By Patrick Washington
So I’m sure you already know what happened; maybe you even saw it live. The Slap heard around the world, or at least on social media for way too long. Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on the Oscar stage and apparently society collapsed.
So let’s get the easy part out… Will Smith shouldn’t have slapped Chris Rock… on the Oscars stage. Ok we said it, now let’s get to this fall out. Now nowhere in this conversation can we claim to be factual. This is 100% speculation, hearsay, and old rumors manifested in social media alternative facts and trending topics. We don’t know how Will Smith feels, how he feels about his wife, what he thinks of the situation, nor how it “could’ve been.” We know nothing but what we saw. A slap on the Oscars stage. However, we do know who knows everything about it… everybody.
Every celebrity, media talking head, and blogger knew exactly what happened and why the very second Smith’s fingertips left Rock’s cheek. “He is a broken man, with a toxic wife!” “He is finally acting like a Black should in protecting his wife!” “It’s all fake for rating!” “He’s embarrassing the race!” “He’s standing up for the race!” … You know everything. But I think only few of the din of speculation had the right idea. “Why is THIS the thing Hollywood decides to jump on?”
I mean if we want to talk Oscar scandal let’s go back to the beginning. This ‘prestigious” award was created so studio heads could give actors, directors, writers, etc. something to shut them up about not getting paid enough. And a shiny gold statue that says “You’re The Best” is the perfect way to shut up an artist complaining about payment. What’s better than money in Hollywood? FAME. What better than money in Hollywood? PRAISE. And for the entire life of the Academy Awards, it’s worked. So NO this isn’t a prize for the best, it’s a laser pointer scrambling around the floor while well paid acting cats chase it around the red carpet.
Violence is nothing new at the Oscars either. Many people remember the iconic Marlon Brando win when he sent Sacheen Littlefeather to the stage to implore the industry to stop portraying Native Americans in stereotypical and racist ways. Meanwhile, John Wayne had to be held back by multiple security guards to prevent him from “punching her” off the stage.
If the names Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polansky, and Woody Allen don’t ring a bell, congratulations you’re 8 years old and fourth grade is gonna be amazing. So let’s just remember that the industry that celebrates the greatest cinematic achievements of the year also spend a ton of its time covering up sexual assaults while elevating the people who commit the crime.
Finally we have the Negro delegation. This is probably the most special group because WE cover the gambit when it comes to cause and effect. Ask the right person of the right age at the right time, and they will say Will Smith did exactly what he was supposed to do. Ask another and he is a disgrace, and giving “them white folks” all they need to judge and condemn us. Probably doesn’t help that the marketing leading up to the event was super Black. Will Packard producing, all Black production team, Black lead actor nomination… whew boy, this was gonna be the 2008 inauguration of Obama all over again…. Welp.
All that being said, Will Smith has since resigned from the Academy (whatever that means), and Chris Rock will have a great new special in a few months. But the take away here is. The hypocrisy of the movie industry is on full display and the machine is working because it has new fuel. A new, ignorant audience, that gravitates to spectacle more than any before it. And everyone is an actor in their own movie, the star of their own reality show, and whose opinion matters… Or so they’d like you to believe.