KGOY & The Case of Willow Smith

It has only been a day since the release of Willow Smith’s video for her debut single “Whip My Hair”, and yet everyone I know has not only seen the video, but developed some sort of opinion relating to it.

I had heard this single a month or so ago and was shocked to find that this was the product of a 9 year-old. My feelings went from shocked to slightly disappointed when I came to discover she was the daughter of superstar Will Smith. Inspired by Rihanna (oh dear), Willow has become an overnight sensation–slightly similar to “Bieber fever”, she already has developed a large group of supporters online and off.

Sure, she’s cute and sassy. But pretending like I’m entirely supportive of this is just like when a friend gets a fugly haircut and asks how it looks–you have to be nice to their face, and keep your actual opinions to yourself.

Honestly: have we not observed the pitfalls and struggles of child pop stars over and over again? Let’s think about Michael Jackson, Britney, Lindsey Lohan, Drew Barrymore, Miley Cyrus… Children who get involved in show-business too early almost always develop some serious complications later on in life. Growing up is hard enough–so to add issues of money and selling a product and travel and homeschooling and issues of socialization in the mix? Dangerous.

Many scholars agree with the belief that kids are getting older younger–KGOY. Coined by scholar Henry Giroux, his theory involves the idea of childhood being threatened by the current global obsession to “adultifying” youth, becoming what he called an “endangered species”. One of the core elements from Giroux that can be applied to many current child stars is the notion that “marketing the sexual child is a part of the United States”. We’ve seen this in pageants and shopping malls–so of course, the entertainment industry is no different.

Willow is definitely a primary example of KGOY. She is a straight-up commodity. She’s a new product for kids to enjoy and for parents to spend money on. Her video doesn’t suggest otherwise–expensive clothing, glamorized hair-dos, makeup and self-described swagger… she is behaving exactly how she believes she has to in the entertainment industry.

Sure, there is an overwhelming element of fun involved, but it still makes me uncomfortable to witness Willow (unwillingly?) sacrifice her childhood for some fame. Am I the only one? Probably not. (This isn’t ‘hatin’ either Willow, it is all in an effort to protect your well-being!)

In the next year, we’ll have to just watch and see what happens with Willow as her popularity will surely continue to rise. Til then, let’s hope that the presses and fan base will continue to play nice.

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