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The slap

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
02 April 2022   |   2:39 am
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember much about who won what at last week’s Academy Awards. Not surprisingly, the whole event was reduced to one lowligh

US actor Chris Rock speaks onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember much about who won what at last week’s Academy Awards. Not surprisingly, the whole event was reduced to one lowlight – the slap Will Smith gave Chris Rock.

There has been so much saying and written about it already that perhaps it is wise to take a leaf out of Daniel Radcliffe’s book. When asked about the slap by a morning show host, the actor replied: “I saw it, I’m just so already dramatically bored of hearing people’s opinions about it, that I just don’t want to be another opinion added to it.”

While I too am quite bored of the constant dissection of the incident, following the most recent footage doing the rounds of Jada Pinkett Smith’s reaction to her husband slapping Chris Rock over his GI Jane 2 joke at the expense of Jada’s embarrassment, I will regretfully add to the mix of opinions.

Firstly, was Chris Rock right to drag Jada? While much has been said about why comedians shouldn’t joke about personal appearance and illness, in my opinion, Rock’s GI Jane reference, as far as jokes go, was a mild one. Whether Rock knew about her condition or not, comparing Jada’s beautiful crop to Demi Moore’s beautiful buzzcut for her 90s role wasn’t as much of a diss as some would like to believe it is.

Secondly, was Will Smith right to get on stage and slap Chris rock?
The answer, forever after is a big fat no. Violence is not the answer. Could Will get up on stage and had a word with Chris to make his point? Yes. Did he have to resort to violence to prove his point? No. There were women who defended Will Smith’s actions and his courage in standing up to defend his woman. To them, much more eloquently than I can, the response comes from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“Smith’s slap was also a slap to women. If Rock had physically attacked Pinkett Smith, Smith’s intervention would have been welcome. Or if he’d remained in his seat and yelled his post-slap threat, that would have been unnecessary, but understandable. But by hitting Rock, he announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself—against words. From everything I’d seen of Pinkett Smith over the years, she’s a very capable, tough, smart woman who can single-handedly take on a lame joke at the Academy Awards show,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote following the incident.

“This patronising, paternal attitude infantilises women and reduces them to helpless damsels needing a Big Strong Man to defend their honor lest they swoon from the vapors,” he added. I can’t agree more.

Thirdly, that acceptance speech?
Quoting Denzel Washington’s words to him, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you,” Will Smith gave a delusional acceptance speech where he justified his actions by saying, “love makes you do crazy things.” What a load of narcissistic, gaslighting bull craps! This is taken straight out of a domestic abuser’s playbook – the one that claims, “I only hit you because I love you” or “I beat him up because I was jealous.”

“What I saw and heard produced a feeling of absolute rejection in me. Not only during the episode, but afterwards, too, in the acceptance speech — a speech that seemed more like that of a cult leader,” wrote filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar.

“You don’t defend or protect the family with your fists, and no, the devil doesn’t take advantage of key moments to do his work,” he added, referencing Smith’s words, “The devil, in fact, doesn’t exist. This was a fundamentalist speech that we should neither hear nor see.”

And finally, Jada’s reaction to the slap?
I reserve judgement, but following the very public airing of their open marriage on the Red Table Talk where Will Smith looked visibly pained at her confession of having fallen for singer August Alsina, I feel strongly that Jada Pinkett Smith is the gaslighter in this shambolic marriage where Will Smith is jumping through hoops to protect his wife and keep her happy.

The slap was just another incident – how else would you explain a man laughing at a mild joke one minute, and then getting disproportionately outraged the next, only after seeing his wife’s eye roll and displeasure? What ensued was Jada laughing at the slap as filmed by someone sitting right behind the couple. No matter how hurt or humiliated, which wife would stand by and watch her husband make a fool of himself on what should have otherwise been the best night of his career? I am not blaming Jada for Will’s actions, because as a man, he is capable of and he should accept blame where it’s due, but equally, she could have calmed him down or at least not treated his resorting of violence as her personal entertainment.

There seems to be so much wrong in this marriage, that the slap, as sad as it is, should be the least of their worries.