The Pursuit of Slappyness — Stop Defending This Assault

I have never been an Oscars aficionado. It’s never been a clear-my-schedule, must-see-TV night for me. I follow along on Twitter as awards are handed out and spend some time the following morning perusing the red carpet pics to see the dresses. Last night was no different.

I fist pumped the air as I saw the tweet that Ariana DeBose won for West Side Story. She is a glorious actress and her win was groundbreaking for openly queer people. (Yes, the word queer exists and is allowed. While it was slung as a pejorative for decades, the LGBTQIA began to reclaim it long ago. My generation flung it about in bad ways at people, used it to generalize anything odd, etc, which is why it still feels iffy to us to hear it or see it in print these days.)

I saw posts intermittently about the ongoing awards, the triad of female comedians at the helm, and the occasional what-is-she/he-wearing? Then my phone rang just as I was getting ready for bed. My son was alerting me to what had just transpired. He said that Will Smith had just gone up on stage and decked Chris Rock.

What?!?! Surely it was a bit. This was the Oscars after all.

He sent me the unedited link and I watched it. Then I rewatched it. Watched it again.

UNCENSORED WILL SMITH FOOTAGE AS SHOWN ON AUSTRALIAN TV pic.twitter.com/NcRfdjWxqe

— David Mack (@davidmackau) March 28, 2022

My first thought? It was straight up assault.

My second? God help us all as we suffer through the onslaught of debate, argument, conspiracy theories, and think pieces (like this one) that would surely tsunami in the aftermath. To say Twitter LIT UP is an understatement. If tweets could be transformed into an energy source, last night’s offerings could have illuminated Manhattan for a year.

But I digress. Let’s go back to the moment of impact, as it were.

Chris Rock, as every comedian before him has done, spent some time roasting the illuminati assembled before him. Sitting front row were Will Smith, nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of the father of Serena and Venus Williams in King Richard. Accompanying him was his wife Jada. Jada is currently bald. She owns it, she rocks it, she is a beautiful woman with or without hair on her head.

Chris Rock poked fun with some GI Jane references. Smith, for his part, is on camera laughing initially. Jada scowls. It is then that Will Smith, wrapped in a narcissistic tornado of misogyny, wealth, and celebrity mounted the stage and wacked Rock across the face. He then returned to his seat, twice hollering back, “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth.”

Rock stood there. Shocked, as were the other attendees, as were viewers around the globe. Yes, globe. The Oscars is an international event with millions tuning in each year.

Footage hit online quickly during the commercial break — Smith’s publicist conferring with him, then of Tyler Perry and Denzel Washington talking to him. What did not occur was his abusive ass being escorted out of the venue. Instead, less than ten minutes later, he was on stage accepting an Oscar for Best Actor, excusing away what happened, apologizing to the academy and his fellow nominees, but not once to Rock. He also cried and did what is so stereotypical of abusers — blamed his behavior on others.

Insert vomiting emoji.

Anyone who has been hit before, and I have been, knows this behavior. “I’m sorry, you made me do it.” “I love you so much you just make me crazy.” “Look what you made me do.”

He bawled on about wanting to be a “vessel for love” — seriously? Seriously??? He quoted what Denzel had apparently said to him privately after the attack, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”

Sorry, Will, the devil did not make you bum rush the stage. Your extreme narcissism and zero fear of consequences made you, enabled you.

What puked forth on social media has been eye opening.

Of course there are the “two wrongs don’t make a right” folks.

The arrest his ass now crowd.

The oh-it-was-all-staged theorists. (Explain to me what was to be gained by either man in that scenario of yours? Zero.)

But the contingent who see nothing wrong with his attack? That is most disturbing. The ones who believe he was within his rights to walk up on that stage and hit another person because that person said something about his wife.

That last group is dead wrong. But here is what I will allow… Hell, I’ll even use Rock’s own comedy in joking about OJ Simpson — the whole concept of “I don’t agree with what he did, but I understand.”

We’ve all been there. Someone, somewhere, whether in real life in front of you, on TV, social media, you name it — is running their maw. Insipid, stupid, offensive verbal diarrhea flowing freely from their gaping piehole. The urge to make it stop — we’ve all felt that. Take Trump. I freely admit I have lost count of the number of times I have wished someone would crush his windpipe on live TV. Just pummel him. Beat the living shit out of his decomposing gourd of an ass. Or worse.

It is baser human instinct, simplistic, lizard brain reaction type stuff. We’re human, we all do it.

So while I don’t agree with what Smith did, I’ll say I understand the impulse.

Now, add into the mix that Jada’s lack of hair apparently owes to her suffering with alopecia, something completely beyond her control. Pour that accelerant on Smith’s seething hot coals.

Again, I don’t agree with what he did, but I understand the impulse.

