Mentor Text Wednesday: When Did Will Smith Stop Being Cool?

Mentor Text: When Did Will Smith Stop Being Cool? by Shea Serrano


  • Analysis
  • Multi-media writing

Background- Oh, it’s a busy time of year. Semester two began this week, which meant exams last week, and there are reports to finish up.

Not to make excuses, but when it came time to write this installment of Mentor Text Wednesday, my busy brain didn’t  have an idea. Luckily, I have a folder of mentor texts I’ve compiled to dig through.

Via Giphy

As I was digging through, I came across this piece which made me think of a conversation I had recently with a couple of buddies. We were talking about how the movie star era seems to have ended. There doesn’t really seem to be any starts left who open movies the way they used to. Sure, Tom Cruise can still open a Mission Impossible flick, but that’s just because of the franchise. His other pictures don’t really have the same juice.

I’ve had the same kinds of conversations with students. Many of them take in so much media, as well as a plethora of analysis of that media. It makes sense then, that we mentor that kind of discourse in their writing.

How We Might Use This Text

Analysis – Serrano’s piece, though a few years old, serves as a model for analyzing a career. There is a thesis, that Will Smith is no longer cool, which the piece argues. It’s an exemplary model of this, establishing the moments of cool in Smith’s career, and then highlighting when that wasn’t the case.

What I particularly enjoy about this piece, and would like to share with students is that this isn’t a brutal takedown of Smith, or a savaging of the piece that made him uncool. The breakdown of “Confrontational Will Smith” in “Freakin’ It” is nicely done as a series of bullet points instead of paragraphs is a model that would appeal to students, and shows how important it is to use multiple pieces of evidence to back up an argument.

As a whole, the piece is not just analysis, but is actually a critical appreciation. That’s one of the reasons I like this piece, is that as analysis, it isn’t a glowing appreciation, nor a critical savaging, but a nice blend of both. This, I think, would be important to put in front of our students, as it represents a thing they should be able to do, analyzing with an attempt to balance the positive and negative.

Multi-Media Writing – Much of the analysis we have students write is your pretty standard essay. This piece presents a different way to do this. I like the way that video, and other links are embedded in the piece. When discussing media, it makes sense to embed the media. One such element that “pops” for me is the use of the screencap of the Google search, as it works as a primary source of sorts.

I really liked that I went into the archives this time around. Dusting off older pieces almost makes them new in a way. I love that elements of this piece resonate, and I think, that as a mentor text, this would be a good piece to show students to inspire a similar kind of analysis of another career.

What are some other pieces you have to mentor pop culture analysis for students? Do you have any good stuff hidden in your archive?

Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @doodlinmunkyboy!


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