How did a joke on Jada turn into a Will-Chris event?

It was crude, crass and disrespectful. But it was up to Jada to respond to it. Will Smith’s patriarchal response – physical assault – is not justified under any circumstances

Payal Seth | April 3, 2022


#Will Smith   #Oscars   #Hollywood   #patriarchy   #society  


I remember in 2013, the highlight of the Oscar ceremony was the accidental fall of Jennifer Lawrence, as she was climbing the steps to receive an award. What was remarkable was the way she graciously made fun of herself while collecting the award. Her conduct was humbling and is still remembered fondly. Coming to 2022, this incident seems to be a blip compared to the Will Smith-Chris Rock controversy. An Oscar nominee (and eventual winner), Will Smith got so agitated at Chris Rock’s joke on his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, that he walked up to the stage and slapped him in the face. The whole incident has turned viral, with very humorous memes flooding the internet. The views on this incident are also polarizing as fans are torn in their support of Will and Chris. What is surprising to me is, how did this whole incident become about them? Where was Jada’s agency in dealing with a malicious joke that was thrown at her? Let us dissect and understand this.

First, the joke. It was crude, disrespectful and crass. Chris Rock made fun of Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss condition called alopeciaareata, an autoimmune disorder. Jada has publicly spoken about this disorder in 2018 and had admitted that it was a terrifying experience to deal with. Chris Rock’s joke on her trauma is not cool and in the least bit funny. Comedy does not ascribe to making fun of someone’s illness, something that is not in their control. The joke was intentionally cruel to Jada’s dignity, and there is nothing redeeming Chris Rock from his words.

Having established that Jada did not deserve this kind of punchline to be thrown at her, can one justify Will Smith’s slap? No, it does not, because slapping a person constitutes physical assault. And nothing justifies physical assault. Ever. If Will Smith didn’t like that Chris Rock disrespecting his wife, he should have discussed it with the comic. If that didn’t work, then he could have either ignored it or criticized it publicly. The vent-out mechanism should have been dignified as well: words, not hands. In doing what he did, Will Smith marred one of the most special professional achievements of his life.
 
Worse, like most men, who deem it their duty to protect the woman they care about, he robbed Jada of her agency to deal with the situation herself. Did anyone ask Jada if she needed to be protected in the first place? Jada was clearly offended by the joke as well. Shouldn’t she have the right to deal with it herself? She is an accomplished actor, a strong woman, who should be considered capable enough to fight her own battles. Jada should have been given the choice to handle the joke and the offence by herself. Instead, Will Smith’s patriarchal beliefs, made the entire night about himself (and Chris Rock) and how he stood up to protect the honour of the woman he loved.

Minutes later, Will Smith won his first Oscar for Best Actor and apologized for his actions in the speech. While the apology was not directed at Chris, he gave the rationale behind his actions: protecting one’s family or love makes you do crazy things. Didn’t Jada deserve an apology as well? She does not need a knight in shining armour. It seems like there were hardly any winners in this episode: Chris Rock stood up to his reputation of making cruel jokes, Will Smith resorted to violence and did not give his wife a chance to adequately react. All this while, Jada’s pain and struggle took a backseat as the spotlight shifted to the two men who instead chose to react on her behalf.

Comments

 

Other News

Mumbai civil body refutes allegations of scam in tenement scheme

The BrihanMumbai municipal corporation (BMC) has rejected the Congress accusations of financial irregularities worth Rs 8,000 crore—9,000 croe in awarding contracts for getting project-affected people (PAP) tenements on private land.    BMC has said that it implements vital p

Sedition law: Can it have a place in democracy?

Does the concept of sedition have a place in modern democracies? This question became more relevant when the apex court recently put the country`s colonial-era sedition law on abeyance stating that there is a “requirement to balance… security interests and integrity of the State… and th

Not just another Manto anthology

The Collected Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto: Volume 1: Bombay and Poona Translated by Nasreen Rehman Aleph Book Company, 548 pages, Rs 999 There are writers, there are writers’ writers, and then there are readers’ writers. Saadat Hasan Mant

These tribal women may be illiterate but are successful entrepreneurs

Meet Promila Krishna, 39, Lalita Nayak, 40, Parbati Gadba, 42, Sanadei Dhuruwa, 39, and Nabita Barika, 41, of Kundra block in Odisha’s Koraput district. Except for Promila who is a matriculate, others haven’t attended school beyond the elementary level. However, while introducing themselves to

Women in workforce: Despite policy support, why it is declining

Michelle Obama once said, “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” That should be so obvious, but it is not, and countries keep depriving themselves of the contributions of half of their popul

Chintan Shivir 2022: Will Congress regain its lost mojo?

The Congress is scheduled to hold a Chintan Shivir (meaning, ‘introspection camp’) from May 13th to 15th in Udaipur and it has identified six specific areas for introspection. These are 1. Political 2. Social Justice and Empowerment 3. Economy 4. Organization 5. Farmers and Agriculture and 6. Y

Visionary Talk: Arvind Sawant, Member of Parliament with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter