April 11, 2022
I was having lunch with a friend recently and we started talking about, what else, the Slap. It was one of those “industry-insider” discussions where we knew people who knew people who had first-hand opinions of the parties involved. At various times over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of people who know either Rock or Smith, who swear they are (i) the nicest guy on the planet; or (ii) the biggest asshole. That’s how it is in this town, they either love you or hate you. Sometimes depending on how close you are to power.
Anyway, my friend told me a story where he was shoved against the wall by, what we could consider a “celebrity.” My friend was cool about it. He didn’t push it too far, but received an apology from said celebrity. The celebrity did the same thing a few years later to another person and was called out, big time. The point my friend was trying to make was, people who act out are likely to repeat the behavior.
He was talking in reference to Will Smith. The Hollywood gossip mill was speculating this was not the first time Will has smacked somebody. Or, if it was, he picked the worst possible time to start. Obviously, it would be difficult for anyone to know unless they had witnessed it first-hand. According to Will’s long-time friend, DJ Jazzy Jeff, there have been 50 times when Will should have slapped someone and didn’t. To my knowledge, there have been no news reports of Will Smith having a physical altercation with anyone prior to Oscars night (and he is not the “celebrity” I was referring to above).
During the social media tsunami that hit after the event, there were some comedians who tried to connect Will Smith’s slap to a future world where drunk patrons would be empowered to slap comedians who told shitty jokes. (This is a False Cause logical fallacy.) The fear spread like herpes through the comedy community and, to date, has proven utterly ridiculous.
The reason is, Will Smith didn’t get away with it. There were consequences. Unlike in my friend’s case, the celebrity did not suffer consequence, so he felt emboldened to repeat the behavior. But, where there are consequences, the bad behavior is halted. (This is why sexual harassment in Hollywood endured for so long — the abusers got away with it.)
However, there’s another person in this sad little tale of slapstick, Chris Rock. He got away with it. He got away with standing on a stage, bullying a woman, and facing no punishment. There are some who believe Chris Rock still owes everyone an apology.
In the immediate aftermath, Jada Pinkett Smith has faced some of the most vicious, vile and contemptable treatment from (mostly) male comedians. Simply for folding her hands in her lap and showing a look of disgust.
Chris Rock’s brother, Tony, called Ms. Smith a “Bitch,” as if she was somehow responsible for Will losing his cool.
Controversial comedian Ricky Gervais came under fire for defending Rock’s joke by mocking alopecia. In a live Twitter Q&A via Uproxx, Gervais said, “Someone said it was joking about her disability. Well, I’m going a bit thin, so I’m disabled. That means I can park right up next to [British supermarket] Tesco now. And I’m fat. That’s a disease, isn’t it? I’m fat and balding. I should get fucking benefits.”
Bill Maher, described Ms. Smith as “lucky” to have alopecia, and not some other medical condition, and advised her to “put on a fucking wig like everybody else at the Oscars if it bothers you so much.” Yet, a week after calling Ms. Smith “lucky” to have a disfiguring medical condition, he doubled down, insinuating she was Will’s “bald trophy.”
Chris Rock, who has remained deafeningly silent about his intension behind telling the joke, has relied instead on his friends and family to speak for him. (As would anyone who was guilty of what they are accused of doing.)
Many of Chris’ proxies have taken the opportunity to further attack Jada. In this case, there is a direct link between Chris Rock getting away with bullying, and an increase in bullying. He’s an enabler, and until he steps up and stops the bullying, he’s not much of a nice guy after all.