Look, in the grand scheme of things (wait…IS there a grand scheme of things? It doesn’t seem very likely, does it. But never mind, it’s too early for that sort of tangent.) Chris Rock getting slapped by Will Smith is pretty small beans. Who cares if a rich actor slaps a rich comedian?
Except it happened in front of an audience–a live audience and a really huge television audience. Except that it happened during an award ceremony. Except Smith, just half an hour or so later, said, “People do crazy things for love,” as if the slap–and let’s just call it what it really was: a violent assault–as if that violent assault was the result of love. Except that some folks interpreted the assault as a ‘defense’ of Smith’s wife, who was the butt of a tacky Chris Rock joke.
Except that the assault was really a clear, public display of male ego, of male rage, of male privilege. Except that Will Smith felt he had the right to interrupt a ceremony to exact physical retribution for a perceived insult to somebody else. Except the assault had nothing to do with love. Except that Will Smith made the entire incident–the entire award show and the entire night–about him. “Keep MY WIFE’s name out your fucking mouth.” MY wife.
You know what would be a good way to defend your wife? A good way to turn that joke into something actually about love? A good way to truly demonstrate your love for your wife? Use your time in front of the camera to talk about alopecia. Use that time to educate folks about what it is. Use that time to discuss the weird and often unhealthy social relationship between women and their hair. Use that time to remind folks that humor doesn’t have to be cruel. Use that time to say love doesn’t depend on hair. That love doesn’t depend on appearance. That the Beatles were right, and love is all there is.
At the end of his acceptance speech, Smith said, “I’m hoping the academy invites me back.” Invites ME back. Me. This may be the saddest thing about the entire incident. Will Smith was given an opportunity–a truly unique opportunity–to demonstrate how love for another person works. Instead, he put himself in the center.
EDITORIAL NOTE: I’ve said this before, but it’s always worth repeating. Hell, it’s necessary to keep repeating. Burn the patriarchy. Burn it to the ground, Burn it to the ground and collect the ashes, and grind them into powder. Bury the powder deep in the earth, and salt the ground above it so nothing will ever grow there. Pour cement over the salt. Then nuke the entire site from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure).