Will Smith’s behavior left me stunned and confused

Slapping Chris Rock for his lousy joke on Oscar night isn’t going to make Will Smith or his wife feel better. It is going to cause them more grief.

SHARE Will Smith’s behavior left me stunned and confused


Actor Will Smith shouldn't have run up on the stage at the Oscars and slapped comedian Chris Rock.

Let's get that out of the way first.

It shouldn't have happened. It was a moment that I'm sure Smith would take back if he could.

The fallout has overshadowed his award for best actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, in "King Richard."

No one's talking about that rich performance. What people are talking about is the slap.

It's hard to imagine that Smith's behavior beat Kanye (now known as Ye) West's shocking interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009.

But it did.

Besides the slap, Smith's warning to Rock to keep his wife's name out of his "f----— mouth" could be perceived as a threat.

Rock's comedic style is irreverent and stinging. He takes no prisoners, and his presentation of the award for best documentary was no different.

But his joke targeting Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia — a disease that causes extreme hair loss — went too far.

And ridiculing a Black woman about her hair is never a good idea. That's something Rock should have learned from the controversy over his documentary "Good Hair."

After a couple of mild jokes targeting other celebrities, Rock let loose, saying he was looking forward to seeing “G.I. Jane 2,” referring to Smith's wife's shaved head.

It took a moment to sink in, and Rock appeared to be aware that it wasn't well received.

So when Smith walked on stage, the exchange seemed scripted.

But while a slap could be faked, the bleeped-out profanity and Smith's angry scowl told me the confrontation was for real.

Will Smith sits alongside his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, with the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for “King Richard” during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on Sunday, March 27, 2022.

Will Smith sits alongside his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, with the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for “King Richard” during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on Sunday, March 27, 2022.


Rock shook off the slap and moved on with his monologue.

Smith's behavior left me stunned and confused.

Instead of confronting Rock behind closed doors, Smith let pride get him. He was in full "I got this” mode.

But if Smith was defending his wife's honor, he was a little late.  

In 2016, Rock targeted Pinkett Smith with another joke that ridiculed her decision to boycott the Oscars because of its lack of diversity.

Pinkett Smith first revealed her hair condition in 2018 during the first season of "Red Table Talk," her online talk show.

Pinkett Smith said she could only laugh after she found a new patch of hair loss in December 2021.

"Y'all know I've been struggling with alopecia. … And this is going to be a bit more difficult for me to hide. So I thought I'd just share it, so y'all are not asking any questions," according to a quote in the Los Angeles Times.

Rock must have missed that segment.

Because he clearly didn't understand the toll alopecia was taking on Pinkett Smith.

In 2009, after a battle with breast cancer, I was diagnosed with end-stage alopecia. After struggling for years to hold onto the little hair I had left, I finally gave up the fight and shaved my head.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

For Rock to joke about Pinkett Smith's shiny head is like joking about a disabled person. The joke was in poor taste, especially at an awards ceremony where Pinkett Smith's husband was up for a significant award. The biggest award of the night went to a movie about a deaf family.

Despite Pinkett Smith’s beauty, I'm sure she misses her hair.

It must have taken a lot for her to dress up in a fabulous gown and not be able to top it off with what my father called "a crown of glory."

But slapping Rock for his lousy joke isn't going to make Will Smith or his wife feel better.

It is going to cause them more grief.

Although Rock has said he isn't pressing criminal charges, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn't waste any time releasing a public statement condemning the violence.

"We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further actions and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct, and California Law," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That declaration likely won't be enough to save Smith from the consequences of his impulsive behavior.

By Monday afternoon, the officers of the Academy were gathering to come up with sanctions.

This is where things get complicated.

Yes, Rock had it coming.

But maybe what's needed is more explicit rules about how far the presenters at these award shows can go.

Celebrities may look invincible to the rest of us, but they are human too.

They make bad wardrobe choices. They have bad personal relationships, they get ill and they can make fools out of themselves just like the rest of us.

In his acceptance speech, Smith acknowledged that in his business, "You gotta be able to take abuse and have people talk about you…, you gotta have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile and pretend that's OK."

No one likes being the butt of a joke, but when you are a celebrity it comes with the territory.

Smith made a wrong decision and has apologized to the Academy, Rock and viewers.

“I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions are not indicative of the man I want to be,” Smith said in a written statement.

Both men should move on.

But what Smith did can't be overlooked because it sent a terrible message. This kind of behavior leads to the violence that occurs every day on the street.

Smith humiliated Rock with an open-handed slap in a feeble attempt to prove himself a man.

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