Would Will Smith have slapped Ricky Gervais, Jim Carrey, or Ellen DeGeneres?
I was one of those viewers who was lost about what was happening during the Oscars show. In fact, I didn’t even see Will walk up to the ramp and slap Chris Rock. Instead, I was on my cell phone ( ugh!). The disruption was enough for me to head to bed.
So when I woke up this morning eager to know this year’s winners, Smith’s slap reverberated across all newspapers. I couldn’t help go down the YouTube rabbit hole trying to piece things together. I first watched the monologue of Chris Rock and his GI Jane 2 comment. Next, I watched Jada Smith roll her eyes at the same time Will Smith laughed off the joke, albeit momentarily. Then, Will Smith’s walk up to the stage towards him, and Chris Rock’s Uh ho makes us believe this was staged. Then the slap. The shock. The silence. Smith’s return to his seat. Next, Chris Rock’s shock and an announcement that he was F…ing smacked by Will Smith. The scene didn’t end. The show wasn’t over. Then Smith’s screams. Keep my wife’s name off your F….ing mouth and again. His screams were so loud it resounded an eerie unease that floated in the dry air and the pin-drop silence of the auditorium.
That is what violence can do. Stun you to paralysis.
I spiraled down further to catch up on the tweets, social media, and primary media responses. But, of course, there’re two teams as in life. The justifiers and the condemners. I watched Tiffany Haddish back Will Smith for standing up for his family, Denzel’s soft response skirting the issue on hand, others commenting on the tarnishing of the occasion, and so on. None of their opinions mattered because I had my own.
Then I watched the grand finale. Will Smith’s tearful speech and apologies to the audience, the academy, and the viewers, carefully avoiding a direct apology to Chris Rock.
I recently read Will, a memoir by Will Smith, which I thought was a brilliantly written memoir, one of the best ones I read (and I’ve read lots of them). I confess that I came to like Smith even more than the persona I saw on Prince of Bel-Air, and the various personas in movies he acted in. Then, of course, the latest one was King Richard, which was brilliant. So I was finally a fan who greatly admired the man he was, the man he was trying to evolve into. I admired his honesty, struggles, deep thinking, understanding, trials as a parent and in his marriage, seeking the truth, and trying to reach his human potential. Will Smith resonated and was relatable as a human being.
Yet just when I started to love Will Smith.
Rage doesn’t just happen, especially if one doesn’t suffer from a mental disorder or have anger issues. Maybe there is inter-relational baggage between Jada and Smith. An eye roll would have sufficed to charge Will Smith to doing something, proving a point, a trigger that let him loose. Who knows. Perhaps built-up baggage from repeated references by standup comics about Jada’s head over time? Or maybe emotional or social baggage from the two comedians, Chris Rock and Will Smith?
No matter what, there is NOT enough justification for lashing out physically at any other human being. All of us are angry, frustrated, and rage for one reason or another. We rage at politicians or sects of people as a collective lot or towards a person, be it a parent, sibling, or friend. It may be a natural emotion. (although sustainable way to live life) There are many ways to express displeasure and anger or rage. For example, one could have a dialogue, express disapproval by a simple stare or a kind word- “Hey, that’s totally unacceptable, keep the kids and the spouses out of this” or even shout or scream. Or, as Michelle Obama’s said,” When they go low, you go high.”
Violence is not one of them. It should never be.
Violence is humiliating, hurtful in more ways than one. Violence attacks the core of your psyche and strips you of your dignity as a human being. Having survived abuse, I should know! One can only imagine what being slapped as an adult man in the presence of millions of viewers on TV and in an audience of esteemed guests can do.
I cringed watching Chris Rock and became him for a moment.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t help applaud Chris Rock for holding up, hanging on, taking charge of himself, finishing his task on hand, and moving away graciously. He was, in fact, so gracious that he didn’t press charges. It was apparent who the real superhero, the real super star was.
Another thing I wonder about at the end of this all.
Would Will Smith have had the audacity to do the same thing if this was a white guy? If this was Ricky Gervais or Jim Carrey or Dana Carvey. Or would he have done this if this was Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, or Ellen DeGeneres?