Despite his status as one of the leading box office draws in the world, Will Smith has rarely been the first choice for any of the roles he's played. By and large, Smith has come into rolls like "Men in Black," "Enemy of the State," "I Am Legend" and "Hancock" after a variety of white actors either left the projects or passed altogether. Even "Bad Boys" was originally meant for Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey. The recasting of lead roles with Smith automatically changed whatever romantic or sexual overtones a film might have had, bringing along the unwanted, and potentially controversial subject of interracial sexuality. This explains why in films like "I, Robot," "Men in Black" and "Hancock," what seems like a potential love interest (or at the very least sexual distraction) never pans out.
The role of racial politics surrounding Will Smith's inability to get the girl, even when there is a girl to get got is worth exploring. In the films where Smith does have some sort of romantic/sexual relationship with a woman -- be it an action film or a comedy -- she is always played by a black or Hispanic actress (i.e. Regina King in "Enemy of State," Eva Mendez in "Hitch"). But Smith's characters have never had a relationship with the white women he has been cast opposite of. This signals a definite step backwards from the days of films like "Shaft" and "Slaughter," where black action heroes like Richard Roundtree and Jim Brown got white girls all the time.
Hollywood began portraying black men as something other than non-sexual eunuchs in the late 1960s, when Jim Brown got black actress Diahann Carroll in "The Split" and Latino actress Raquel Welch in "100 Rifles." This trend continued throughout the 1970s, with black actors in action films getting women of various ethnicities. But by the 1980s, the asexual black man like those portrayed by Sidney Poitier in films like "Lilies of the Field" was back. With the exception of getting it on with a hooker in "48 Hours," Eddie Murphy never got the girl in any of his action comedies, creating an archetype of a black action hero that is quick with a joke, often at the expense of the predominantly white supporting cast, who for a variety of reasons never gets the girl. This is best exemplified by "Beverly Hills Cop," a film featuring one of the most emasculated heroes in movie history.
Now that Murphy has moved on to making lamebrain family comedies where he plays the husband/father, Will Smith seems to have inherited his crown as the somewhat emasculated hero. This was never more blatant than his most recent hits, "Hancock" and "I Am Legend". In "Hancock," it is established, rather improbably, that Smith and co-star Charlize Theron were once romantically entangled, but then just as improbably comes up with a convoluted explanation as to why they can't be together. This rather contrived and inane reason establishes that if the two characters try to get together, they will die, making the basic message in "Hancock" that if Smith's invulnerable superhero gets with the white girl, it will kill him.
In "I Am Legend," Smith plays Robert Neville, a man alone in New York City after most of the world is turned into poorly rendered CGI albino monsters. Neville's loneliness is so consuming that he takes to putting the moves on a mannequin. A mannequin! But when an uninfected woman shows up in the form of Anna (Alice Braga), the requisite and gratuitous love scene never follows. Sure, there was a deadly threat outside, but that didn't stop Charlton Heston from getting it on with Rosalind Cash under the same circumstances in another adaptation of "I Am Legend," 1973's "The Omega Man."
There is a bold statement to be derived from the fact that the last man on Earth, after three years with nothing but a dog and some mannequins to keep him company, doesn't take the time, even in the face of impending doom, to make some sweet love. There is also a bold statement to be made that in seven of Smith's nine action films he doesn't get the girl. And that statement, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, is that Will Smith has been robbed of the carnal reward that has said to so many other action heroes before him, "Job well done."