Last night, at the 2022 Oscars, Will Smith overreacted to an admittedly lame and toothless joke from presenter, Chris Rock, and nothing has made sense since.
I was watching this happen with my youngest son who loves Will Smith. LOVES. We’ve seen the MIB trilogy multiple times, iRobot, hell, even Wild Wild West. He thinks he’s the coolest. I’ve been a fan since Parent’s Just Don’t Understand and I still think he’s an exceptional human being.
And then he lost his shit in front of the world over a dated joke and assaulted someone. At first, we thought it was a scripted bit when the audio cut but then we read his lips as he urged Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth. It was clear this wasn’t a bit. What the hell?
I think Will Smith was cooking for a while before we got to that moment. I don’t think it was this joke that did it and I don’t think it was Rock he really wanted to slap.
Earlier in the evening, there was a joke about Will & Jada’s open relationship (see below) and I think that got him stewing.
It’s a throw-away line and they appear to take it well but if you saw the Red Table Talk where Jada destroys Will, in the most public way possible, you know it’s a raw nerve.
From watching this video this much is clear: Will Smith loves Jada far more than Jada loves Will. Will knows it and has had a choice to make; stay and experience that loss repeatedly or leave and lose the love of his life for good.
I think Will Smith is a guy who doesn’t like losing. I think he can’t accept the fact that he lost her, possibly through no explicit fault of his own. Unwilling to accept that and move on he’s living in a halfway existence where he can fool himself into thinking things are ok until he remembers that he’s pretty far from ok.
And this brings me to the title of the piece. I think it’s evident from his acceptance speech moments later that Will Smith is in a lot of pain. We can’t know the full nature or extent of that pain but I think it’s safe to say at least some of it is tied to his relationship with his wife. This is a guy who is going through a lot and I don’t think it had anything to do with Rock, the joke, or even winning the Oscar.
Hurt people, hurt people. We saw Will have a human moment and do something hurtful to someone that meant him no harm. If we’re honest with ourselves we’ve been there, too. Maybe not slapping someone, but certainly doing something hurtful to people who didn’t deserve it because we couldn’t cope with the pain we were experiencing.
How it ended.
Everyone in the audience desperately wanted to forgive Smith. As social animals, we’re eager to reestablish the status quo. However, to do that we need an apology. We need the person to acknowledge their transgression and perhaps offer an ounce of explanation for why they did what they did. Will didn’t do that.
Instead, he attempted to offer an explanation about “protecting” people and how somehow this action was tied to the role for which he was nominated as though it was perhaps some “method” exercise. He could tell halfway through that the audience wasn’t having it. He manages to remember where he is and what’s happening and apologizes to the Academy, though not Rock. It was something of an apology and repaired some of the damage but it wasn’t what we were hoping for.
I told my son that Will screwed up and that a quick apology is the best course of action. Admit what you did was wrong. Seek to repair the relationship quickly. Take time afterward to examine how you got there. With that advice in mind, I’ll offer what I would have said if I had walked up and slapped a grown man in front of the world.
“I’d like to apologize to everyone and especially to Chris Rock for my actions a few minutes ago. To anyone who knows me, that wasn’t me at all. I don’t know entirely why I did it and I’m ashamed and embarrassed. I’m going through a lot right now and I don’t know what else to say except that I’m sorry. Thanks to everyone that helped me win this award… yada yada yada.”
Some have pointed out that Rock’s joke was a cheap shot at a woman who has Alopecia, and thus, should have been out of bounds. I don’t know that that information was widespread public knowledge but if it was known, it was a bridge too far. Further, it was a bad joke in general and Chris admits as much. I also heard Rock made a joke at the 2016 Oscars which may have already established a bit of animosity between the couple and Rock. Fair enough, though both feel like reaching to help justify Will’s actions here. We can still love and respect Will Smith while acknowledging that he screwed up, twice. I hope he patches things up with Rock and gets to a better place soon.
Finally, the academy says violence is never tolerated and their code of conduct shouldn’t have allowed Smith to stay in the building. There’s a push by some to see Smith stripped of his Oscar. That would be a terrible tragedy though it may be the right thing to do. I think if Smith had offered a heartfelt apology at the start of his speech instead of searching for a narrative that would justify his actions the likelihood of losing his Oscar would be minuscule. However, given how things ended I don’t know what happens next.
What do you think? Should Smith be stripped of his Oscar or Academy membership for assaulting Chris Rock?