• Manuell Tony

The Slap Heard Around The World

I’m sure we’re all very familiar with what we’re talking about here. It was THAT moment. The moment in fact, when Will Smith, Oscar nominee, raged to the stage and delivered a precise hit. A devastating blow. A pounding slap to the comedian Chris Rock, which was heard loudly and clearly all around the world. Soon afterwards, Smith won Best Actor and presented a teary speech, apologizing to the Academy but not to Chris Rock. What a night that was, as Chris Rock himself put it, “the greatest night in the history of television”.


Nevertheless, violence like this should never be tolerated and taken lightly, but it will be interesting to view an argument constructed from both sides here. Chris Rock, at the 94th Academy Awards Ceremony, delivered what some would call an inappropriate joke targeted toward Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s wife. As a result, Will Smith jumped up on stage, slapping Chris Rock before settling down in his seat and beginning to curse loudly at Chris. Both of their behaviour was obviously unacceptable, but whose was worse?


There are plenty of people blaming Chris Rock in this incident - that his joke was way too offensive, even for a public television event - and praising Will Smith for courageously defending his wife. What many people don’t know is that this isn’t the first time Chris Rock has made a joke about Jada. Back in the 2016 Academy Awards, he joked about how Jada was boycotting the ceremony due to a lack of diversity. This time in the 2022 Academy Awards, Rock made a joke about alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss. A condition that Jada Smith, unfortunately, suffers from. Just because it is a disease does not give Chris Rock permission to make such an insensitive remark, and this pattern of belittling Jada and black women as a whole has lead to his most serious accusation. Toxic masculinity.


But Will Smith has also been accused of toxic masculinity for this stunt as well. He first laughed at the comedian’s joke, whilst Jada on the other hand was visibly annoyed. It could be that her husband recognized that she felt totally disgraced by a joke about something that has been so personally painful to her. This caused Will Smith to storm on stage and perform what some would call an exhibition of “macho stereotypes”, fueled by presumptions about how men are supposed to act to protect dignity - the dignity of their loved ones. Social media users have also called for the arrest of Will Smith, defending Chris Rock by saying he took the slap bravely. They have noted the fact that the consequences of such actions are reserved for non-celebrities only because you cannot just assault someone on live television and sit back to enjoy the rest of the show.


It may also be important to note that quite a lot of people have called for the need to protect black women in light of this incident. Black Women have to navigate through both sexism and racism in our society today. They are expected to remain still in the face of opposition, just like how Jada was degraded in a room full of her peers on live TV and expected to take the “joke”.


In conclusion, no matter how funny this situation might appear to the majority of people, it is still a significant moment in public television that highlights many of the problems that our society tackles today such as toxic masculinity and should be noted by future generations. As writer George R.R. Martin puts it in one of his novels, “Words are like arrows. Once loosed, you cannot call them back.”


By: Manuell Tony