Chris got rocked

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Smith slaps Rock across the face on stage at the 2022 Oscar’s.

Olivia Lane , Managing Editor

The 2022 Oscar’s should be considered eventful, at the very least. The red carpet outfits, the best actors and actresses were all outshined by one singular moment. No one was thinking about the film that won Best Picture, or Timothee Chalamet’s chest; instead, they were all thinking about Chris Rock’s monologue before presenting the award for Best Documentary.

Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith’s wife, suffers from Alopecia, a disease which can create bald patches, so Pinkett-Smith chose to shave her head. 

Rock made an insensitive joke about Pinkett-Smith’s choice, and said that she should star as the next G.I. Jane, making a reference to Demi Moore who shaved her head to star in the first movie. In the audience, Smith laughed at the joke, until he saw Pinkett-Smith’s reaction, which was visible annoyance.

When the camera again showed Smith, he was seen standing up from his seat in the audience and walking on stage. Rock, unsure of what was happening, tried to make another joke out of the situation, when Smith blatantly slapped him across the face.

This is about the point in American Broadcasting that the audio went silent, as Smith began screaming at Rock from the audience after he sat back down.

“Keep my wife’s name out of your [sic] mouth,” Smith said.

He repeated this several times, going red in the face from how loud he was screaming. Rock backed off, saying he would stop talking about her, and simply tried to carry on with his presentation. 

This sudden outburst of violence presented on live television set an unbelievably inappropriate example of how to handle private problems. Young watchers across the nation and world have and will watch this and believe that violence is the correct way to handle conflict with others, and that this is a healthy expression of masculinity.

Although Rock wasn’t innocent, Smith’s reaction could have been avoided very easily. Smith could have simply initiated a civil discussion with Rock, telling him that his joke was insensitive and asked for a public apology. If Smith was truly trying to defend and advocate for his wife, this would have been the much more intelligent option. I don’t believe that Smith’s outburst was in defense of his wife; I believe it was in defense of his own masculinity. 

In 2020, Pinkett-Smith brought her husband onto her talk show, Red Table Talk, to talk about their marriage openly. Pinkett-Smith admitted to sleeping with and being in a relationship with rapper August Alsina while she was married to Smith. The conversation was very emotional and vulnerable for both actors.

The intense backlash from this conversation was mostly on Smith rather than Pinkett-Smith, attacking his masculinity for allowing her to do this. Many made memes of images from the talk show of Smith crying. He was made fun of for showing his emotions, ridiculed for not “being a man” and essentially being controlled by his wife. No matter what would’ve happened, Smith would’ve been ridiculed. If he had left her, he would’ve been ridiculed for not staying with her when “things became tough” as well.

I believe that the ridicule affected Smith. For two years he most likely watched the internet tear apart his manhood and make fun of his marriage. People constantly put him and his masculinity down for how he handled the affair. Smith’s outburst was a defense mechanism. He knew that if he stayed quiet when Rock made the joke about his wife, the internet would take to him and tear his masculinity apart once again. So instead of handling the situation maturely, and genuinely attempting to advocate for his wife, he did the most masculine thing he could think of – attacking Rock.

Society’s views of masculinity are unbelievably skewed. Violence and hurtful words have become a universal “norm” for how men solve their problems. Rock even refused to press charges against Smith, claiming that it was “a problem between men.” If this is ever going to change, a much healthier example needs to be set for the younger generations. Smith chose to remove himself from the Academy, which I believe was a good decision. Smith needs to step out of the spotlight until he is able to healthily handle conflict.

Contact Olivia Lane at [email protected]