The controversy in the recently concluded Oscars Ceremony sparked a variety of hilarious memes and headlines.
“Will Smith smacks Chris Rock on stage, then wins an Oscar” (which I found amusing since it made it seem as if both incidents were somehow connected)
“Best actor and Smacktor Will Smith”……
“There can be a hundred people in the room, and 99 won’t slap you, but one WILL"
While the slap evoked polarizing reactions among people, the majority felt that Will Smith crossed the line by slapping Chris Rock.
Will Smith admitted this himself when he later wrote, “I was out of line, and I was wrong” in his apology to Chris Rock.
While the incident has certainly not been good for Oscar winner Will Smith’s PR, I believe what he did has played a part in elevating the collective consciousness of our world.
Now I know that may sound crazy. How could a slap have a positive reverberation around the world, you may wonder?
In our world, for better or worse, it takes an incident like this (which has received extensive coverage) to spark discussions amongst people about values, what is right and wrong, and if resorting to violence can be justified under any circumstance.
These are much-needed discussions we need to have as a collective, and sometimes it will require one Hollywood star slapping another to grab the world’s attention to have such conversations.
This incident, however, was a lot more than just a slap.
In the aftermath of getting slapped, Chris Rock behaved magnanimously by refusing to retaliate either through his actions or words. He also decided not to press charges against Smith when the police approached him. The world lauded him for how he conducted himself, and rightly so.
Chris Rock's 'joke' also sparked discussions on what is okay to joke about and what isn’t, in the process, creating much-needed awareness about being empathetic and mindful about the impact our words can have on others.
However, talking about being more empathetic, it’s important to spare a thought for Will Smith.
It’s easy to criticize someone for their actions when they have done something terrible. As the popular author, Dale Carnegie once remarked “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving”
After the Oscars last week, a friend asked me what my thoughts were about the whole incident. At the time, I told him I felt Will Smith took it too far, but I now feel that it’s important to view what he did from a compassionate lens.
In his memoir Will released last year, Smith admitted he always thought of himself as a coward for failing to intervene when his alcoholic father brutally beat his mother. He said that he even seriously contemplated suicide because of the shame of not standing up to him.
In the book, he writes, “When I was nine years old, I watched my father punch my mother in the side of the head so hard that she collapsed, “I saw her spit blood. That moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life, has defined who I am.”
“Within everything that I have done since then — the awards and accolades, the spotlights and attention, the characters and the laughs — there has been a subtle string of apologies to my mother for my inaction that day. For failing her in the moment. For failing to stand up to my father. For being a coward.”
Perhaps his misguided decision to slap Chris Rock, after initially laughing at the joke, was fueled by a desire to not be a coward, and stand up for his wife when he saw that she was hurt.
There may have been at least one instance in our lives when we overreacted and completely “lost it” like Will smith did that day. But to our luck, we didn’t have the whole world watching us when that happened.
Will Smith has often expressed he strives to make the world a better place, but this week even without meaning to do so, his actions have sparked conversations and discussions that can help do just that.
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