By now, everyone knows of the “slap heard ‘round the world.”
Chris Rock made a G.I. Jane joke at the Oscars, Will Smith laughed, realized his wife wasn’t laughing, and then “defended” her honor through physical assault.
(Moments later, through tears, he wondered what “God” was going to call on him to do next. Apparently God didn’t want Will to publicly apologize to the person he just hit, which means God really does work in mysterious ways.)
Chris has already declined to press charges, which is a horrible move.
Not for Chris, but for every unknown comedian across the country. Actions should matter, and actions should have consequences.
If people see Will Smith, on television, getting away with physical assault, what’s to prevent them from unleashing their fists on a comedian when they don’t like a joke?
There are already those who believe heckling is acceptable.
We’ve seen videos of people interrupting shows in order to express their displeasure with a joke. This is just the next level.
Now, will physical violence become the norm? Probably not. But Will’s actions crack the door open for people who were almost there. The majority of humanity will always behave. We’re better than Will. The problem is with the select few who were waiting for an opportunity.
We see it on social media: People watch a video on TikTok or a comment on Facebook they don’t like and lash out. They insult, type in all caps, and threaten. These are the people who have issues letting things go, and these are the people already on the edge of losing control. They can’t just scroll past something they don’t like, they have to stop and act in the moment.
What happens when they get shown there are no repercussions for violent actions? Imagine the comments section of the internet unleashed in a comedy club showroom. Children are told to take deep breaths and count to ten when angry; adults need to heed that advice.
I’m GenX, and I was raised on a diet of “Sticks and Stones will break my bones.”
You know, the idea that physical violence is harmful, but words can be brushed off.
But the times, as has been sung, they are a-changing. The ACLU is an unfortunate example.
The ACLU once famously defended Nazis in Illinois. Now they’ve amended their stance to only cover speech they “agree” with.
That’s not how free speech is supposed to work.
President Andrew Shepard—Michael Douglas in The American President—understood this. The closing speech of that movie contained the lines: “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”
Sadly, that was the ACLU of 1995, not 2022. It’s depressing when a fictional character understands this better than actual, living people in charge of things.
So, did you like Chris Rock’s joke? Great. Laugh. Did you hate it? Great. Ignore it. Hell, Tweet, blog, or shout about how you didn’t like it.
But you don’t get to physically assault anyone over it.
If Chris isn’t going to press charges, then the Academy should rescind the Oscar.
Actions are supposed to have consequences.