Everyone will remember the 94th Academy Awards, and it won’t be because of the many great films and creators that were celebrated. No, it will be because of an incident that happened on stage between the host, comedian Chris Rock, and the Best Actor winner, actor Will Smith.
A Very Public Slap on the Face by Will Smith
We all know the role of hosts at award shows — they’re there to guide us through the nominees, the winners, the losers, and make us laugh in the process. But, not all jokes are created equal. When Chris Rock made a G.I. Jane joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s wife, things got out of hand. Jada has been dealing with alopecia-induced hair loss, and she was visibly unhappy with the joke. Will was just as livid. He immediately went on stage and slapped the comedian in the face with a string of curse words in an attempt to defend his wife’s honor.
Needless to say, the audience was stunned. Reactions have been mixed so far, with some defending Smith for protecting his wife and refusing to tolerate bullying in the form of jokes, while others condemn his actions as an example of toxic masculinity. Some even wondered if it was all a well-planned act.
In truth, neither action was okay. Joking about a person’s illness isn’t just a poor choice of words — it’s detrimental and unacceptable. Displaying feats of rage is just as inexcusable. And while Smith has since apologized, many Black families are struggling with his representation of their culture. They’re wondering how to communicate what happened to their children. Every parent is.
A Teaching Moment for Everyone
While stars like Chris Rock and Will Smith have the privilege to have a public conflict on TV and still keep their careers, freedom, and lives, that doesn’t apply to everyone. Instead of focusing on the incident as meme-worthy material or accepting such behavior as normal, we need to start conversations. Conversations about reflection, healing, and understanding. These are especially important topics to discuss with our children after incidents like these.