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  • Garrett Pomichter-Murray

"He Who Gets Slapped:" A True Hollywood Story with Will Smith and Chris Rock

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

Top 10 Discussions to Have About The Notorious Oscars Incident

By: G.W. Pomichter

In 1924 Lon Cheney brought a Russian play to life in the now classic silent film, “He Who Get’s Slapped,” with director Victor Sjostrm, and in 2022 following an otherwise run-of-the-mill Academy Awards Ceremony, comedian Chris Rock and actor, musical legend Will Smith turned the classic movie title into social media and news headlines.

Following what had been intended by Rock as a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hairstyle, Smith walked up on the stage and slapped Rock across the face and returning to his seat in the audience shouted to Rock to “keep my wife’s name out your F** mouth.”

The altercation was nothing less than show stopping, as Rock, obviously taken aback, struggled to return the show to it’s scheduled trajectory. Rock’s humor was doubtlessly unappreciated by Smith, as Pinkett-Smith has openly struggled with the hair loss associated with an illness called Alopecia.

While the altercation was a single moment on stage and

resulted in no formal charges being pressed, and it may seem like, as Shakespeare might say, “Much Ado About Nothing,” the social media feeds and blogosphere has erupted with opinions about both men, as well as a running twitter commentary about the incident.

Perhaps as some point out the incident is mere distraction from rising gas and food prices, an ongoing war in Ukraine, the constant political wrangling in Washington, D.C., racial and gender equity debates and more, or perhaps the incident shines a light on a variety of issues buried deep in the psyche. One way or another, it has certainly been a flashpoint for discourse and debate.

Issues brought to the surface by the incident have so far included discussions of humor: what’s funny and what’s not and why, violence: Is it or is it not ever appropriate, when and where are such altercations appropriate, toxic masculinity and the role as protectors men should or shouldn’t play, as well as highlighting the illness Alopecia itself.

Smith, himself, went on during the Oscars ceremony to win the Best Actor Award for his role in the biopic King Richard, depicting the role of famous father Richard Williams, who was a fiercely protective defender of his celebrity daughters Serena and Venus Williams.

Richard Williams, who Smith played had this to say about the incident, “We don’t know all the details of what happened,” Williams told HuffPOst Entertainment through his son Chavoita LeSane. “But we don’t condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defense.”

As a part of his acceptance speech, in what can only be described as an emotional apology to the academy and its members and other nominees, Smith compared his actions to those of his character to protect and defend the ones he loves. While the comparison was well received by Hollywood elites who gave Smith a standing ovation, many wonder if such applause was appropriate given the very public and recent incident.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in a tweet stated that it does not condone violence, but some are questioning the sincerity of the statement following what some home viewers are calling celebrity culture’s tacit acceptance of the act.

Though it is unlikely that much will be done by the Academy to either Rock for his comments or to Smith for his actions, what can be certain is that in an already divided public, this incident is sure to spark passionate and spirited debate about its lingering effects, what it says about society and so much more.

While many exist on both sides of the issues highlighted by the incident, some topic we might ask our readers to consider when taking a stand one way or another might include:

1. Violence in any measure

2. Humor and what constitutes a joke

3. The role of men with regard to their loved ones

4. Toxic masculinity

5. Insensitive or even inappropriate humor

6. The role of celebrities as role models if any

7. Professionalism in the arts and entertainment industry

8. Different ways to handle offense or offensive comments or behavior

9. The consequences of offensive speech

10. Sensitivity to diverse circumstances, illness or disability

These are just a handful of the topics that are relevant to any discussion of this most recent pop culture incident involving public figures and their public behaviors. We make no attempt to validate or invalidate either the joke, however insensitive, or the violent reaction of Smith, however shocking, save to say that violence has rarely if ever been a viable solution to offense, and yet has all too often been the response to it.

As the discussion continues over the incident, there are many constructive dialogues that might result, and it would be shame to miss the opportunity.

IN RESPONSE: Both Smith and Rock have issued statements of apology through their representatives and on social media.

Chris Rock’s statement regarding last night’s Academy Awards #Oscars

“As a comedian it can be difficult to understand which lines are to be crossed and which ones aren’t. Last night I crossed a line that I shouldn’t have and paid the enormous price of my reputation as a renown comedian. Comedy is never about poking fun at or making lite of people with major ordeals happening in their lives. Comedy is about using real life circumstances to create laughter and bring light to an otherwise dark world. With that said, I sincerely apologize to my friends Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith, and the rest of the Smith family for the disrespect and disregard I displayed which was unfortunately broadcast for the world to see. I hope that, with time, forgiveness can come of this situation and we can all be better, more considerate people in the end.”

Smith Released the Following Statement on Twitter and Facebook:

"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable.

Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.

I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness. I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress. "

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