Commentary: The slap heard ’round the world
Will Smith will likely not be remembered for winning best actor for his role as Richard Williams, father of the two tennis legends Serena and Venus, in “King Richard.” No, he’s going to be remembered for slapping comedian Chris Rock in the face and cursing him out on national television in front of millions 40 minutes before he won the coveted award. Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife that clearly didn’t fly with him. “The Slap” as it was coined, received countless impressions on all social media platforms within seconds; people who hadn’t seen it live watched videos that garnered millions of views within hours, including one by Jomboy Media that received 5.4 million views in the span of 14 hours, which analyzed the entire situation. During his “best actor” speech, Smith apologized for his behavior but did not specifically apologize to Chris Rock. After the ceremony was over, he apparently refused to leave.
Celebrities and regular folks alike have given their perspective on the event, and as you can imagine, the differing opinions were numerous. Some defended Rock, some Smith, and some made it about race, toxic masculinity and relationships. Most people believe it’s real, but others believe it was staged. But one thing is for certain; the American public is just as shocked as Chris Rock appeared to be.
However, what “The Slap” reveals to me is that Hollywood is no longer a place where, in the words of Jim Carrey, the “cool” people live. In the last few years, we have seen Alec Baldwin accidentally kill someone, Jussie Smollet stage a hate crime, Will Smith assault a man on national television and James Franco exposed for sexual misconduct. On a less serious note, director Ridley Scott blamed the failure of his movie, The Last Duel, on millennials not being able to look up from their phones. Or, do you remember when Gal Gadot gathered all of those celebrities to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” like a week into the pandemic? Or Sam Smith (who, in fairness, isn’t an actor) crying outside of their mansion after the first few days of quarantine?
And despite all of this, many of these celebrities will preach to the general populace about values and morals; I’ve seen many of them do this on Twitter and have watched so many award acceptance speeches where this is the case. And though most of these values and morals they talk about are inherently good things to support, it seems incredibly hypocritical to come from the mouths of people who make millions of dollars and who fly around in private jets.
I love movies, and I always will. And there are really great and upstanding people in Hollywood who really love their craft and what they do. There are so many people in high places who want to create and make art, and they’re fortunate enough to have a platform to do so; everyone can probably name one person in the film industry they would like to sit down and have lunch with. But many regular people who aren’t instantly recognizable and live everyday lives are tired of seeing celebrities talk down to them while those same celebrities are doing illegal and/or immoral things.
Though this will be old news by the time this article comes out, “The Slap” exemplifies a much broader lesson that Hollywood is just as flawed as everyone else and every other industry. People will always vie to watch a movie and the film industry will never die. However, the hypocrisy and the preaching that comes from the same industry that hosted a slap on national television will also likely never die until the stars of Hollywood look at themselves in the mirror and realize what their platform is for.