In these times when the pandemic gives hints of coming back, these times when we are on a knife edge looking down the cliff at a third world war between two nuclear powers, this is the meme that has flooded the internet, and taken the news by storm. Heck, even the prestigious tired midnight blogger is writing about it.
I admit, when I first saw the meme, I honestly had no idea what it was about. I could tell Chris Rock was the one being slapped, I was not sure who the slapper was. But I soon found out. Will Smith.
So while at work I didn’t get the opportunity to look at any of the videos, and honestly unfairly assumed Chris Rock had said something vulgar and likely sexual about Will Smith or his wife. I spent most of the day expecting to write a post defending Will Smith. Then I watched the video….
I’m going to discuss four aspects of this altercation.
- What caused Will Smith to slap Chris Rock?
- How did this event validate Will Smith?
- How did this weaken Will Smith?
- Is violence ever justified?
So far, my highly scientific polling has only established two people who said they felt Will Smith was justified. Their reasoning was that he was defending his wife. Let’s analyze this.
Both of the respondents who tole me Will Smith was in the right were women. I’m pointing that out, not to be sexist or snarky, but just as an anecdotal observation. Yes there are strong women out there (thank God). And frankly, I’ve known women who put me to shame in their ability to handle life and crises. But most women have a desire at some level to be protected, and most men (at least the one’s that aren’t out trying to use women) have a desire to protect the woman. This is why we have so many similar myths. Perseus saves Andromeda. Lancelot fights for the honor of Guinevere. Superman catches Lois Lane when she is pushed off a cliff by Lex Luthor. I guarantee that a lot of arguments in marriage would calm if women simply understood, when you complain about things that we can’t do anything about, we feel small. We feel like we failed. And I know the whole idea that sometimes we need to let you talk. But when you talk, please keep this in mind…..your intent is not to flay our egos, but often that is how it feels to us. And I’ll bet that something like that went through Will Smith’s mind when he slapped Chris Rock. “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth.” I just talked to a man that said he was on Will Smith’s side of it. He said he would have decked Chris Rock if Rock had mocked his wife when she was sick. “Make fun of me all you want, but leave my wife alone” is what the man said.
So why does it matter that this action validates Will Smith? Because if we understand what happened, we can prevent or mitigate something like this happening later. And what we are looking at when we watch Will Smith slap Chris Rock is chivalry. I’m not saying he was right to do it (nor am I saying he was wrong). What I’m saying is this behavior is deep in the core of Western culture. Yes we have evolved, yes standards have changed, but the whole idea of the knight fighting the monsters to save or please the woman is still very much in our psyche. Even in the film Casino, where we have mobsters running around doing very violent things, the two main male characters are motivated by a need to serve and protect Sharon Stone’s character. De Niro’s character struggles to protect her from herself and from her pimp, Pesci’s character is motivated by similar struggles, and has been convinced by her that she needs protection from De Niro. Of course that all crumbles down like a house of cards. Which leads into my next point.
Dangerous ground is being tread here. I don’t in any way mean to be offensive. I can already hear droves of women who will truthfully say that a man can cause a great deal of grief. And that is true. Also true is that the Western cultures have misogynist beliefs that are often propped up by myths and fairy tales. Having said that….
It’s true. Often a woman (and yes, a man) have the choice either help their partner, or hurt them. All too often, even the best of us choose to cut our partner’s hair, and get the world’s gratification. “I wouldn’t take that from a woman.” “I’d never let a man treat me that way.” How often has that come out of your mouth?
To be fair, I don’t have the foggiest notion about the relationship between Smith and Jada. Maybe I shouldn’t pretend to know what he is thinking, but when he saw the hurt in Jada’s eyes, it was mere seconds before he got up and protected (at least in his mind) his wife. So yes, he has lost the respect of a lot of people, and yeah, that matters. In no way do I mean to poo poo the people who feel that what he did was inexcusable and wrong. But in his mind, he was gaining his wife’s respect. Who am I to say his priorities are wrong?
Is violence ever justified?
Many of us are visionaries. Maybe too many of us are. But for good or ill, Hollywood is the world of dreams. And we all dream of a better life. Sometimes we fight for those dreams. That dream may be to win an Oscar. Or it may be to have the love of a wonderful woman. Or it may be a world without war. But a lot of us have visions of a better world that likely we will never see in this life. Is violence justified? Ask the World War II vet. Ask the people of Troy. Ask yourself. A world without violence is an impossible dream. But then again….many of the achievements from the last centuries were once impossible dreams. What do you think?