Will Smith had what I would call a chivalric moment when he bitch slapped comedian Chris Rock when he cracked a joke about Smith’s wife’s shaved head. He said he didn’t know about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s struggle with alopecia in his defense. Whether Rock did or not, Rock should have known that making jokes about another man’s wife is a slippery slope. Some will say Smith did the husbandly thing. I say he committed battery. Considering this happened at one of the most boring, overrated awards events in modern times, I wonder what the real news is from what took place.
YouGov did a flash poll of 1,319 adults and found that 12% said Smith was right to slap Rock, and 61% said he was wrong, leaving 27% undecided. How do you have 27% uncertain about a physical assault? Smith could have been charged with battery, and make no mistake; according to the law, he committed battery.
So I have to ask, what is truly important here, Chris Rock getting slapped? Or the fact that approximately 3 to 6% of Black women suffer from alopecia? Or that the Academy Awards have become a wholly ridiculous and unwatchable show? Or that Will Smith’s banishment from attending Academy Award appearances for ten years matter?
I didn’t watch the Academy Awards. So I missed the moment of intrigue, collective gasps, and no doubt the what the hell outbursts and looks. As I read the news account, my mind went into disbelief mode, thinking this was a contrived publicity stunt between Rock and Smith. Seeing the pictures of the event dispelled that notion quickly. As the story unfolded, it became clear that Smith was upset with what Rock was saying about his wife and felt he needed to defend her honor. Right motivation but the wrong way to handle the situation. It should have been flint-lock pistols or rapiers at dawn.
Kidding aside, Will Smith should have exercised far more self-control. Even though Jada was upset, she did more with her eye roll than her husband did with slapping Chris Rock. That slap will cost him far more than a ten-year suspension, and most likely, he will be reaching deep into his bank account to pay lawyers and, at some point, a considerable dollar amount to Chris Rock.
But there is something else to consider, the act of violence against a fellow Black man. Many of you have seen what appeared to be a simple disagreement between two Black men suddenly turn ugly, ending with someone dead because of a simple verbal insult. Also, the image of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock will soon show up in the campaign literature of some Republican running for office, saying, “If you want less of this, then elect – fill in the name – because Republicans know how to stop Black on Black crime.”
The potential for long-term negative feedback from this event will be proportionate to the attention span of those who are award show followers. That is to say, not long. Will and Jada will be addressing this issue for the rest of their acting careers.
The Slap and Alopecia:
To wake up and find clumps of hair on your pillow or have tufts of hair in your hairbrush must be horrifying. You go to your doctor to find out what’s wrong and become more distraught when the doctor informs you that you have alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease the cause of your hair loss, and sadly, there is no cure.
Alopecia is the cause of female baldness in 3 – 6% of Black women. Since there presently isn’t a cure, Many Black women wear wigs to conceal their condition. Others chose to face the problem directly, like Massachusetts Congress Woman Ayanna Presley and Jada Pinkett-Smith. They saved their heads and went public about their situation.
Congress Woman Ayanna Presley, known for her signature Senegalese twists, said the following when she decided to go public about her hair loss:
“I do believe going public will help,” Pressley says in the video, where she publicly showed her bald head for the first time. “Because I’m not here just to occupy space—I’m here to create it… I hope this starts a conversation about the personal struggles we navigate, and I hope that it creates awareness about how many people are impacted by alopecia. To all those sharing their personal stories in response, I see you.”
When Jada Pinkett-Smith discovered she was suffering from alopecia, she tried to deal with it by cutting her hair shorter and shorter. She finally stopped and accepted what was happening:
“The higher power takes so much from people… and, by golly, if the higher power wants to take your hair. That’s it?”
Pinkett-Smith and Pressley professionally dealt with their condition. They acknowledged the fear of losing their hair, ruling it instead of letting it lead them. Shaving their head and appearing in public was their proclamation that they were in charge, not alopecia. On the other hand, Will Smith fell victim to his masculinity, thinking he had to do the manly thing and show Chris Rock who was boss and he was protecting his woman in her weakened state. Yes, his wife was dealing with losing her hair, but that is the point. Jada was coping with it. His marching up to the stage slapping Chris Rock did not help.
The slap took the focus away from what she was trying to do, raising awareness around this disease Black women suffer. Instead, everyone is wondering if Rock will sue Smith and does his suspension mean he has to give back his Best Actor Oscar. Chris Rock has said something about getting paid, and the Academy has requested Smith give back his little gold statue. But, the jury is still out.
Would The Slap Have Happened Under the Old Format?
Back in the day, the Oscars were a relatively simple ceremony. Mainly a dinner party awarding those actors who gave outstanding performances to be considered best actor and actress and best supporting actor and actress a Gold statue. There were no long acceptance speeches where the winners paid homage to everyone under the sun, including the class bully.
It was a simple production for simpler times. Now, it has turned into a monstrous menagerie of mayhem. The hosts seem totally out of their element. The vanity of the presenters magnified ten-fold because they refused to put on their reading glasses so they could read the cue cards without stumbling over the words, or is that proof positive they didn’t pay attention in reading class?
The first Oscar presentations took all of fifteen minutes. Tickets to the event were cheap, and it wasn’t a badly overproduced monstrosity of self-importance that allowed The Slap. With no comedians telling bad jokes, just essentially, “Hey Clark, come get your Oscar for saying Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Along with Hattie McDaniel for playing a Black maid in a film she couldn’t even see. No long speeches, no one walking up and slapping someone upside the head. Why? Because the entire thing was short and straightforward, that prevented what took place at this last Academy Awards. So, I’m going to say yes. I think the old format would have prevented what happened at this years’ Awards ceremony.
The time has come to reconsider the need for this menagerie of bloated time waste and scrap it entirely. What happened at this year’s awards may be the prelude to something far more problematic than a slap across the face.