Far from ending the whole lurid incident, the announcement late Friday that Will Smith has resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to make partial amends for teaching stand-up comic Chris Rock slapped on stage at the Oscars have the opposite effect.
There’s too much left here to pick up. It feels like we’ve only just started.
It’s definitely been a week. At first, many were reluctant to criticize it independence Day Star too strict because he is black. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. Only careless fools stray into this racist minefield.
Complicating matters further, Rock is also black and had made a tacky joke about Smith’s wife’s hair loss. Whose side should you be on when both could be cast as villain and victim alike?
Celebrities are herd animals, and the more successful they are, the less they risk their status in the herd by going it alone; Instead, they wait for the alpha beasts to decide the “right” mindset.
On the night, they kept their options open by giving Smith a standing ovation as, minutes after slapping another A-list star on stage, he won the Best Actor Oscar and took the opportunity to shoot a tearful little to make a convincing apology in which he chatted about protecting his family.
Some celebrities, such as Harry Potter Star Daniel Radcliffe even tried to keep up the constructive ambiguity in the days to come, explaining when asked about the slap that he was “already dramatically bored with hearing people’s opinions on it” and didn’t want to add his voice to the hubbub.
It almost sounds admirable until you remember that Radcliffe has not shied away from offering or throwing opinions on Donald Trump or Brexit Harry Potter Creator JK Rowling under the bus for her belief that women’s gender-based rights cannot be appropriated by biological males who simply “identify” as female.
Of course, in these cases, picking up signals from the celebrity’s hive mind was easy. The Will Smith situation took a little longer to process.
A week later, Smith appears to have lost the battle of heart and mind, with Oscars co-host Amy Schumer even declaring that she is “still triggered and traumatized” by his actions.
Who wouldn’t? Physical violence is always unsettling to watch and is a lot uglier in reality than it is on screen.
And that was a real attack, although some cynics initially tried to either say it was fake to boost the odds or that it was “just a slap in the face” that was being overdone. Only someone who has never been subjected to physical violence can be so indifferent about that.
The shock on Rock’s face was viscerally real. Getting hit that way would upset anyone’s balance.
Seen in this light, the early sympathy for Smith was terribly upsetting to anyone who has ever experienced violence and then had to endure the attacker making the same apology, that the violence was out of love.
In such cases, the victim is rendered invisible by the self-pitying focus on the perpetrator. Even now, there are still people who justify what happened because it’s cruel to make jokes about people’s hair loss.
Stay tuned. Alopecia is not cancer. It’s not a fire in an orphanage.
A lot of things that aren’t intrinsically funny have been stepping stones to humor. Comedians must be free to push the boundaries of taste and propriety without being attacked by the thin-skinned.
Perhaps it was inevitable, however, that violence would be the next stage of the so-called “abandon culture.”
Once you have decreed that someone who has violated liberal values must be excluded from society, eradicated, abandoned by friends, deprived of their livelihood, why not also be physically assaulted as an expression of righteous anger?
It’s actually this cultural struggle around the limits of free speech that happily burns under the Oscar cauldron all week long.
There was one last example week when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticized for starting a party rally with an online LGBT newspaper PinkNews squeamishly referred to as a “gross” joke.
That was it: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, or whatever [Labour leader] As Keir Starmer would put it: people who are classified as female or male at birth.”
In any normal scenario, this would be seen as harmless taunts at a group of cowardly MPs who refuse to define a “woman” for fear of offending fanatical transgender activists. In our brave new world, it’s now “hate speech.”
Soon after, a Tory became the first MP to say he was trans – “or, to be more precise, I want to be”, whatever that means. As he rushed to his defence, many would have happily slapped Boris for his joke too.
Frivolity can be lethal in public life, but it is also a necessary control over an excess of seriousness that undermines free speech.
Her enemies have even attempted to discredit JK Rowling because Vladimir Putin cited her case as an example of Western hypocrisy while provocatively claiming that the West is trying to “annul” Russia itself.
It’s a classic and painfully transparent dirty trick to prove guilt by association. But the more disturbing truth is that Putin is only able to use the rise of waking culture to divide and destabilize the West because the West is already divided and destabilized by this bitter clash of ideas.
Celebrities have become willing combatants on this front, no longer content to pocket outrageous sums of money to entertain us. They also want to guide and teach us, although the contradictions in their own lives make them utterly unfit for any role as moral arbiters.
As “The Slap” showed, they had to crack at some point.
It is our fault for endlessly indulging in their boastful desire to be mentors and not mere public amusements. It clearly doesn’t make her happy. They’d be better off just being the stars of yore again.
Will Smith was undoubtedly one of the star stars. Charismatic and incredibly talented, he lit the screen from the get-go while also coming across as a genuinely decent man.
He probably still is. The pendulum swung too far in Smith’s favor in the hours after hitting Rock, but now it’s swinging too far the other way.
That’s another risk when everything becomes the focal point in the culture wars. No one is given space to redeem themselves. You are simply thrown to the mob, which briefly satiates, waiting for the next malefactor to devour.
We are now symbolically beating too many people for saying and doing things that we don’t like or want to hear. It doesn’t make us happy either.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/oscars-slap-is-another-blow-to-toxic-woke-culture-41514850.html Oscar’s slap is another blow to toxic waking culture