Fine, let's talk about the slap

(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

All adult humans are required to have A Take about this. No exceptions.

Here’s mine: There should be more violence at the Oscars. Celebrities slapping celebrities is one of the small pleasures that makes life worth living.


This is the most interesting the show has been in years.

Here’s the sequence, in which Will Smith initially *laughs* at Chris Rock’s joke about casting Smith’s wife in the sequel to “G.I. Jane.” That’s a reference to Jada Smith’s buzzcut — but her hairstyle isn’t a matter of choice. She suffers from alopecia. And judging by the cringe on her face, it’s no laughing matter to her.

Smith must have seen that cringe because suddenly it was no laughing matter to him either. Language warning here:

Rock was unflappable in the moments afterward, the most impressive performance of the night. It was Smith who needed consoling:

“The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” the official Oscars account tweeted after the show. But they do condone it. They’ve showered awards on characters like Roman Polanski, whose crime is a matter of public record, and on Harvey Weinstein, whose predations were an open secret in the industry before the law caught up to him. There’s an actual genocide going on in China yet the American film industry goes out of its way not to offend the perpetrators of it lest they lose access to the Chinese box office.


In fact, less than an hour after Smith had slapped Rock in the face onstage in full view of millions of people, the Academy handed him the Oscar for Best Actor. He used the moment to apologize, sort of. Although not to Rock.

Why was he still in the building? If the Academy doesn’t condone violence, he should have been escorted to the door.

If he were a lesser-known actor I think he would have been. But he’s one of the 10 most bankable actors in Hollywood, and so the lesson of Weinstein was repeated last night. As a famous man once said: When you’re a star, they let you do it.

I could forgive Smith for defending his wife’s honor if the two were out on the town and some boorish bystander made a crack about her condition. But Rock is a comedian and has known Smith for years; there’s no reason to think his lame joke was malicious. Phil Klein:

If you’re at an event where a comedian is telling jokes, you have to accept the fact that he may say something that you find offensive, and there’s an off chance it will be directed at you. This is even more the case when it’s an event where a lot of the jokes, by nature, involve teasing members of the celebrity audience. In this context, it is not akin to being at a bar and hitting somebody talking about your wife. It’s closer to losing money at the blackjack table and slugging the dealer.


One complicating factor to the reaction afterward is the fact that Smith and Rock are each broadly liked by the wider American public. There’s no prefab hero and villain narrative template to impose on the incident, as there would have been if one of them had a baked-in chorus of detractors. If, say, Sean Penn (or Mel Gibson!) had been involved, opinion wouldn’t be as divided. “The slap *is* interesting … because it’s scrambling ideological positions. It’s one of the few subjects where you don’t know in advance what take someone is going to have,” James Surowiecki observed. He’s right. There’s destined to be some overlap in the pro-Smith group between righties who respect him for the machismo he showed in refusing to tolerate an insult to his wife and lefties who think Rock joking about a medical condition Jada Smith suffers from was insensitive.

There’d be a volcano of takes this morning about the racial politics of the incident too if both men weren’t black. (There’s some of that happening anyway, in fact.) A white actor who slapped a black comic would have been pilloried for his violent sense of white privilege and escorted out immediately — as Smith should have been. A black actor who slapped a white comic would have plunged us into a maelstrom of alt-right blather on the one hand about “violent propensities” and woke apologetics on the other dismissing criticism of the offender as white America treating a black man who defends his wife as “uppity.”


The Discourse is so tiresome.

I’ll leave you with this fun bit of analysis.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos