I wasn’t going to comment on this, because I don’t want to give Hollywood any more attention than I have to. But the more time went on the more I found myself thinking about it and the more it suggested ideas to me about the world we live in.
I suppose at this point no one needs me to summarize: Chris Rock, playing host, made a crack about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair style (in the process referencing a largely-forgotten 30-year old film). Said style is, apparently, the consequence of an illness she’s suffering, and once Will Smith put this together he walked onto the stage and slapped Chris Rock in the face before returning to his seat and shouting “Keep my wife’s name out of your **** mouth!”
By now everyone’s discussed it, and probably a consensus has formed along both sides of what people of the various tribes are supposed to think about it—I haven’t really looked to see what those are to be honest, because I really don’t care.
And for what it’s worth, I don’t think this was staged. The body language of the two men doesn’t convey that, and as others have pointed out, Chris Rock really isn’t a good enough actor to fake the shock and confusion he displays.
What Smith’s Slap Means
For my own part, I think the incident raises some interesting points.
First, let’s have no illusions about Will Smith’s personal life, which is as repulsive as anyone’s out there. If this is a grand romantic gesture, it is so only in the abstract. But credit where credit is due; taken in the abstract I’m all in favor of a man decking some idiot for insulting his wife, no matter how many people are watching. This is what is called social violence: not designed to injure, but to enforce norms and boundaries in an unmistakable way. It’s a very useful thing and I think it’s a defect of our own society that we don’t allow a place for it.
That said, I also can’t help but deplore that we’ve reached the point where the elite of Hollywood are striking and swearing at each other on live camera. Can you imagine John Wayne decking Bob Hope live on stage for a tasteless joke? Of course not, because Hope would never have made such a joke in the first place, and Duke would have had enough class and authority to chastise him without resorting to violence if he had.
As I say, social violence is perfectly acceptable, but the thing is that when it becomes necessary, it’s a mark of ill-breeding on one or both sides. The man employing it is expressing either “I perceive that this creature is so devoid of understanding that he would not feel anything less than a blow,” or “I myself have no other means of making my displeasure truly felt,” or both.
Overall, my response is an odd mixture of approval and disapproval: I’m in favor of a man employing social violence to defend his wife in the abstract and feel I must give him credit for it, however repulsive his personal life. But I also deplore that such a thing should be done at what is after all supposed to be a prestigious event—though I'm aware than any genuine prestige has long since departed from it... which is itself part of the problem.
However, what strikes me most of all here is simply the fact that he broke the rules of decorum so completely and let a burst of actual honest emotion shine through in a sea of phoniness. A raw, real human being for one minute emerges from behind the mask of smiling fakery.
The Coming Crackup
We live in a very strange society: one that simultaneously urges individuality and punishes it when it is expressed. We pride ourselves that, unlike past ages where people had to follow the paths set for them in lives, had to follow restrictive social expectations, had to be careful what they said or thought, we by contrast can choose our own paths, our own values, can believe and say whatever we wish.
But then we move to swiftly punish anyone who deviates from our own social norms or who expresses ideas that contradict our own. We encourage individuality when it breaks from norms we don’t value and enforce rigid conformity on those we do, all while declaring that this is liberating.
The result is a great deal of anxious hypocrisy, where we not only labor to go along with what is expected of us, but to do so with a smile and a light, casual touch that maintains the impression that everything is of course fine; we love our place, we are where we want to be, and this is the best possible place and time to be alive. We’re all just so happy and tolerant and friendly to each other, aren’t we?
But I suspect that many, perhaps most of us are feeling the strain more and more. We feel our unhappiness, our frustration, and the fact that things are not okay and they’re getting worse and worse all the time. We can sense that those who rule us are claiming a right to respect that they do not in fact possess and which they do not show to us.
I think many, many people – including many of those on the Left – feel the pressure becoming intolerable. We want to throw up our hands, to cut loose and say what we really think for once, to express just how miserable and angry and confused we are. We want to be able to somehow convey the message, “Things are not okay, so stop pretending that they are!”
Seeing an A-list actor lose his temper and deck one of his Hollywood cronies in the middle of the biggest award show in the entertainment world touches on that feeling, the feeling that we’re sick the phoniness. We’re sick of being expected to follow rules of polite discourse with people who despise and continually insult us. We’re sick of being expected to go on pretending that things are fine, just business as usual, perhaps with a few hiccups and bad actors, but ultimately moving in the right direction.
In a word, I think many people are approaching the breaking point. Many people are downright longing to lose their tempers, to throw politeness and decorum to the winds and show the smug, stupid elites who rule their lives exactly what they think of them. Smith’s actions were just another sign that the edifice of manners and social norms – the edifice that our rulers simultaneously mock and flaunt whenever it suits them and hide behind whenever they’re attacked – is beginning to crack.
Photo Credit- screenrant. com