Was Will Smith ‘justified’ in the big Oscars slap moment at the Academy Awards? I’ve heard lots of arguments that seem to miss the point.
I didn’t plan to address the Oscars slap moment when Will Smith smacked Chris Rock live during the annual awards ceremony. Like you, I’ve seen plenty of talk and discussion about the incident. Newscast producers placed at the top of their rundowns for days. Hollywood stars expressed their shock and disappointment. Your friends on social media likely sounded off about it as well.
People began debating about poor Jada Pickett Smith’s feelings as she struggles with alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair loss.
Some people are still fighting over whether the whole thing was staged.
I’m told that after the slap, “Team Will” began trending on Twitter. I didn’t hear any report of “Team Jeda,” which seems strange. But I also saw reports that tickets for Chris Rock’s next comedy gig were suddenly selling like hotcakes.
So there’s no single position to take here.
But here’s what I’m thinking about the whole controversy.
No, violence isn’t ever the answer. Most people know that. Most people say that. Yet they sure gave Smith a standing ovation when he won his first Oscar, a moment which was, of course, completely overshadowed by the infamous slap.
Maybe, along with the Best Actor award, some of them, to some degree, might have been applauding the display of toxic masculinity.
When I looked at the clip, immediately after Rock’s G.I. Jane 2 joke, Smith himself appeared to laugh. His wife didn’t. She sort of rolled her eyes. All of a sudden, for Smith, it wasn’t funny. Wow. Didn’t that change fast!
All of a sudden, he gets to his feet and storms the stage to slap Rock. Did Jada urge him to do so? Did she push him? It didn’t look like it to me. But she didn’t grab his arm and stop him, either.
Smith talks about living his life with an abundance of love, which is, of course, a noble goal yet a nearly impossible one.
He gave his Oscar acceptance speech apologizing to everyone but Rock, adding that love makes you do crazy things.
In defending his wife, it made him do a criminal thing. Come up with all the excuses you like.
But for those who consider people like Will Smith role models, one needs to ask an important question.
Is this the message we want them to receive? That when someone insults you, insults your spouse, disrespects you in any way, is violence acceptable?
Should it be? Of course not.
But I wonder if that isn’t the message the crowd sent those people when they applauded — and continue to applaud — Smith. Smith got away with committing an assault on live television.
Chris Rock declined to press charges. But why should he need to agree or decline? The assault had millions of witnesses. Police saw it happen. Why wouldn’t that be enough in and of itself?
The next person who decides getting physical is the proper answer to a perceived sleight probably won’t be on a national stage. They’ll be in a parking lot, at a bar, in someone’s home. The outcome might be a lot worse. That person who gets slapped or punched might well pull out a weapon and escalate things.
I see disputes that end in tragedy nearly every day covering news. It happens.
The examples adults set sink in, whether we like to admit it or not. No, we didn’t commit the Oscars slap. But our reaction to it, and worse, our defense of it, does.
Is that the message anyone should want to send?