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Slap! Smith…Rock!

Dr. Joanne Paul- MBBS (UWI), FRCPCH (UK), FRCP (Edin)

So, it has been a few weeks of Ukraine war. A few weeks of watching trends of Covid and trying to composite the multitude of factors to ascertain the possible particular population covid trajectory. A few weeks of trying to have an exercise regime whilst still being able to eat the pumpkin tart from my favourite coffee place.


So, there I am on Sunday night watching the Academy awards thinking they have fooled me again. Every year I get hyped up, plan to watch the very long production and then after an hour I would realise and remember that it is so boring. Every year I would forget how bored I was the previous year and BAM, I would groan and think, when will this long show end. Then a real BAM! I am sitting up in my chair now. Did Will Smith actually walk up to the stage to slap Chris Rock, then return to his seat to further cuss him out. What the hell. Soon after the same Will Smith was having a prolonged incoherent speech about defending his family and art imitating life as he was following in the path of Richard Williams, the character in the film for which he won best actor.


The WhatsApp messages were exploding. The next day it was all over the news media and social media. It eclipsed everything else, and persons could hardly remember who won the other awards or even how great the three hosts were. Over the next few days multiple opinions, clips, memes, some partial publicist-initiated apologies, some fake news about a Chris Rock apology, Facebook comments for days and stories of Smith at the after parties seemingly having fun and acting like everything was back to normal. Ukraine and covid now temporarily a blur in the background.

It is now a week later and although I had a few other topics to write about, this was still on my mind, and it was difficult to move on. My mind was stuck on trying to understand the why. Why would the Smith boy go slap the Rock boy, on live television viewing to millions of people, on the Academy stage, the pinnacle of stages for Hollywood.  I watched various clips and the last one was probably the most enlightening. It was taken from behind the table where the Smith boy was seated. It showed how he initially was laughing then got serious after seeing his wife disapproving face. He then walked up to the Rock boy, sauntering and posturing. After the wide dramatic slap, he puffed his chest and walked back to his seat. In the clip, his wife Jada is seen giggling at the slap and now looking on approvingly.


Sometimes things are deep and shallow at the same time. Some analyse that the Smith family is filled with dysfunction. It is seemingly an open marriage. His wife had an affair with one of her son’s friends. Smith it is rumoured also had flings with various actresses. The daughter and son seem to be trying to find themselves and are very fluid in terms of their career interest, sexuality, dress style, hairstyles, general moods, and social media personas.


Some analyse that this was the last of the straws after being the butt of multiple jokes about the open marriage and the affairs. Some say it was from childhood trauma where the Smith boy saw his father beating his mother. At that time, he was too young to defend her. So maybe that loop from childhood was still one of his triggers. Some have said that insulting a black woman’s hair can go to her very core. As a black woman mixed with some Amerindian, the hair requires attention. But there is nothing that ever can justify a slap of a presenter on live television at an award ceremony.

Maybe there was no deep psychological basis but a miscalculation of arrogance. When one observed the posturing of the Smith boy and the giggling Jada girl, it was just an actor in Hollywood having a wave of popularity with the King Richard movie and other upcoming projects, thinking he was invincible and big enough to do whatever he wanted with no bother of any repercussions. How could the Rock boy make a Smith joke and get away with it? Did he know who he was. He was Smith, Hollywood royalty. There was a miscalculation of the impact, social media response and offense


The academy needs to now have some serious repercussions to this. I think they should take back his Oscar. They have to send a clear message to the Hollywood stars that no matter how rich and successful you are, no matter your perceived connections and power, no one should feel they could undermine the rules of common and professional decency on this world stage on live television. They also have to send a clear message to the worldwide population. Whether it is what race against which or which gender against which, physical assault, at the academy awards or otherwise, is never to be allowed or accepted.


Nope. It is not deep or shallow. It is simple. He was wrong and there is no excuse



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