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Stop making Will Smith's slap of Chris Rock more than what it is!

  • In the first 24 hours after The Slap, "every possible reaction to the incident has already been aired," says Joel Anderson. "Some people have understandably cautioned against any possible expression of tacit support for violence in public, as if we’re not already awash in a culture that already glorifies it. Others placed blame on Rock for gleefully passing along a tasteless joke that made light of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s autoimmune disorder. A few have pointed out the hypocrisy of the Academy’s public statement against violence, noting that it has long coddled and even glorified accused abusers like Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, and Woody Allen, among others. Others connected the moment to racism, sexism, ableism, and even the larger breakdown in social mores in recent years. Like so many controversial events these days, it has taken on a mirage-like quality of something that might explain what’s wrong in American life, in different ways to different people...We don’t have to take this too seriously. We don’t have to live like this, mapping complex social phenomena on something fundamentally as straightforward and unexceptional as dudes using a personal slight—or a perceived one—as a pretext for getting physical. Unsurprisingly, the social media response has followed its own inevitable arc, from shocked to bemused to serious to exhausting."


    • How you respond to The Slap ends up saying more about you than it does Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith or Chris Rock: "It’s a Rorschach test, revealing the specific ways in which the take-havers imagine themselves as the protagonists of reality," says Gita Jackson. "Although there does seem to be a clear cause-and-effect in terms of why this went down, there’s also a distinct lack of context granted by the fact that celebrities and their lives are so distant from everyone else and theirs. Smith and Rock are both black men in Hollywood; it’s very possible that they know each other and that this beef extends beyond what we saw last night. It’s equally possible this was all a farcical misunderstanding brought about by Smith assuming everyone is up to date on his family’s various health problems and some writer not thinking to take 10 seconds to use Google. In any case, they seem perfectly capable of resolving it on their own, and neither Rock nor Smith seem to have left the night worse for wear. Since we as a culture invented the idea of celebrity, we have used the lives of strangers to explain our own. They become like Greek gods or royalty; these are people who experience things for us, about whom we tell stories in order to understand ourselves. The internet has only made this process faster, so that the free association between what happened and what it reminds you of happens more quickly than one’s ability for critical thinking. Cultural events like this are made of clay. They have so little structure, they’re pliable enough to take any form that you need them to."
    • Presenting "The Complete Guide to Will Smith Slap Takes": "It was the Slap that launched a thousand takes," says Chas Danner and Margaret Hartmann of Intelligencer, adding: "Once it became clear that the incident was not staged, seemingly everyone felt compelled to form an opinion on it and to share their views with friends, family members, co-workers, social-media followers, their hair stylist, their dog walker, strangers on line at the grocery store, etc. Maybe you’ve already run through your initial viewpoints but can’t find the motivation to talk to other humans about anything else today. Never fear: We at Intelligencer have compiled the definitive guide to every possible slap take."
    • Will Smith should definitely not be invited back to next year's Oscars: "On Monday, the academy responded more strongly, saying it 'condemns' Smith’s actions and added that it had begun a formal review and will 'explore further action and consequences,'" the Los Angeles Times says in an editorial. "It can start by making it clear to Smith and the public that he will not be invited back to the Oscar show next year as a guest or a presenter. Traditionally, the winner of the lead actor award presents the Oscar the following year to the leading actress winner (as Anthony Hopkins did Sunday night with Jessica Chastain.)"
    • It seems like there's a double standard in the reaction to Will Smith since Hollywood has a history of embracing violent (white) men: "Hollywood’s history with interpersonal violence is complex because Hollywood is nothing if not forgiving of white men’s violence, especially against women, as evidenced by the long careers of Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein," says Mikki Kendall. "Mel Gibson’s periodic returns to the screen—including a 2016 nomination for Best Director—after facing allegations of domestic violence as well as spewing racist and antisemitic attacks on costars and others signals a willingness of many in Hollywood to look the other way. The Oscars have also never been immune to public conflict. John Wayne reportedly had to be restrained by six men when Sacheen Littlefeather used her time at the podium to refuse Marlon Brando’s Godfather win on his behalf when he boycotted. She later claimed she was blacklisted by studios, which effectively ended her acting career. Yet the conflict at this year’s Oscars seems to have many who have been, let’s just say, morally flexible about violence ready to take a stand against it now."
    • The Slap turned the Oscars into an A-list adaptation of The Jerry Springer Show: "What happened (Sunday) night at the Dolby Theater proved definitively that the Academy Awards are still capable of delivering a jaw-dropping water-cooler moment that can have the whole world talking the morning after," says Benjamin Svetkey. "Granted, it took a major movie star committing an act of physical violence to pull it off, but whatever. As a TV show, there’s no denying it was riveting. I literally jumped from my sofa to get a closer view of the screen when Will Smith marched up to the podium to smack Rock in the face after the comedian cracked a relatively bland if still distasteful joke about Smith’s wife’s shaved head (“Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you”). Was it real or some sort of schtick? Was my TV broken or did ABC cut the sound? And then, right afterwards, why was P Diddy plowing through the rest of the show — move along, nothing to see here — as if the most extraordinary thing that had ever happened at the Oscars hadn’t just happened?"
    • The Slap was the best thing that could've happened to the Oscars: "The incident that spawned a million takes was shocking both because it was so unexpected and because it made the awards feel abruptly intimate — not some distant glitzy gathering but a work event for a constricted group of people with its own internal hierarchies and long-standing grudges," says Alison Willmore. "Will Smith getting up out of his front-row seat and walking the relatively short distance onto the stage to smack Chris Rock was a breaking of protocol, and it was also a breaking of the Oscars pretense that this is the night Hollywood gets together to enjoy its own company. It’s an industry function, and plenty of industries have their own star system and awards, and they’re probably all as messy — they’re just not televised."
    • Comedians from Rosie O'Donnell to Kathy Griffin to Rob Schneider defended Rock: “Let me tell you something,” Griffin tweeted, “it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian. Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
    • Longtime former Oscar ceremony writer Bruce Vilanch weighs on the handling of The Slap: "I think they’ll have to dig their way through the idea that somebody was supposed to arrest Will Smith for assault," he says. "I don’t think anybody was sitting backstage looking through the Academy code of conduct. And I suspect if they were, they decided, 'Just let it play out, and it’ll be dealt with after the broadcast.' To call attention to it by then having him disappear from his seat would really overshadow everything that was going on, so I think that was the decision that they made." As for Rock's joke, Vilanch says: "I certainly know that when people get up onstage, comedians especially, they say things, and they’re in-the-moment, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And then when it doesn’t work on the Oscars, they hear about it for the rest of their lives....This was, like, a calculated move. (Smith) got up, and he strode over there, and he did it. I think the moment it happened, you realized this was not in the script."
    • The Real World: Seattle's Irene McGee, who was famously slapped on the show, offers her support to Rock
    • At the 2000 MTV VMAs, Shawn Wayans pretended to be Chris Rock getting assaulted by various celebrities
    • Beyoncé has been connected to some of the most chaotic award show moments: Does the Slap drama prove she's cursed?
    • A former Los Angeles County D.A. calls on prosecutors to file charges against Smith, even without Chris Rock: “Charges actually can and should be filed because the offense was against the state of California. It’s not Chris Rock versus Will Smith in a criminal matter. The LAPD and the city attorney should not close the door on what was an obvious criminal offense and is easily provable,” said Steve Cooley, L.A. County's D.A. from 2000 to 2012.

    TOPICS: Will Smith, ABC, 94th Academy Awards, The Real World, Bruce Vilanch, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, Shawn Wayans, Award Shows