Culture Magazine

A Slap-Happy Time at the Oscars!

By Josmar16 @ReviewsByJosmar

A Slap-Happy Time at the Oscars!Chris Rock (left) on the receiving end of Will Smith's sucker-punch slap at the 2022 Oscars

Will, You Still Love Me in the Morning, Right?

I don't watch the Oscars. Haven't for a very long time. Oh, I've tuned in to the telecast from time to time, mostly out of curiosity or plain old boredom with whatever else I was watching.

Over the years, I've learned to equate the annual congratulatory Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebration with WrestleMania. What number are we up to, anyway? WrestleMania fifty-three, fifty-four? Anyway, just like that endless sports program (I'm also thinking here of that OTHER annual sporting event, the Super Bowl), we have three or more hours of pre-game or pre-fight gab fests, replays and repeats of past wins and losses, and self-promoting portraits of athletes and opponents, until the requisite kickoff time.

A Slap-Happy Time at the Oscars!
WestleMania 2022 has gone wild!!!!

I haven't even written about the Oscars with any frequency on my blog since, well, the last and ONLY time I wrote about them. That was way back in February 2013 (dang, nine years ago!). If you'd like to read that piece, here's the link: Somehow, after that long ago brain freeze, I've never had the slightest inclination to revisit the annual Oscar-casts. That is, until today.

What viewers here, in the U.S., and abroad were privy to earlier this week was, in our opinion, a pitiful display of boorish schoolyard antics. Will Smith, the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - with emphasis on the word fresh - about to receive his first Academy Award statuette as Best Actor for his role as tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams' father in the movie King Richard, walked up to the platform and promptly, "with malice aforethought," slapped Black actor-comedian Chris Rock across the face. By doing so, Will sucked all the "bel-air" out of the room.

Now why would Will do such a heinous thing? What demon came into his slim form to force him into perpetrating such an act? Didn't Smith know that it would just about ruin the family brand? After all those years that he, his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and their son Jaden Smith have worked so hard to build it up?

What could have provoked the multi-talented actor, comedian, television personality, rapper, producer and host into striking a fellow performer in that manner?

Well, then, here's how I see this.

Just three months ago, we celebrated the life and career of another Black male performer, the late, great Sidney Poitier, who was the first of his line to have won a Best Actor award.

In my online testimonial (see the following link:, I also discussed Poitier's famed "slap felt round the world" from the movie In the Heat of the Night. The specific circumstance involved Poitier's character, a police detective named Virgil Tibbs, investigating a homicide in the deep South. During his interrogation of a Southern white bigot, Mr. Tibbs gets slapped in the face by this same bigot. Without hesitation, Tibbs slapped the bigot right back, a first for performers of color during an historically racially charged period in the U.S.

But what viewers saw later in flashback (the initial Smith-Rock smackdown was blipped from live television) was a Black man striking another Black man across the face. Live, in front of a live audience, in living color, so to speak, and in so-called real time! Wait, what? From a 1967 message-movie about racial intolerance to a Black guy getting into a tussle with another Black guy. Does that make sense? How ironic is that?

A Slap-Happy Time at the Oscars!
The slap felt round the world: Virgil Tibbs and the bigot of 'In the Heat of the Night' (1967)

So, is this how one of Hollywood's own rewards himself and his audience, with smacking a fellow actor-comedian across the kisser? Was it something someone said? What's wrong with this picture?

Well, then, it seems that Mr. Smith was provoked ahead of time by a rather lame, unfunny joke that Mr. Rock told the gathering about wife Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head, the result of a hair-loss condition known as alopecia. Whether Rock had any prior knowledge of her condition was not immediately apparent.

To be honest, motor-mouthed Chris Rock's schtick is to insult. It's an old, established line of work. Why, there have been many such attempts in the past to "entertain" by insulting, from the likes of Groucho Marx, Don Rickles, Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers to Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher and Lewis Black (in name only, mind you). Fellow Black comedians Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor were well known for jousting with and heaping abuse and other colorful epithets on their audiences. "It's all part of the show," right? To insult, to verbally shock and awe as well as outright offend are these fellows' stock-in-trade.

That old line about "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" seems to fit neatly into this latest uproar. But is that all there is to it? Your basic brouhaha among the brothers? Have we all become so thin-skinned of late that the slightest hint of an offense sets people off on a wild crusade, a fusillade of fisticuffs, or a verbal vendetta of sorts? Could all this be the result of a seemingly endless pandemic?

Let me take a different tack, if I may, by speaking directly to our miscreants.

Hey Will! How ya doing? In the first place, sir, it's such a rare occasion to have a Black actor - ANY Black actor - win the Academy Award for anything. You got that, right? And when you, Will Smith, walked up there on that stage, for all the world to see, all eyes and all ears were on you, Will Smith. Yes! You, you, you. Oh, yes, indeed! They were! Don't deny it! They were happy and thrilled to see you get that award.

So, what did you do, Will Smith? You fell apart! Instead of acknowledging the audience's applause, you stepped right up in good ole Chris Rock's face and smacked him on the side. Is that how you show your appreciation, by shooting the messenger?

We can't have this, now, can we? Huh? Do you hear me? Guys??? We can't have two grown men, two very good and very funny gentlemen (I'd like to think that you BOTH are gentlemen under the skin) playing tag with one or the other's facial features. This isn't Boyz n the Hood! This is real life! Don't let me get Laurence Fishburne involved, either. You won't like his brand of "tough love," so get over it.

A Slap-Happy Time at the Oscars!
Laurence Fishburne (right) as Jason 'Furious' Styles in 'Boyz n in the Hood' (1991)

Now, let me make a proposition: Why don't you guys just kiss and make up? Let bygones be bygones? How about it? Why not start by acting like grownups? You hear me, Chris? You hear me, Will? "You talking to me?" Yeah, I'm talking to you! BOTH of you!!! Go over and apologize to The Rock, I mean Chris Rock (sorry, Dwayne Johnson. My bad!).

Come on! Do the right thing! Spike Lee will be pleased! Go over to each other's homes, wherever that is, and give yourselves a great big "I'm sorry" hug. Shake hands and DO NOT come out fighting. Then, turn the other cheek. You hear me?

Uh, on second thought... forget the cheek bit. Let's just shake hands and leave it at that.

Copyright © 2022 by Josmar F. Lopes

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