By: JOHNNY GARCIA
Actor Will Smith was all over the headlines after slapping comedian and presenter Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars, which was met with mixed reactions. Some celebrate the action, while others condone it.
Celebrating the act is not something that people should be doing. One may argue Will Smith’s actions were just, as Chris Rock made a disrespectful joke to his wife, Jada Smith. Will Smith was standing up for his wife, and his actions were acceptable.
However, the action was very much not, and in many ways was an unnecessary and dangerous overreaction. One can certainly say the joke crossed over a line, but responding to it with assault is not the answer to it. Had Will Smith only yelled what he did after the slap, the reaction would feel much more acceptable, but the slap is what pushed it over the edge to the opposite side of the spectrum.
There were no reparations for the slap. No immediate security involvement, no break to figure things out, the show just kept going as if nothing happened. This opens up the floodgates to anyone feeling justified in going up to a stage and assaulting a comedian who made a comment they did not approve of. It may not even be targeted at them, but through a celebrity’s example, they can replicate their behavior.
From here on out, just about every comedian, from amateurs performing at an open mic night to professionals performing in sold out theaters, must start to worry about someone in the crowd attacking them for saying something they opposed. It could be one that is harmless as well. It’s impossible to know what someone’s threshold is when it comes to comedy, so it’s easy to metaphorically step on someone’s toes. Step on the wrong person’s toes, and there may be a repeat of what happened at the Oscars.
Another problem with the slap has nothing to do with either Will Smith or Chris Rock, but rather, the academy itself. The slap overshadowed just about everything else that happened in the award show. Generally, it’s not uncommon for people to know what won Best Picture, but with how big the news of the slap was, all the other award winners were hardly mentioned in the headlines.
CODA, the winner of Best Picture was a notable win, especially for the deaf community. An actor in the film, Tony Kotsur is the first deaf actor to ever win an Oscar. Ariana DeBose took home a win as well, the first openly queer actor of color, and the first Afro-Latina to ever win an Oscar. All of these were historic moments in Oscars history for diversity and inclusivity, and all of them are completely overshadowed by the Will Smith and Chris Rock altercation.
Whenever anyone looks back on the 2022 Oscars, a majority of the headlines that will pop up in searches are going to revolve around the Will Smith and Chris Rock incident. The rest of the Oscars feel as if they did not even happen, as the incident is the only event people remember.
There is one more glaring problem with the actions of Will Smith, and that is that they were regressive. It falls within the outdated stereotype that a man has to “stand up for his woman,” whereas the woman is perfectly capable of standing up for herself. The joke may have been in lousy taste, but reacting to it the way Will Smith did paint Jada as someone who is defenseless against words, and needs her husband to step in to defend her. It’s an incredibly regressive way to handle the situation, and now it’s brought a lot of negative attention to everyone in the Smith family. Jada had previously posted about her struggles with alopecia and owned them, and it shows she is powerful enough to handle herself, and doesn’t need chauvinistic intervention to defend herself from a joke.
The Will Smith slap does have an argument for it to be justified. Afterall, Chris Rock made a joke that insulted his wife. However, going on stage and slapping him was the worst way to handle the situation. Had he simply yelled, it would have been an awkward moment, but one that would be forgotten about in a few days. Now, they are all over the entertainment headlines, and have a lot of poor press surrounding them. The actions of Will Smith did much worse for the family then a lame joke ever could.
The actions of Will Smith should not be celebrated, and it plays into a lot of issues with “toxic masculinity.” Everything else that happened in the Oscars was completely overshadowed, including historic wins. It’s a huge blemish over what should have been a notable award show, now, the only thing that it will be remembered for is the Will Smith and Chris Rock slap.