The Analysis of “The Slap”


Sommer Bianchi, '23, Writer, Head of Photography and Social Media

The Oscars. A time for fashionistas, such as myself, to geek out over all of the suits and dresses presented by celebrities from only the most expensive designers. Who cares about the award winners, someone is wearing a dress more expensive than my house. But last Sunday more was flying than just fabric across the deep red nylon carpet, there were fists. Flying through the air after one of Chris Rock’s jokes about his wife, Will Smith rushed across the stage and slapped Chris right across the face. When he later accepted his award for Best Actor, he apologized to the audience and his co-star in the film for his outburst and reminded everyone about how great Denzel Washington is. He was moved by “the power of love”, and simply wanted to defend his wife. But now the question is being posed, did Will Smith overreact, and whether or not he did, was the use of violence justified in “the name of love”?

Let me set the stage. As Will Smith once said for the famous Youtube Rewind, “It’s rewind time!” Chris and Will were once co-stars on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and some could even say that they were close friends. But long ago, in what was once considered the worst year ever, Chris Rock was at the Oscars in 2016. Almost a repeat of this year’s events, Chris made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, the wife of Will Smith, saying “Jada went mad. Jada says she’s not coming. Protesting. Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” This was when #OscarsSoWhite was trending, a tag where many people were upset over the lack of diversity at the Oscars. But Chris wasn’t done there, saying about Will, ​​“Jada’s mad her man Will was not nominated for Concussion. I get it. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.” The jokes were received well, and when asked about it, Jada said that it “comes with the territory”, and while slightly upset, held no grudges against Chris, after all, he was just doing his job. But while Jada didn’t hold a grudge, Will did, and the tension between the two has been there for the past six years. 

As all things ends, lets get into the morality. I do not think the joke was funny or throughout. Chris claims that he was unaware that Jada has alopecia, a medical condition that leads to hair loss, but Jada has been very public out her condition, making multiple posts and doing multiple interviews about it. Even so, the joke was not funny, and had sexist and racist undertones, after all, he is making fun of a black woman’s hair. Black people’s hair has been constantly stigmatized by being deemed unprofessional and “ugly” (aka not like white people’s hair), but thanks to the recent passing of the Crown Act, any discrimination towards a person based on hairstyle is a punishable offsense. Now that we’ve gotten past why the joke was bad in itself, let’s talk about the reactions. Will is seen to be laughing at the joke, while Jada sits back uncomfortably. All of a sudden, Will is now furious, furious enough to physically assault someone infront of millions of people. In this case, and in many cases, violence is never the answer. This could have been talked about civily either infront of the cameras or not, and the confrontation should have been with Jada if at all, not with Will. It seems in this story that the men are only being looked at, when it was a woman scorned, it was a woman hurting, and it was a woman that should have stood up for herself if she should have wished to. Will, in my opinion, had no right to fight his wife’s battles without her consent, especially not violently, which has now lead to her assumed imbarrassment over her husband’s outburst. I also believe that the vulgar language used after the assault was uncalled for and unneeded; actions speak louder than words, and trust us, Will, you did it all. The acceptance speech wasn’t great either; by blaming his actions on becoming his movie character and on his “love” for his wife, he didn’t take responsibility for much. I am a firm believer that love is never a justifier for violence. It’s seen all the time in phrases such as “I’m doing this out of love”, “love makes you do crazy things”, “I could never hurt you, I love you”, etc. which show a toxic, manipulative kind of love. These words are used not in love, but in cases of violence and sometimes abuse: violent people will tell their partners that they hurt them out of love/they were upset but they love them and it will never happen again, parents use corporal punishment “for your own good”, not out of love but for the feeling of control. Do I believe Will Smith loves his wife?  Yes , of course I do, but in no way do I think that he acted out of that love at the Oscars. He acted to save his own pride: I need to show that I protect my wife, I can’t just sit back, this will embarrass me, what will people say about me, etc. The Academy is also in the grey area for threatening to revoke Will’s award. I understand that violence, especially on live TV, is a big no-no, but I believe that violence in general should be an issue. Harvy Weinstein is a rapist and an overall trash human being who is now serving time for his crimes. However, he still has all 81 of his Academy Awards safe and tucked away. Why has the academy not revoked those? Other celebrities such as ​​Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Casey Affleck, and Kevin Spacey are accused/convicted of crimes such as sexual assault/rape, some having to do with minors. Yet all of these actors have kept their awards. It just seems a little fishy how all these white men get to keep their awards while doing horrible things and Will Smith does one and is officially stripped of all of his winnings. I stand by Jada, and I believe that in this winding road of events she has been a steady foundation in all of the violence and vial words being thrown in her midst. 

As I now finish this essay, Will Smith has released an apology, saying “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness…Violence in all forms is poisonous and destructive.” I’m just happy he trying to apologize, but this feels like a PR team wrote it, so I’m not the biggest fan. However, at the end of the day, I don’t need to forgive them, the public, the Academy Awards, and the general public have to forgive him. Good luck with that Will and Chris.