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On Sunday, viewers of the 94th Academy Awards witnessed history on another level, with an Oscar nominee slapping the host. Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock in the face after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Many people, within the Black community, have hailed the “Pursuit of Happyness” a hero while crucifying Rock. Others have praised the comedian for maintaining a professional demeanor instead of hitting back at the actor. Truth is, this confirms Smith needs prayer and therapy, not praise.
The “Bad Boys” actor’s actions depicted a man who is navigating some internal pressure that could no longer be contained. While he should protect his wife, slapping someone for telling a joke was an overreaction. This is not the first time Smith has been caught on camera dishing out a slap. In 2012, he did the same to a Ukrainian reporter who tried to kiss him at the Moscow premiere of “Men In Black III.” Vitalii Sediuk, a self-proclaimed prankster, asked the rapper for a hug but ended up going in for a kiss.
On Monday, the officers of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors, including president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson, convened for an emergency phone call about the Will Smith incident that occurred during the Academy Awards. It appears some sanction of Smith is likely to come — perhaps the suspension of his Academy membership, as many Academy members are calling for, but not the revocation of his best actor Oscar, as others would like to see.
At this time, Rock has declined to press charges against Smith for slapping him right across the face in the middle of the Academy Awards presentation. Everyone in the auditorium, as well as those watching at home, was in shock after what happened. Many even questioned if the act was staged. The comedian was set to read the nominees for the next award when he made a little jab at Smith’s wife Jada, suggesting she looked like GI Jane.
The joke targeting Jada’s shaved head following her battle with alopecia clearly made her uncomfortable, and her face showed signs of awkwardness and disdain after being embarrassed in front of her peers and the world. Although Smith initially appeared amused, his wife was not. The “Summertime” rapper clearly did not take kindly to the joke. Instead, he walked onto the stage and shockingly slapped Rock, before calmly walking back to his seat. He then yelled back at the host (twice):
Keep my wife’s name out your f**king mouth.
The “Grown Ups” actor awkwardly attempted to transition into the next segment, but not before saying:
Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me! This is the greatest night in the history of television.
This behavior confirms that Smith needs prayer, not praise. His actions did not reflect the “Prince” fans have come to know, nor his family. His mother said she has never seen her son act in that manner. It seems Smith might have had some brewing frustrations and was not in the best state of mind to respond to a trigger. Perhaps, he could have benefited from a moment of reflection or meditation that might have allowed him to respond differently. Hopefully, this can be an example for young people moving forward on what not to do, and this can promote mental wellness, and discuss healthier ways to resolve conflict.
The Oscars certainly achieved its goal: People are talking about it. Unfortunately, it is for all the wrong reasons. But there can still be a silver lining. It is time for Will and Chris – and all the “experts” out there on Team Rock or Team Smith – to take this negative attention and turn it into a positive stance for mental health, productive conflict resolution, and support of people with chronic medical conditions.
Beyond the pop-culture frenzy, serious conversations need to be had about self-control, emotional regulation, expectations of masculinity, and overall mental health. What the world saw on that stage was either an ill-advised reaction based on generations of social and self-reinforced expectations or an inability to control one’s emotions at a pivotal moment in their life. Either way, Will Smith needs prayer and therapy, not praise.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Hollywood Reporter: Oscars: Academy’s Officers Convene for Emergency Call About Will Smith (Exclusive)
Lad Bible: Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock in the face after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
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Inline Image Courtesy of Gordon Correll’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License