I Love Will Smith, but He’s wrong to slap Chris Rock

I grew up really admiring Will Smith. Although the joke might not have been appropriate, slapping doesn’t justify it.

Actor Will Smith smacking Comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscar Awards

When I was a kid, I grew up watching and idolizing Will Smith as the main character in Fresh Prince of Bel Air and eventually move up to big picture films during the 90s through now. He’s a good actor and I’ve grown fond of him over the years especially in these movies: The Pursuit of Happiness, Men in Black, Hancock, I am Legend, and the Suicide Squad.

But after the Oscars my admiration for him collapsed with that slap to Chris Rock’s face.

It all started when Chris Rock made a joke that was written about Jade Smith being G.I. Jade. That’s a 1997 movie about Demi Moore who plays a badass female lead character in the army who wants to be treated like her male counterparts overcomes obstacles to rise up through the ranks and win against her enemies. The main point of the movie is that women are just as good if not better than men in similar situations. Although Chris Rock is known for edgy humor the audience along with 15.8 million viewers laughed about it because it was clever and witty. Including none other than Will Smith.

On camera as Will Smith was laughing about the joke, his wife Jade to the right suddenly had a sour look on her face, meaning she clearly didn’t take it kindly. Although we’re not sure what happened over the next ten seconds it’s possible that Smith looked at his wife Jada and recognized how hurt she was because of her condition. In response as Chris Rock was transitioning to a different joke Will Smith got up on stage and in front of 15 million viewers slapped him across the face.

“Will Smith just smacked the sh*t outta me” Chris Rock said to the laughter of the audience many of whom assumed it was part of the joke until Will Smith angrily shouted from the front row.

“Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” Will Smith shouted to a stunned Chris Rock as the Los Angeles theater gasped and fell silent. Chris Rock was taken aback from the sudden outburst stopped joking and just presented the nominees. “It was a G.I. Jane joke I mean…” Chris Rock responded before Will Smith cut in abruptly “Keep my wife’s name out of your FUCKING MOUTH!”

I love Will Smith, I loved the characters he play and how he rose up through obstacles even though he had dyslexia to become a great actor. However, that was neither the time nor the appropriate place to do that. If the person instead of Chris Rock was Wanda Sykes and he slapped her would that be an appropriate response? No it wouldn’t. And it shouldn’t be with anyone else either.

A bigger man would have pulled Chris Rock aside when he was off the stage and then talk to him about why the specific joke was inappropriate and hurt him and his wife. That’s the right thing to do in a situation such as that, talk it over like the professional well-trained seasoned actors or comedians that you are. That is what 50-year-old adults are supposed to do, not exacerbate the situation by slapping them like a six-year-old and risking your career path.

Furthermore, the ironic thing is that a bigger man would have apologized on stage to Chris Rock in front of those 15 million viewers. Instead, he ironically alluded to love and respect for others less than 15 minutes after he assaulted Rock publicly. I have no doubt that Smith loves his family very much, but slapping was neither appropriate nor the right time.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who is an NBA icon made a great point and saying that it was wrong to hit Rock on a sub-stack post that has gone viral and explained why.

“Smith’s slap was also a slap to women. If Rock had physically attacked Pinkett Smith, Smith’s intervention would have been welcome. Or if he’d remained in his seat and yelled his post-slap threat, that would have been unnecessary, but understandable. But by hitting Rock, he announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself — against words. From everything I’d seen of Pinkett Smith over the years, she’s a very capable, tough, smart woman who can single-handedly take on a lame joke at the Academy Awards show.

This patronizing, paternal attitude infantilizes women and reduces them to helpless damsels needing a Big Strong Man to defend their honor lest they swoon from the vapors. If he was really doing it for his wife, and not his own need to prove himself, he might have thought about the negative attention this brought on them, much harsher than the benign joke. That would have been truly defending and respecting her. This “women need men to defend them” is the same justification currently being proclaimed by conservatives passing laws to restrict abortion and the LGBTQ+ community.”

Furthermore, Abdul-Jabbar also points out that it perpetuates a false stereotype to conservatives about African Americans.

“One of the main talking points from those supporting the systemic racism in America is characterizing Blacks as more prone to violence and less able to control their emotions,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “Smith just gave comfort to the enemy by providing them with the perfect optics they were dreaming of.”

There’s a lot more that Abdul-Jabbar said and you can check it out on this link here. The main point I’m making is that you resolve your issues in private and talk them out like grown adults, not hit them in front of an audience.

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A person that really enjoys writing about food, culture, politics, justice, climate change, relationships, and other interesting topics.

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A person that really enjoys writing about food, culture, politics, justice, climate change, relationships, and other interesting topics.