to mock two teenagers, who live lives that would be hard for most of us to imagine let alone relate to.

Honestly, I don’t get it.

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Young Willow and Jayden were set up nice and pretty by interviewer Su Wu. She edited that interview knowing perfectly well how the teens would be received in our social-media coliseum of tearing people apart, limb from limb, for sport. My guess is that the quotes given, the interview as it appears, is an accurate representation of what was said. Can we please remember, though, who was doing the saying?

Children like Willow and Jayden can wax poetic about the insignificance of time, “unlocking honesty” for the whole world, source energy, and their artistic journeys (though, truth be told, I can’t imagine anything less interesting than the "artistic journey" of a 14-year-old), because they are wealthy, exist in an orbit that celebrates them and have been taught to love and value themselves and their creations above all else.

Many parents would consider that a success.

What seems clear about their life philosophies and thoughts in general are that young Willow and Jayden have very little access to the lives of most working people, just as most working people have very little access to the lives of the truly privileged. Hence, the invitation to mock that which is different and unfamiliar.

It is easy to mock them, poke fun at their pretentiousness and immaturity, but why? What is gained in doing that?

My personal theory is that much of what was said and discussed by the Smith kids sounds like canned Scientology rhetoric. The teens posit that “babies remember,” and they are shocked by the harshness of the world they enter at birth. School is inauthentic because it ends and learning must always continue. Those kinds of notions are Scientology 101. (Full disclosure, Will Smith has denied being a follower of Scientology, despite numerous financial donations and opening a school which relied on Scientology values being taught. The school has since closed.)

The interview quotes are full of self-importance, teen rebellion and a complete lack of empathy for others living a life more burdened by pesky things like clocks and schedules and bills and homework. If you don’t like the music you hear, record your own! If you don’t like the novels you read, write your own! It is easy to mock them, poke fun at their pretentiousness and immaturity, but why? What is gained in doing that?

It’s an ugly quality in so many of us these days, the mocking, the tearing apart, the easy take-down. Hell, I did it myself early in my online blogging days and garnered quite a few fans that way (Sorry, Gwyneth!).

Long story short, they’re talented and bright and gorgeous and silly kids full of loads of confidence and, admittedly, perhaps overly healthy self-esteem reserves. Reading the interview, and I’m dating myself now, was a bit like watching Brandon Walsh on "90210" back in the day. Brandon always had the answers, he was cooler and smarter and wiser than the adults around him, and was the voice of authority in every situation.

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Willow and Jayden Smith live in a world they command that celebrates them universally. If you feel a need to take them down a peg or two, or mock them for the life clues they lack, well, methinks that says more about you than about a couple of privileged celebrity teens that are too busy writing novels and recording albums and climbing mountains to give one damn fig what you think.

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