I have watched the Oscars every year since Out of Africa won for Best Picture. Despite this storied history, I think my love affair with this event is over. I felt the show tonight was going well at first. I liked the amount of diversity I was seeing and was especially pleased with the lack of playing-someone-off music. I thought for a few, brief moments that we were seeing what I wished for the rest of the country, some inclusion, some empathy, some gentleness, and some unity. Then, Will Smith happened, and the Oscar broadcast suddenly felt like ABC’s The Slap.*
I know everyone and their dog, as well as the flea on their dog, is going to have an opinion of the incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock, so I will keep my four-cents (yes, 4 cents…inflation) brief. First, Chris Rock is a comedian. He cracks wise for a living. His comment referencing Jada Pinkett-Smith’s bald head was, at best, tasteless, and at worst, if he was aware of Jada’s alopecia condition, cruel and gross. That said, Will Smith’s physical assault on Rock on live television, followed by his shouting an obscenity-laced comment at him twice, was wrong on every single level I can imagine.
Let me break this down in kindergarten terms. You don’t hit other people. You. Do. Not. Hit. Other. People. Full stop. You just don’t. It’s wrong. Smith had every right in the world to be angry at Rock’s comment and to want to stand by his wife. I get that. He did not, however, have the right to haul off and hit the man. That he was allowed to remain in the theater after he physically assaulted another man in front of millions of viewers is wrong. That he received the Oscar and was allowed to stand there and talk about “love” while a crowd gave him a standing ovation is scary. That he tied his actions to Richard William’s fierce love of his family, stating that “love will make you do crazy things” was sickening. That Smith didn’t start his speech by apologizing to Rock for hitting him is a sobering example of what is wrong with this country.
I give credit to Chris Rock for being able to withstand that attack with some semblance of composure and go on to give the award for Best Documentary Feature to Questlove and friends. He handled that situation with some serious restraint.
I told my husband that while Jada may have appreciated Will’s show of misguided chivalry, I would most certainly be angry as hell if he ever “stood up for” me in that manner. (I know he knows this and I know he would never, but I said it anyway.) I can handle my own battles. I wouldn’t want anyone else speaking for me without having spoken about it with me first. I wouldn’t want anyone hitting another person in my honor. It all felt so middle school. I’m surprised we didn’t hear Will say, “Meet me behind the jungle gym at recess.” This antiquated notion that some men have, that chivalry means defending someone, needs to go. Chivalry is supporting someone. If Will had turned to Jada, asked if she was okay, asked what he could do to be there for her in that moment, and then she told him she wanted him to go defend her honor, then maybe that slap would equate to a show of support. But instead, he made it all about Will by displaying his anger and his appalling lack of situational awareness and self-restraint. Not cool.
At any rate, now that the Oscars have become The Maury Show, I’m finished. I’ll find out who won later. If next year’s Academy Awards devolve into a melee and seats get tossed around, I won’t be surprised. It seems like that is where we are headed.
*I have never watched The Slap, so I’m not really sure how it plays out, but I’m pretty sure someone gets slapped and a bunch of people have reactions about it.