That’s as far as it goes, however. There is no condoning his actions. What the world witnessed was a choice. A choice to get up from his seat. A choice to climb the stairs to the stage. A choice to hit another person. Then the choice to holler the profanity twice, knowing full well it was all being televised.

I do not care that Jada has alopecia. I did not know. I am not required to know. No one is, including Chris Rock. To believe he should, we should? Take a seat with your star-fucking, apologist garbage. Knowing Will and Jada Smith inhabit this world is one thing. Knowing their medical conditions? No. It’s enough that they openly, willingly invite the world into their “interesting” marriage in which they both gleefully cavort and then gather round her “Red Table” to talk about it as if it is beyond our understanding, some sort of relationship enlightenment only they have attained and to which we should all be in awe.

Save it, Smiths. Your metrics for marriage are obviously different than mine, and that is fine. But don’t flaunt it all, don’t cuckold each other in public constantly, then cry over a bald joke. The howdareyouism of it all is laughable.

But let’s keep playing along…

To all of you who believe he was justified in his assault on Rock, that he was just being a “good husband”? Try it in your every day life. Next time someone says something you don’t like on the soccer sideline, go ahead and plow their cheek field with your hand tractor. See what happens. Police. Arrest. Jail cell. Tell your story to the judge. Cry about how you just want to be a vessel for love, how the devil came for you, how bruised someone’s words made your wittle feefees. Then enjoy your punishment because there will be one because assault is a crime.

Still don’t think so? OK, what if someone else had rushed that stage, some seat filler nobody knows who felt compelled to defend Jada’s honor, and done the same thing to Rock? Would Denzel have been offering aid and comfort? Would that person have been surrounded by celebrities calming him/her down? Would he/she been welcome to stay in the facility?

GMAFB.

Security would have swarmed. They would have been dragged straight out by LAPD, into handcuffs, into a police car, processed, printed, mug shot taken, cold jail cell their home last night.

Instead, cloaked in wealth and celebrity, Smith was comforted, calmed down, advised, and then allowed to collect his trophy while excusing his own actions. Then it was on to the after parties where no tears, remorse, or contrition were in attendance.

His Oscar should have been delivered to him by Jada when she bailed him out. As it stands, Chris Rock declined to press charges.

We cannot sit around despairing a system in which our asses would be in a legal sling, yet corrupt, provably criminal people like Trump and Co skate by, and then defend Will Smith’s “laws are for thee, not for me” attitude. What he did was assault. Period. End of story. Jada was not in physical danger. He was not protecting her from harm. And please miss me with the whole “You’re white, you don’t get it” thing I keep seeing online. What part of this is excusable based on their skin color? What am I not able to understand based on my skin color? This was assault. I do not care if it were Matt Damon clocking Ricky Gervais — it was unacceptable behavior, it was a crime.

Excusing it all away because you’re a fan, or because he’s rich, or because you fantasize about someone loving you so much they would choose violence to defend your “honor”, or because she’s suffering hair loss is just wrong. Was Rock’s roast unkind? Sure, but these events are replete with this stuff every time. Where are people defending Leonardo DiCaprio against Amy Schumer’s dig against his dating life with much younger women? Or offended over host Regina Hall feeling up Jason Mamoa and Josh Brolin on stage? How about if Barbra had rushed the stage and decked Regina for touching her man? These are adult events attended by adults who know that being picked on, joked at, roasted are part and parcel of the price of admission.

Not for nothing, Will’s and Jada’s association with Scientology cannot be discounted in his actions. There are actual courses in Scientology that cover/practice slapping, on its use, on why slapping is emasculating to your target. But then Scientology is a whole other cave of batshit to spelunk another day…

I give Chris Rock much credit for his non reaction reaction in not escalating what happened. Whether it was pure shock, or more presence of mind and place, it doesn’t matter. He handled it and went on. Which is what Smith could have done and today’s conversation could have been dramatically different.

He could have let it roll on by and then used his acceptance speech time not for self gratification, but to bring attention to his wife’s condition, one that is experienced by nearly 5 million people in the US alone — of all ages. He could have explained the emotional pain and the physical pain endured by these people. That treatment consists of steroid shots to the scalp — OUCH. He could have acknowledged that not everyone knows why Jada is currently bald, that she is bravely facing it and embracing it, that she is his hero. He could have said and done a lot of things that would have made him today’s hero, and elicited an apology from Chris Rock.

Instead he chose to be an aggressor, a bully, a criminal because he could. He is no victim. He does not deserve your defense. And despite that trophy, he is certainly no winner.

Again, I will allow that we all feel or fantasize about actions like his from time to time in our lives. But make no mistake, should we move to those actions, we will be held accountable. And Will Smith will not be coming to our defense.

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Linda Sharp

Author, columnist, blogger. Don’t Get Me Started and Transparent Trans Parent blogs