What are we talking about today? Who won the Oscar for Best Movie? The record number of women winning awards this year? Or, the best dressed list? No, we are talking about actor Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock.
The latter had made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith being bald due to suffering from alopecia. While the joke was in poor taste, nobody expected her husband’s reaction: walking on stage, slapping the comedian and walking back using the F-word three times, just moments before he received his award. In his acceptance speech, he apologized briefly and media outlets later interpreted his reference to Richard Williams as a justification for his own behaviour. Williams, according to Smith, was “a fierce defender of his family”.
Why do I bring up this embarrassing behaviour here and even make it the topic of my Monday Postcard?
Firstly, what would have been a historic night for women was taken away by a man’s violent behaviour. In 94 years of Academy Awards, Jane Campion became the third female film-maker ever (and was second in a row) to be awarded the Oscar for best director. Sian Heder’s Coda won best picture and best adapted screenplay. Arian DeBose was the first queer woman of colour who got awarded with best supporting actress, Billie Eilish’s James Bond song won and costume designer Jenny Beavan won the Oscar for Cruella.
Secondly, we do not need a knight in shining armour to defend ourselves. Jada Pinkett Smith, the real victim of the joke, did not walk on stage to slap the comedian – her husband did. I doubt that she appreciated him walking on stage and using violence to “fiercely defend” his wife. If my partner pulled such a thing to “defend me”, I would be embarrassed and angry. I would teach my children to not use violence to defend themselves and would not agree with my husband reacting like this. Smith basically acted like the gang members in movies: “Did you just insult my mother/sister/wife/…?! I’ll shoot you!” And we all know how that ends.
The classy thing to react Rock’s joke – IF Smith’s wife wanted him to bring it up – would have been to briefly mention it during the acceptance speech and tell the audience that we should be more considerate of people suffering from health conditions. Alternatively, he could have mentioned something along these lines in interviews after the ceremony or on social media. Or, Pinkett Smith herself (or together with her husband) could have issued a statement.
But after doing some research about the dynamic between Smith and Rock, it seems that the two have been in some kind of feud for a while. Rock repeatedly used Smith in his jokes for years. Whatever joke Rock had made that evening, Smith probably would have lost it. To me, it sounds like he uses the defence of his wife (and, consequently, women in general) as an excuse that he lost his temper. It is a pity that he stole the spotlight, but I think he harmed himself way more in the long-run. It is hard to take such a person seriously.
In closing, I would like to say that women do need the support of men – in the form of an alliance to fight for equality. But the last thing we need is men who steal our spotlight and use violence, just because their ego was hurt.