The Will Smith and Chris Rock Thing That Happened

by Chris McGinty

I almost hate to jump on this while it’s so fresh (hmm, were The Oscars in Bel-Air?), but it’s 1:40 in the afternoon and I can’t sleep because my mind is thinking about this thing that happened from all different directions. For those of you who don’t know, which is probably none of you, Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss at The Oscars and Will Smith smacked the shit out of him. Here’s a video since I can tell you don’t believe me.

Just some nonsense at some awards show. Nothing to see here.

Let’s get into all the different thoughts I’ve had about this in sections:

Stunt for Ratings?: The media and Hollywood seem disingenuous these days, which is why I went back to look a number of times to convince myself that there was an actual assault and it wasn’t a pulled punch stunt. The Oscars have struggled recently because some people are tired of Hollywood types spending an evening patting each other on the back. I would put it in a crasser way that suggests they give each other oral favors on live TV, but Will Smith might smack me before realizing that by oral favors I mean that they say nice stuff about each other. Admit it. You thought I meant something else. Personally, I don’t care about The Oscars and the nonsense celebrity behaviour, but some people do as evidenced by dwindling viewership. The promoters are probably trying to figure out if there’s a way to make physical assaults during The Oscars a regular thing without having to pay royalties to Jerry Springer.

And the award for best supporting face in a bitch slap… Chris Rock!

Will Laughing at the Joke: The fact that Will Smith was laughing at the joke before Jada let him know that she wasn’t amused doesn’t mean he found the joke funny. It means that they all know that they’re supposed to sit there and take the ribbing and even pretend they like it. In all truth, if Jada had just played along then there wouldn’t have been any issues. They could have taken to Twitter after The Oscars and said they felt the joke was in poor taste and Chris Rock probably would have realized that he crossed a line. The people who are like, “Will was laughing along with everyone else,” are in “Gotcha Mode” (which I think is the soup that Marjorie Taylor Greene was telling us about) and need to realize that Will was playing along like people are supposed to.

Did the Joke Cross a Line: As a person who doesn’t like the idea of hair loss (I have some reasonably nice hair and life without it would suck) I would like to say, “You just don’t key a man’s car,” but somehow say it like, “You just don’t make fun of a woman’s hair loss,” and have everyone understand that it was a Pulp Fiction reference. Unfortunately for me, and for Chris Rock at The Oscars, sometimes jokes just don’t work. There’s a talking point in the debate surrounding the role of comedians which says, “You don’t punch down.” The idea is that you can make fun of anyone who stands above you and oppresses you or other marginalized types, but you can’t take on the role of a bully against someone who is weaker than you. If Will and Jada Pinkett can’t be considered punching up, or at least punching laterally from the mouth of Chris Rock, then I don’t know what to say. Is it punching down because he made fun of a physical trait? Is it punching down because it’s a medical condition? It’s possible. I just know that I have said worse and had worse said to me in my life. If I knew that the person who said it was genuinely just trying to be funny, even if the funny failed, then it was fine. Which brings me to the next point.

Physical Abuse is Never Acceptable: This is a point that has been drilled into our heads for a while now. There is nothing that anyone can ever say that justifies physically assaulting them. The law supports this philosophy. Now, I will admit that when I’ve heard this it’s always been a one-sided take on domestic violence. Basically, you never hit a woman no matter what she says or who she fucks when you’re at work. No behaviour rises to the occasion of physical violence. Lorena Bobbit was justified, but that’s because her sack of shit husband was engaging in toxic masculinity long before we coined that phrase making it a legitimate thing because it has a catchphrase now. This leads me to my next point.

Toxic Masculinity: I’m sure that certain people don’t know where to come down on this one. On one hand, there is a backlash against comedians, because people who have a great sense of humour (just ask them) think some subjects are off limits. On the other hand, the one that smacked the shit out of Chris Rock at the Oscars, I was under the impression that women didn’t need men to act like big, strong protectors. What I’m confused about is why it wasn’t Jada who walked up there and smacked Chris Rock. Maybe I completely misunderstand feminism, but isn’t this the masculine behaviour the razor company warned us about?

LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out

Sorry this isn’t the razor commercial, but I’ve never seen it and have no interest in it.

What If It Was Me: Remember I was talking about Hollywood self-importance? Last I heard there were no charges being filed against Will Smith. I have a strong suspicion that if Chris Rock had joked about me or someone I cared about and I walked up to the stage to smack the shit out of him, I would probably have been tackled by security before I got near him. The reason Chris Rock just stood there was perhaps because he didn’t believe that another Hollywood type really presented a threat. What about someone from the unwashed masses, like me. He probably would have backed away and let security do their job. If I did manage to get to him somehow, I have to wonder if there would be no charges. I want to believe that Chris Rock is just a reasonable guy who said, “I made fun of Will’s wife and he smacked me. Maybe I deserved a little retaliation.” I want to believe if that’s the case that he would extend the same courtesy to someone like me, but I wonder. Will Smith set an interesting precedent by going up on stage and attacking the court jester. If he faces no real consequences, then it says to people it’s ok to settle disputes with violence. By real consequences, I’m not saying that I think he should go to jail. I wouldn’t send someone to jail under similar circumstances. I’m just saying that there should perhaps be some restitution paid in an apology tour.

What If It Was Me Part Two: Given the circumstance that got me writing, I’m almost certain that if Will Smith had joked about me or someone I cared about and I smacked him that there would be charges pressed. He’s too self-serious. I hate to say that because I admire him in some ways, but I think it’s true. To be fair though, I can’t imagine a circumstance where he or she would participate in that sort of behaviour. John Jacob WillandJadaPinkettSmith seem like nice people on the whole and their name needs to get out my fuckin’ mouth too. This is the same problem with the Pulp Fiction joke earlier. Sigh.

Conclusion: When Scott Adams talked about the six elements of humour (Bizarreness, Cleverness, Cuteness, Meanness, Naughtiness, and Recognizability) he warned that meanness was the toughest of the elements because it’s the easiest to push too far, especially if it’s not combined well with one or more other elements. In Chris Rock’s joke, the cleverness (the comparison to Demi Moore’s haircut in GI Jane) didn’t overshadow the meanness and it failed. At the same time, it was clearly meant in jest and not in a mean-spirited way. Will Smith could have just as easily have walked up and demanded an apology. He could have said, “Chris, I feel you’ve crossed a line on this one, please apologize to my wife,” and it would have been just as effective in terms of standing up for your spouse. It would send a better message about civility over violence.

Chris McGinty is a blogger who smacks of satire and sarcasm. He is a rock, he is an island with great will and furious anger. He is a word smith who likes to keep those words out his fuckin’ mouth by typing them out his fuckin’ fingers instead.

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