Well yes, it was Oscars night, but with a few surprises.
Trigger Warning – I’m about to criticize Will Smith. If you are a devoted fan of his, then it is perhaps best if you stop reading now. Not doing that means that what comes next might anger you to such a degree that you could be motivated into leaping up and physically slugging me in a fit of rage.
(Author quickly ducks)
So this happened
Chris Rock was doing the usual award presenters thing of cracking a few jokes at the expense of the Hollywood aristocracy sitting in the audience.
Have you ever seen an awards ceremony where that does not happen these days?
Honestly, it’s part of the fame deal. What is said is not a serious attempt at “having a go”, but instead is the normal comedic banter. Nobody watches just for the awards, but also to enjoy such banter.
At one point within his monolog Chris adlibs with this quip, “Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2.“. You can instantly see her reaction to that and she is not happy.
At first Will Smith appears to enjoy the joke, but not for long.
That one jibe by Chris hit a nerve that triggered Will Smith. He responds by standing up out of his seat, walks up onto the stage, then live on air in front of literally millions, slugs Chris. He then turns, walks back to his seat, sits, and yells “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.“.
Chris looks genuinely shocked, but quickly recovers his composure and carries on.
Many assumed this was scripted and perhaps part of the entertainment.
Nope, all quite real, no acting required.
Chris says, “It was was a GI Jane Joke“, to which Will then once again yells from his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.“
Chris realizing that this is a unique moment, then comments “That was the greatest night in the history of television.“
Here it is as it went down, no edits …
Least you wonder, ABC cut Smith’s F-bomb out of the live broadcast.
The small broadcast delay is there to enable them to edit stuff like that out.
Why such a reaction?
Jada Pinkett Smith has a hair loss condition called alopecia, hence this is a sensitive issue for her.
What happens next?
Later that same evening Will Smith won an Oscar.
The award was for his role in King Richard. Obviously, he can’t pretend that the earlier event did not happen, so this is what he says. I’ve highlighted a few bits …
Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world. Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses who played Venus and Serena.
I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know, to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you, and you’ve got to smile, you’ve got to pretend like that’s OK. What I loved was, Denzel [Washington] said to me a few moments ago, he said, ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.‘
I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. That’s what I want to do. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.
I want to apologise to the Academy. I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people – Tim [White, producer] and Trevor [White, producer] and Zach [Baylin, writer] and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjanue and the entire cast and crew of King Richard, and Venus and Serena, the entire Williams family.
Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.…
Permit me to pull out these highlighted bits …
… I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world … I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people…At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you…I want to be a vessel for love…
From Will’s viewpoint …
- He was simply acting out of love
- He was protecting his family
- God had called him to this role
He then manifests all this protecting love by sluging Chris Rock for making a joke he did not like.
There encapsulated in one drama is everything that is wrong with religion today – violence and faith walking hand in hand.
Did a God call Will?
Nope, no God’s required, some simply appoint ourselves to such roles, then declare “God called me”.
The Devil made him do it, it was not his fault?
Again no. Will had an emotional button pressed and he responded with violence, no Devil’s required.
He did not apologize for his action, he was justifying it. He supposedly did what he did because that was the role that God had appointed him to.
That’s not an apology.
Does Will now face Assault Charges?
The very non-religious Chris Rock has been the most gracious one here and comes out on top.
He has refused to file charges.
One rather common line of thought is this – Chris Rock went too far, he got what he deserved.
So my point is this – I’m pushing back against that common reaction by suggesting that slugging anybody who simply upsets you is really not wise – actions usually have consequences. Then later not actually apologising, but instead justifying it by claiming that you were motivated by love and that God had appointed you to this role is simply doubling down.