by Shelt Garner
In an age lacking both accountability, nuance and subtlety, it’s difficult to process the shocking events of the most recent Oscar telecast. We’re so accustomed to Trump being above the law and the absolute Singularity of crassness that is Trumplandia, that it’s almost impossible to figure out the long-term significance of Will Smith smacking the shit out of Chris Rock on live TV.
First, I guess I need to tell you what my personal view on this clusterfuck is. I think Rock’s joke was tone deaf, but nothing that merited getting smacked over. In fact, the worst part of the entire event wasn’t even the smack itself. It was how the Academy kept going with the night as if nothing had happened. I get that it was a live event and for basic logistical reasons they couldn’t do anything, but at least they could have done SOMETHING to tell the audience that they were aware of how surreal everything was that was going on.
Because that didn’t happen, it gave a lot of grist to the hysterical MAGA New Right. From what I can tell from YouTube, there are a fair number of far-Right podcasts spending a lot of time talking about the “hypocrisy” of liberal Hollywood because Smith was able to hit someone and nothing happened to him.
Let’s get something basic out of the way. A lot of the attack on Smith from the Right comes from a thinly desguied form of racist paternalism. They’re on an hair trigger to attack the African American community and because Joe Rogan loves Dave Chappelle, they, by extension, feel they have to take Chris Rock’s side for maximum racist effect.
But this is an example of how we need some sort of nuance about this situation. The key thing is — there were so many other ways Smith could have articulated his anger at the joke without destroying the evening with violence. And, that, I think is the most troubling thing about what happened — why did Smith do it in the first place?
He’s been in the public eye for 30 years and he freaks out just as he’s about to get an Academy Award. What the what? If there’s any kind of mop up of this clusterfuck, that’s the specific question an interviewer — Oprah? — needs to get answered.
That’s what makes the event so shocking. In real terms, nothing Rock did was out of the ordinary. It was Smith’s reaction that was fucking bonkers. And, to date, there still hasn’t been any real accountability.
Nothing has happened to Smith, nothing that might bite, and all he’s done is released a written apology. Being held accountable, at least in my opinion, means you suffer for your actions in a way that reminds you not to do them again.
I’ve been surprised by how quickly all of this has begun to fade. I thought there was a chance that The Slap would hit the zeitgeist in such a way that it might linger longer than one news cycle, but I guess I was wrong.