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Celebrity Violence In The Era Of Cancel Culture: How Will Smith Hit Rock (Bottom)

violence oscar will smith

The media, actors and the world were shocked when Will Smith appeared on stage and slapped the comedian Chris Rock. The Oscar-winning actor was provoked after a joke addressing his wife’s baldness. Bearing in mind that many people look up to him and his astonishingly successful career, is this an appropriate behaviour that teaches viewers how to confront such types of situations? Many different opinions were expressed, some defending, others condemning the actor’s actions. In the end, Will Smith resigned from the Academy Awards, and was banned from participating for 10 years by the organisers. Is this enough? Or is this whole situation exaggerated? 

Past And Present Of Celebrity Violence

Violence is all around us. It is a universal language that is interpreted in similar ways by everyone. This “universality” is what makes it so attractive for producers and writers to include this type of behaviour in their programmes. And at times violence can occur unexpectedly, and we are all startled by its demonstration. A recent example of this was the Oscar ceremony held on March 27 when actor Will Smith appeared on stage slapping comedian Chris Rock after a joke he told about Smith’s wife. This provoked many different reactions in the attendees of the ceremony as well as the Internet as a whole.  

This is not the first time a celebrity has gotten their hands dirty while millions were watching. Back in 2017, Cardi B threw her shoe at the co-host Asia Davies during the live show of Love & Hip-Hop. And that was not the last time the rap singer’s shoes ended up flying in the air toward a human target. A year later Cardi B ended up attacking Nicki Minaj during a New York Fashion Week Harper’s Bazaar party. Surprisingly, there are so many examples of celebrities being violent that we are left wondering who is next.

From A Rising Star To A Shooting Star

For many, Will Smith is a role model whose career has sprung in front of the eyes of the world. His career started as an actor in the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and will maybe find its end with his Oscar-winning role as tennis players Serena and Venus Williams’ dad in the movie King Richard. With his astounding path to an Oscar, he has shown little children around the world that persistence and determination are the key to success and happiness. 

However, Will Smith’s demeanour at the ceremony on March 27 showed a side of him that turned him into an antagonist and a meme. Strikingly, this is not the first time he has slapped someone in the face in front of the media. There are videos circulating on the Internet showing the dark side of Smith whose jokes are just as offensive as the one directed at his wife, and just as violent as his reaction at the Oscar ceremony. Nobody seems to have paid much attention to his previous behaviour. What has changed? Have we become more sensitive, sensible, or shameless?

Crossing The Line Of Humour

I think we can all sense a wave of awakening regarding topics such as emotional maturity, compassion, and self-awareness. However, when it comes to comedy, where do we draw the line? Do we lack self-irony nowadays? Would you laugh at a joke about someone else’s physical appearance? What about your physical appearance? Some of Chris Rock’s colleagues have expressed their discontent with his joke and have shared that they could have swapped a remark about Jada with a gag directed exclusively at Will Smith. Maybe, that was the mistake in the first place. Nevertheless, the Oscar-winning actor has definitely acted inappropriately in the situation. 

Now comes the question: Is Will Smith cancelled? The actor himself resigned from the Academy, and a few days later was banned from participating in the Oscars for 10 years. People have controversial opinions about this. Some regard the actions taken from the Academy as “too dramatic”. Others, according to Smith himself, believe that this is a reasonable response bearing in mind the severity of physically assaulting someone while the whole world is watching.

Is the sole fact that this whole situation was mediated the cause of so many different parties becoming involved and taking measures to “punish” Smith?

Here arises another question: If Will Smith had slapped Chris Rock behind the stage during the ceremony, would it have generated such reactions, such extreme consequences, and so much publicity? Is the sole fact that this whole situation was mediated the cause of so many different parties becoming involved and taking measures to “punish” Smith? If it were a private physical dispute, maybe Smith would not have resigned and been banned from the ceremony. He would still be the prestigious actor who has come a long way, won his first Oscar, and is loved by the media and consequently by the public.  

Facing Reality – In Need Of Change

Nevertheless, Will Smith did slap Chris Rock. He came rushing from the supposedly highest to the lowest point in his life. The actor shared that his colleague Denzel Washington amicably advised him: “In your highest moments, be careful, that’s when the Devil comes for you.” Perhaps we should all remember this sentence. Being humble when the world’s spotlight is on us is crucial to remaining humane. Emotions should not precede reason. We should not render to our animal instincts. Reason is what differentiates us from them, and this should be our highest virtue. 

If we want to live in a society where peace and understanding are a part of our daily lives, we should learn from past mistakes.

In the end, if you have never slapped another person on the stage of the Oscars, take notes – it is not advisory. Aggression should be the last response in our minds when we find ourselves in such situations. Having a sincere discussion regarding appropriateness, feelings and principles is much preferred. If we want to live in a society where peace and understanding are a part of our daily lives, we should learn from past mistakes. May situations like these decrease in occurrence until one day they will all be just faint memories. 

 

Cover: Ben Hershey 

Edited by: Gaukhar Orkashbayeva

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