The Will Smith Oscars controversy is all anyone can talk about on social media today. The veteran actor walked onto the Academy Awards stage to deliver a tight smack across comedian Chris Rock’s face for making a distasteful joke about the former’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, evoking a collective gasp from the audience that is still resounding the globe over. Nothing comparable has ever been seen at the Oscars before.
Rock, who was hosting Hollywood’s most esteemed awards night, took a shot at Pinkett Smith, saying she couldn’t wait for GI Jane 2. The original 1997 film stars Demi Moore who played a bald character. How that relates to Pinkett Smith is her decision to keep her head shaved since she faces alopecia areata – a condition that results in patchy-looking hair loss.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f*****g mouth,” an infuriated Smith shouted, taking his seat after the on-stage shocker.
The internet is left divided, debating the ethicality of the incident. Should Smith have slapped Rock? Was this reaction to what was meant as a joke necessary? Is Rock unforgivably in the wrong for poking fun at what could be someone’s insecurity? Did Smith do right by his wife, assaulting a man for her?
It is to note that many on social media speculated the authenticity of the incident. They raised doubts about the violent behaviour by Will Smith was scripted. There is no confirmation on the same.
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Will Smith Oscars Controversy: How Men Feel The Need To ‘Protect’ Women
A deeper incision into Smith’s slap that will go down in history will reveal that it can, in part, be attributed to the male saviour complex that patriarchy poises men for. Where the responsibility to dutifully ‘protect’ women they know and the dignity they carry falls on the brawny shoulders of men since women can’t possibly defend themselves all too well.
The sexism behind this logic is what has justified male possessiveness toward female partners for so long, often to toxic extents. It is also what leads men to objectify women, to see their bodies as battlegrounds for male honour, to claim that women are weak without men fighting their fights for them.
This is a narrative we have seen play out over decades and centuries across the world, and subjugate women by patronising them. Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes at Rock’s embarrassing (for him) joke but was she driven so far by anger as to walk up and slap him? Why did Smith, who was by the way initially laughing at the joke, feel the nagging to do so on her behalf?
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But then again, should Smith’s slap be seen as anything more than an expression of safeguarding his wife’s best interests against something that may be a trigger for her? Wouldn’t any partner have rushed to their better half’s defence, albeit not in a manner that banked on physical violence?
Will Smith Oscars controversy: Toxic masculinity on display?
Though there was a rather elaborate follow-up after Smith slapped Rock – with his wife, as well as the legendary Denzel Washington, tranquilising him – debate still abounds on the internet whether this entire episode was scripted or not. It may have been or couldn’t have (my guess veers towards the latter). Either way, that hardly undercuts the problematic tone that hangs over it all, and will continue to, for the days of discourse to come on social media.
Views expressed are the author’s own.