As we debate consequences for Will Smith, remember our children are watching

Jordan Reid is the founding editor of Ramshackle Glam.
Liberal Opinion

Jordan Reid

Author; Founding Editor, Ramshackle Glam
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When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards, it launched a massive debate among all ages about whether the superstar should face consequences for his actions.

Here’s a quick recap of what happened:

Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, apparently unaware that she suffers from alopecia. 

Chris Rock: “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.”

When Will Smith noticed that his wife was very definitely not laughing, he walked on stage and smacked Rock very hard across the face. Smith then returned to his seat and yelled twice to Rock:

Will Smith: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—- mouth.”

The audience was stunned, apparently, the Academy asked Smith to leave, but he refused.  Now the Academy’s Board of Governors is initiating disciplinary proceedings.

All of this is unfolding and our kids are paying close attention.

My son’s class had a discussion about it. Some kids – a surprising number of them – said that Will Smith was completely within his rights to deck Chris Rock. He was just defending his woman.

Others – including my son, which made me proud – insisted that violence is never, ever the answer. In any case, the kids noticed. And they had opinions about it. 

Later that night, my son and I brainstormed what else Will Smith could have done. He could have walked out of the room. He could have spoken with Rock after the ceremony. He could have made a public statement denouncing Rock’s joke and made a donation to an alopecia charity and asked Rock to match it. 

But he hit him. 

It’s not exactly the lesson we want our kids to learn. 

Should Will Smith’s Academy Award be taken away? I don’t really think so. There are plenty of actors throughout history who shouldn’t have won awards if it was based on their personal conduct. 

But should there be consequences? Real ones? Absolutely. If only to teach our kids what we teach them at home: Use your words, and violence is never, ever the answer.

All right, let’s talk about the Will Smith/Chris Rock thing. It’s a silly story – sure – because of, I don’t know there’s still a massive uprising in Ukraine, political fractioning at home, COVID’s still out there somewhere, gas prices are like whoop, but you know – Will Smith!

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about this, and if you lived under a rock for the past week or so, I’m going to give you a little recap.

Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, apparently unaware that she suffers from alopecia. 

Chris Rock: “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.”

It was a relatively benign, albeit not super funny, joke – and took on way more weight in the context of Jada Pinkett Smith’s diagnosis, probably more weight than Rock intended.

Chris Rock and the Smith’s also have a history of Rock making jabs at the couple, most notably at the 2016 Academy Awards.

Chris Rock: “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”

Chris Rock: “It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated. You’re right. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.”

It’s also important to note that Black women have a long history of being made to feel that their hair has to conform to white standards of beauty in order to be considered acceptable.

So, Chris makes this not very great joke, Will Smith laughs, Will Smith notices that his wife is very definitely not laughing, and then in one of the most shocking moments in Oscar history, Will Smith strides up on stage and smacks Rock very hard across the face.  It has to be noted here that Chris Rock can take a hell of a punch.  He was like – blinggg.  He barely even flinched.

Smith then returns to his seat and says, twice, yells rather, twice to Rock:

Will Smith: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—- mouth.”

The next day, apparently, my son’s class had a discussion about it. Some kids – a surprising number of them – said that Will Smith was completely within his rights to deck Chris Rock. He was just defending his woman. 

Others – including my son, which made me proud – insisted that violence is never, ever the answer. In any case, the kids noticed. And they had opinions about it. 

Later that night, my son and I brainstormed what else Will Smith could have done. He could have walked out of the room. He could have spoken with Rock after the ceremony. He could have made a public statement denouncing Rock’s joke and made a donation to an alopecia charity and asked Rock to match it. 

But he hit him. 

The problem here: A massive, massively beloved – and family-friendly – movie star committed an obvious act of assault on national television in front of millions of people, kids included. And what happened? 

Other massive movie stars came over to effectively comfort him. And then, just an hour later, he won what is arguably the biggest award for an actor in the world, and was met with a standing ovation.

It’s not exactly the lesson we want our kids to learn. 

What I think should have happened: 

Security should have treated Will Smith like they would have treated any other human being who walked onto that stage and assaulted a human being.

They should have escorted him out of the building, and the consequences should have been immediate. 

Celebrity comes with many benefits, as we know, but being able to assault a fellow performer shouldn’t be one of them, especially one who, it should be noted, was simply doing his job.

Should Will Smith’s Academy Award be taken away? I don’t really think so. There are plenty of actors throughout history who shouldn’t have won awards if it was based on their personal conduct – I’m looking at you Casey Affleck – and if Smith’s award were to be taken away there would be repercussions far beyond this one incident. 

But should there be consequences? Real ones? Absolutely. If only to teach our kids what we teach them at home: Use your words, and violence is never, ever the answer.


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