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Will Smith wants to be a YouTube star

Screenshot: YouTube

What the hell is going on with Will Smith? A decade ago, the guy was box office gold and an Oscar darling. These days he’s making garbage EDM, playing dudes named Cypher Raige, and starring in the worst movies to be released in any given year. But maybe he’s operating on some sort of galaxy-brain shit, because his new venture is either his weirdest one yet or the most logical step in a world where content is quickly becoming more valued than art.

In mid-December, Smith started his own YouTube channel. There, he’s posted five videos, many of them pairing footage from his Bright press tour with vlog-style monologues during which he cracks jokes and tells stories while eating dinner or playing handball with Joel Edgerton. He’s serious about it all, too, having recruited YouTube celeb Lily Singh to help promote his channel. You read that right—49-year-old Will Smith is asking YouTube celebrities to promote his own ventures. But it makes sense: YouTubers are pretty much the most famous people on the planet right now. There’s a reason all that Logan Paul stuff has been all over the news lately.

A new piece in The Outline breaks down Smith’s channel, using it as a means to explore the concept of an established celebrity turning to the platform to capture a (massive) generation of consumers that would rather fire up YouTube than head out to their local cinema. Smith’s attempt to win over the youngs hasn’t been wholly successful; author Ann-Derrick Gaillot likens one gag as akin to “your dad using a meme generator and insisting you share his creation from your Instagram account.”


Still, it’s an interesting role reversal, one that may become standard for any movie star trying to sustain a well-rounded audience. “YouTube viewers are used to everyday people pandering for views by making their mundane lives seem exciting,” Gaillot writes. “When it comes to Smith, the power dynamic switches. Suddenly us nobodies are the ones who get to decide if Smith is a star.”

And now, we the nobodies, shall go mad with power.

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.