Taking a short detour from the war in Ukraine, I wanted to address Will Smith’s conduct at the Academy Awards. It’s important to note that this type of incident will have people offering opinions from all sides and perhaps there is no, one correct opinion or perspective, but it’s still important to discuss.
Personally, I have no interest in the Academy Awards and was not watching when the “slap seen and heard around the world.” occurred. I only heard about it because a message came up on my Twitter account. At first I believed it to be two good friends, acting. After all, that’s essentially what the Oscars are about, even though they honor so many others who never step in front of a camera. I thought it was publicity for an awards show that simply doesn’t draw the viewership it once did.
There are three main reasons for the demise of most of the awards shows, not just the Oscars. 1) Hollywood elites are simply out of touch with the real world. Dicaprio declaring the dangers of climate change while lying on a sun lounge on a super yacht. Or Hollywood elites flying around in private jets. That’s always been the case, but as the world has grown smaller through social media, it’s become glaringly apparent. Oh great, another awards show of rich and famous people congratulating themselves as young Rose once said, “for being masters of the universe.” 2) Social Media. Today, almost anyone with an i-Phone and either something to say or simply attractive, can become an influencer. Regular, average people, not chosen by Hollywood casting, are becoming rich and famous. 3) With the birth and expansion of streaming services like Netflix, Prime and Disney, to name just a few, there’s no need to go to movie theaters. Stay home and watch movies. Or better yet, watch old movies or series. There are only so many hours in a day. New movies, unless part of the Marvel or Star Wars franchises, don’t draw the way they used to.
Jumping back to Will Smith, there are three reasons he’s completely at fault. 1)While on the face of it, it might appear that Smith did something honorable in defending his wife, it’s just the opposite. It only continues the stereotype that the man must come to the rescue of his helpless and defenseless wife. Jada Smth is anything but helpless and defenseless. We’re talking about a joke, not a physical attack. 2) It justifies physical violence for almost any reason. Violence is never acceptable unless you are truly, defending yourself or loved ones from physical harm. Chris Rock’s hands were behind his back, obviously not expecting that in this forum, on live television, he was going to be struck by Will Smith. He was smiling, obviously believing it to be a joke. 3) it’s an assault on free speech. Comedians make their living by telling jokes, sometimes inappropriate or unflattering perhaps, but jokes, nonetheless. Pushing the envelope that started with names like Bruce, Pryor and Carlin is all about free speech. The danger here is that demonstrates that a person, at any time, can go on stage and strike a comedian because that person doesn’t like what he or she said. Anyone who has ever attended a live comedy show, knows that time is always spent making fun of the audience. That’s part of the fun of the show. If you don’t think so, don’t go. Smith’s assault indicates that it’s open season on comedians and free speech, and that’s Not OK!!
Let me be completely clear. What Rock said about Jada Smith wasn’t nice. The joke wasn’t funny and didn’t land. One might even say it was mean and cruel. But free speech doesn’t have to be nice and kind. The first amendment exists to protect the most abhorrent speech imaginable, not the words that one agrees with. That’s why the 1st Amendment is so important. It’s the Amendment that makes us truly free and defends our liberties. Our right to free speech and assembly. It’s the foundation of our Democracy. When we limit speech, we destroy liberty.