Should Will Smith have struck Chris Rock at the Oscars?
That question seems to be on a lot of minds today with a lot of people claiming it was an exhibition in toxic masculinity and privilege. Most of them are also saying things like, “Violence never solves anything.”
Others say Smith stole his wife’s agency when he took on Rock over the off-color comments.
And people who have never had an autoimmune disease are up in arms that Smith got upset over nothing.
There have even been Black people saying that Smith’s actions will be used to reinforce the image of “angry Black people” and that his actions were detrimental to the effort to address racism in the United States and worldwide. That isn’t for me to discuss. I have opinions, but I cannot say how it affects Black people.
What I can say is that a disabled woman I am glad that Will Smith stood up to his wife’s bully. Did he “steal” Jada Pinkett Smith’s agency in doing so?
I don’t think so, but that’s for her to determine.
What I am thoroughly equipped to address is the bullshit statement that violence never solves anything. Sometimes violence, even verbal violence, requires violence to make it stop.
If you aren’t familiar with the incident, here’s a short recap.
Chris Rock, hosting the Academy Awards, commented that he “couldn’t wait to see Jada Pinkett Smith in G.I. Jane 2,” obviously referencing her bald head.
On the surface, it seems like an innocuous comment. After all, Jada is the one who chose that look, right? And she’s an actor so she put herself in the limelight and should expect some public commentary, right?
No, it’s not right.
Jada announced that she was shaving her head because she is suffering from an autoimmune disorder called alopecia. Alopecia makes your hair fall out in patches and one treatment sometimes recommended is removing all the hair so the skin can heal.
The fact that because she is a famous woman, Jada was forced to reveal her medical information to avoid rumors and speculation is out of line. As a society we need to start respecting people’s privacy and not judging people, especially women, on whatever beauty standard we have randomly decided is appropriate this year.
Furthermore, though she is an actor, that should NOT mean people feel they have the right to comment on her appearance, unless it is related to the role she is taking. Women’s bodies are not here for your entertainment.
So the comments that Will Smith was stealing her agency by standing up for her? Bullshit. Comedians and the public who feel they have the right to comment on her appearance are the ones trying to steal her agency.
That history makes Rock’s comment less innocent and more of a targeted dig at someone’s disability. Rock was being a bully.
Does Rock being a bully automatically mean Smith gets a pass for smacking him?
No, probably not. The first time we confront a bully, violence is not necessarily the answer. But this isn’t the first time that Rock has been a jerk to Jada.
In 2016, when she announced she was boycotting the Academy Awards because of the lack of diversity in the awards history, Rock also had something to say. According to Rolling Stone, Rock’s opening monologue in 2016 attacked the actor. “Jada went mad,” he began. “Jada says she’s not coming. Protesting.” Then he quipped, “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”
Jada shrugged off that attack as “it comes with the territory.”
But when the bully attacked her appearance in 2022, she was obviously upset.
And after her husband noticed she was upset, he went to the stage, smacked the bully down and then told him “Keep my wife’s name out of your f*ing mouth.”
Was Chris Rock doing anything that other comedians don’t do?
Probably not, and that’s part of the problem.
We must stop comedians from bullying people based on their appearance. It’s not okay to mock someone’s wheelchair, weight, glasses or other physical difference. It’s about time we started calling bullies what they are and not accepting “it was a joke” as an excuse for poor behavior.
Will Smith might have been better served to stand up and say, “That’s not f*ing funny.” But to say that Smith was the only one in the wrong here is to accept ableism. It’s time to tell comedians, both professional and the would-be comedians we encounter every day, that it’s just not funny.
Jada is the only one who can ultimately say if Will’s actions in her defense were unwelcome. Personally, I like knowing my husband has my back even if that means he chooses a poor venue to make that statement.
I’ve also seen a lot of people asking if the reaction would have been the same if Rock had been a white comedian. Would Will Smith have been allowed to smack a white man and then just sit down and enjoy the show?
The sad truth is probably not and that is a racism issue that we must discuss. I am too white to be the one who leads that discussion.
But I will stand in defense of Will Smith’s smacking bullies. Sometimes, you tall them politely that their jokes aren’t funny and that they are hurtful. Then when that doesn’t work, sometimes violence is the answer.
I fell confident Chris Rock will think twice before bullying Jada Pinkett Smith again.
And I can almost hear all his defenders saying, “Maybe he didn’t know. Maybe he didn’t mean to be a bully.”
Again, I call bullshit.
Chjrist Rock did a documentary called Good Hair about the struggle and racism that Black women face because of their hair. He understands the very deeply conflicted feelings Black women have about their natural hair and how it has been weaponized against them.
In choosing to comment on a Black woman’s lack of hair, he was making a hurtful dig. Whether he knew about her disability or not, Rock was deliberately bullying a Black woman about her hair. There is no one aware of the cultural zeitgeist who could be unaware of the problems inherent in his choice of words.
Will Smith may not have needed to resort to violence to silence this bully, but there is no doubt that Chris Rock was bullying Jada and thought he could get away with it.
Perhaps we need to look at that toxic masculinity instead of placing all the blame on Smith.