quit defending Will Smith's assault of Chris Rock at the Oscars
You don't respond to jokes with violence. Period.
Okay, this is probably the craziest Academy Awards moment I’ve ever seen. I don’t typically write about this kind of thing but I admit I’m a little fascinated by the implications of it all: Toxic masculinity, superstardom, toxic fandom, misguided honor and crazy love. What a wild moment. I can’t help but feel it wouldn’t have happened if we all hadn’t just gone a little bit mad during the pandemic.
After Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, the King Richard star left his seat, marched up onto the stage and smacked Rock in the face—hard.
Here’s a clip:
What sparked this act of aggression that many at first mistook for a scripted act (it wasn’t) and why was Smith so upset in the first place?
Rock, who was introducing the Oscar for Best Documentary, made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. "Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see ya,” Rock said, laughing.
Pinkett Smith suffers from the autoimmune disorder alopecia which can result in balding. It’s a soft spot for her—and clearly a soft spot for her husband—though one can’t help but wonder if Will is taking out his anger over his wife’s infidelity here, with Rock as the unfortunate whipping boy.
After being struck, Rock—visibly shaken but handling himself like a true sport—said, “Oh wow. Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.”
“Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!” shouted in reply.
“Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke,” the comedian replied, still visibly flabbergasted, but handling all of this better than most would.
Smith shouted the same thing again, because apparently the actor—who I have always liked, but who I find myself liking much less right now—has no shame, no sense of dignity, and an overblown and clearly toxic sense of what honor demands.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for honor. I’m 100% supportive of someone defending their wife from ridicule. I think Smith would have been justified in talking to Rock after the event and expressing his disappointment. I think he could have issued a statement, explaining that this joke was hurtful to his family and that the illness his wife suffers from is no laughing matter.
But you don’t respond to jokes with violence. That’s bullshit. The only way Will Smith would have been justified in smacking Chris Rock is if Chris Rock had also lost his goddamn mind and physically attacked Pinkett Smith. If Rock had leaped off the stage and started taking swings at her, Will Smith would have been totally justified in smacking the shit out of him.
But that did not happen and anyone saying “he was just defending his wife” is engaging in stupid internet sociopathy. We’ve gotten to the point where we equate jokes and words to real harm so much that we can defend actual violence as a response. That’s literally insane.
Granted, we’re talking about The Internet here. Not specific Op/Eds, just randoms on social media defending an actor they adore. That’s low-hanging fruit, and I suspect that no matter the decade we would have had a similar response from fandom. “He’s just defending his wife” as though leaping onto the stage and smacking a comedian somehow protected her from a joke that had already been uttered.
Avenging then. He’s avenging his wife who, apparently, can’t take a joke. Frankly, I think we should reserve the word ‘avenge’ for more serious acts. I avenge someone who has been murdered or maimed, not someone who had a pretty mild joke tossed at her. She’s a celebrity. Surely she can deal with this level of ribbing.
Look, I get it. Love does make you do crazy things. And many of us—myself included—have been suffering under a lot of mental strain lately. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll. It sounds like the Smiths’ (very long) marriage has been rocky. Relationships are hard! But . . . .
Will Smith just assaulted a fellow movie star in public, on stage, on live TV. He made a fool out of himself, called attention to the private lives of his family, and committed what is—in fact—a crime. In any other scenario, this could have led to an arrest, though I doubt Chris Rock would press charges. After all, he joked right after getting hit in the face: "That was a greatest night in the history of television." Way to take your lumps, Chris. You have to be one cool cucumber to play that off so well.
For his part, Smith apologized while receiving his Best Actor Oscar later in the evening: "I want to apologize to the Academy," he said. "I want to apologize to all of my fellow nominees. Love will make you do crazy things. I'm hoping that the Academy invites me back."
Apologize to Chris Rock, dude. And get some help.
P.S. John Leguizamo is right. The show was ‘tarnished’ by the whole thing, and he should have given a straight apology to Chris Rock.
Thanks for reading, folks. Much love. Make love not war.