WILL SMITH NEEDS HELP AND NEEDS IT FAST!
As I recall the now infamous slap that actor Will Smith gave to Chris Rock as he did a comedic segment prior to presenting an award at the 94th Oscars or Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in LA on Sunday, March 27, 2022, I can’t help but conclude that Will Smith needs help and needs it fast!
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith being a Hollywood power couple and sharing all the details of their life on the Red Table Talk show (which Jada co-hosts with her mother and daughter) and other platforms doesn’t mean everyone has been listening.
To assume everyone knows his wife is suffering from alopecia is arrogant as it has transpired Chris Rock had no idea.
And if Jada is so insecure about her hair loss, why not wear a wig as other people with balding issues from alopecia, cancer treatment or ageing do? Kimberley Klacik (who has the same condition) rocked wigs during her popular campaign for a Congressional seat in 2020.
I don’t believe Chris Rock meant to be disrespectful. He started by saying, “Jada, I love you.” On the contrary, saying that a lady looked ready to reprise Demi Moore’s role in the film “G. I. Jane” sounds like quite the compliment to me.
“G. I. Jane” reenacted the true story of a young female officer, Lieutenant Jordan O’Neill, who, to become a Navy Seal, went through the excruciating training refusing all exemptions on account of her sex. That meant shaving her head to be like the guys and participating in dangerous missions like other recruits. She ended up outperforming her mates.
To move from laughing at the joke to acting on his self-absorbed wife’s displeasure was immature, especially since Will has done quite a bit of comedy in sitcoms, like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” (where he often teased his uncle in the play about his baldness) and in his movies.
Like lawyers have privilege in court and can be merciless in examining witnesses to win their cases, comedians have the latitude to use a little bit of truth and colour it with their imagination and hyperbole to elicit laughs. They can’t be expected to shy away from potential material that offends the sensibilities of everyone or there’ll be no jokes left to crack.
As Stephen Colbert of the Late Show has said, the best way to hit back at a comedian is to not laugh at his jokes, not to physically assault him. Many comedians have rightly complained that Will’s action may embolden other people to hit comics who make jokes about them or their loved ones. With the pressure comedians are already facing from cancel culture, Will’s action must be condemned. It is just not okay.
In addition, Will’s misbehaviour reinforces the stereotype that Black people are uncultured, emotional and violent. It’s not a good look at all. The only saving grace is that Chris did not respond in kind. The poor guy was confused as seen in part of his response, “It’s a G. I. Jane joke!” He handled himself admirably and went on to present the award for best documentary.
The irony is that in slapping Chris and repeatedly yelling, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fu#king mouth,” Will has made her the butt of dirty jokes by every Tom, Dick and Harry.
This brings to mind Ricky Gervais’ blistering monologue when he hosted the Golden Globes in 2020. He highlighted the ridiculousness of wokeism that has overtaken the movie industry- the tokenism, diversity quotas and caving in to cancel culture. He also blasted the Hollywood elite for their insulation, hypocrisy and moral depravity, naming names and shocking everyone, but they sat through it all. There were a lot of stiff faces in the room but Gervais stole the hearts of the many millions around the world who watched the show.
Thankfully, Will has apologised to Chris on Instagram and hopefully, the many young people who look up to him will not see this mistake as something to emulate.
He is still that guy who is known for many good things like his wonderful work ethics- he shows up on set on time, he is personable and great to work with, he avoids drugs and alcohol that can mess up his mind and affect his delivery, etc. Altogether, he has a relatively wholesome image (at least compared to many other celebrities) and is seen as a devoted family man.
I hope that all these will speak for him at the formal review of the incident that the Academy has announced it will conduct. It will be a shame for him to lose his first Oscar which has put him in the revered group of Black actors who have won an Oscar for best male lead, comprising only five men.
But there’s still a fundamental problem- the nature of Will and Jada’s marriage- which has drawn an outpouring of jokes as seen in innumerable memes and some video clips, many of them quite brutal. (One of the most wicked by comedian Ryan Long and three colleagues is linked below.)
A lot of people are saying that open marriages, like theirs, are a mess and expose people to untold distress, frustration and humiliation.
Some have suggested that Will has been broken by his wife’s intimacy with other men, including his son’s best friend, and was overcompensating by hitting Chris. I’m inclined to agree with them. The way he wept in his acceptance speech for the Oscar he won spoke to deep issues that went way beyond what happened in that hall.
Towards the end of his speech, he said, “Love will make you do crazy things.” True, and that’s why I think he needs help- from himself and those who truly love him. He needs to be the man in his home and get the respect he deserves so that he doesn’t feel he needs to prove anything to anyone. The next time he loses control, he may hurt someone seriously and what’s to say it won’t the one he loves.
(I was thinking along these lines and I found just the meme for it.)
This post was first published on my Facebook page, Aunty Edith, on March 29, 2022. The version here is longer.
For more info, check out the following:
1. Warning: The language on the following video is very colourful.
2. Ricky Gervais’ Monologue at the 2020 Golden Globes
3. The slapping incident
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