March 28, 2022
I am reluctantly going to post my opinion on this Will Smith/Chris Rock incident, in hopes that people will STOP calling me for my opinion.
My opinion is just that–an opinion. It probably weighs the same as yours.
OK. Here I go.
I do not think this incident was staged. I thought it was real. Will and Jada have aired a lot of their laundry in public for years. There’s stuff that’s out there about their relationship, her relationship with their son’s unstable friend, and their family, (all of which they don’t deny). That alone would warrant some type of counseling or therapy, which I hope they are getting. Chris Rock, reportedly was unaware of her medical condition and declined to file assault charges against Will Smith.
Not all jokes are funny and every smiling face ain’t happy. From my vantage point, Will openly laughed at the joke and then glanced at Jada or maybe saw or heard something in the audience and decided to choose this moment on the biggest award night of the year to as he said later in his Oscar acceptance speech, “defend his family.” IT’S NOT THE STIMULUS, IT’S THE RESPONSE.
It is very easy for me and others to second guess and analyze this situation, but that’s what we do. Here we are a day later. Will Smith could have been a role model and gotten a 3-minute standing ovation, had he handled this differently. He could have said something backstage during the commercial break, or instead of slapping Chris Rock, could have said something to him and walked back to his seat. Had that happened, I think we would be having a different conversation. Perhaps we would be talking about some positive “teachable moments.”
I am also looking at this through a racial prism. The image of black men is bad enough and full of stereotypes about our behavior and inability to control ourselves. It’s a shame that this was the first Oscars show where the entire production team was black (Producer, Director, Music Director, etc.) I don’t watch a lot of Oscar shows but I had the TV on and saw the incident live. I thought the show was good up to that point.
I will wrap-up my comments with three questions for you?
- Would Will Smith have slapped Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish, Amy Schumer, or any female who told that same joke and got that same reaction?
- Would this conversation be different if Chris Rock had posted a heartfelt public apology?
- What are the teachable moments that we’re left with as a result of this incident?
Update: At 7:30 PM ET Will Smith released the following statement to the media: “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”