As we all know by now, Hollywood actor Will Smith took the stage at the Oscars on Sunday night and slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face. The incident, which was in response to a taunt Chris Rock made about Smith’s wife Jada, raises so many questions. I watched the footage and in the cutaways to the Smiths as Chris Rock speaks, Jada looks upset by the comment, but Will initially smiles along. But within seconds, Smith stalks onto the stage and smacks Rock without saying a word.
hat has happened to Will Smith in this short time? Why did hitting seem like the only answer to the joke at his wife’s expense? Why did his own attitude seem to change so radically and so quickly? Almost all parents will teach their child that you are never the first to strike and that violence is never the answer to feeling emotionally hurt or offended. So what happened to Smith?
Some answers can be found in Will Smith’s own childhood experiences. In his autobiography, published last year, he writes about his father and recalls a particular incident when he was just nine years old, when he witnessed his father hit his mother on the head so hard that she collapsed and was spitting up blood.
In the autobiography, Smith talks about the impact of that moment: “Throughout everything I’ve done since — the accolades and accolades, the spotlight and attention, the characters and the laughs — there’s been a subtle series of apologies to my mother for my inaction.” on this day. For letting her down at the moment. Because I couldn’t stand up to my father. Because you’re a coward.”
His relationship with his father was complicated. Aside from the violence, his father was also eager to show up at games and performances. As Smith put it, “The same intense perfectionism that terrorized his family put food on the table every night of my life.” As a child, Smith vowed he would avenge his mother, and he describes a landmark moment when his father at cancer that he was overcome by dark thoughts of killing him, which he endured before continuing to care for his ailing father.
Research shows that children who witness domestic violence are at greater risk of repeating the cycle themselves. For example, a boy who sees his mother being abused is ten times more likely to abuse his partner as an adult. But even that doesn’t fully explain Smith’s actions Sunday night at the Oscars.
While Chris Rock jokes, Jada Pinkett Smith can be seen in the footage rolling her eyes and looking upset. We don’t see Will turn to her, but it’s very likely that he only became aware of her discomfort after laughing along himself at the beginning. If Smith saw his wife’s excitement, maybe that was the moment something snapped.
I could imagine deep, unconscious feelings of maybe guilt and maybe shame washing over him for not protecting his mother. I would imagine the desire to defend a woman he loves became overwhelming.
That may explain his answer, but surely doesn’t excuse it? Even in the few seconds he had while walking toward Rock, he could have changed course or reconsidered his next move. I wrote last week about the struggle teenagers may have to self-regulate and avoid venting their intense emotions into negative actions. While we may understand this youthful reaction to overwhelming emotions, we still hold them accountable.
Will Smith is a role model for thousands, if not millions. Like it or not, his fame, built on his own dedication and hard work, means his conduct has come under closer scrutiny. Why didn’t the Oscars organizers ask him to leave the auditorium? Surely the organizers knew he was going to receive the best actor award, and maybe that made it difficult to hold him accountable? It doesn’t really send a good or strong message about the unacceptance of violence.
This lack of accountability makes it more difficult for parents to stand before our children and continue to hold onto the commitment to violence, which is never an appropriate response to ridicule or ridicule, as one of the world’s most famous actors seems capable of without taking consequences. Knowing what I now know about Will Smith’s childhood (which I didn’t know before researching this article), I may be able to understand his behavior in this context. Just because we can understand something doesn’t mean it’s okay or acceptable. Proactive violence is never right. That’s what we try to teach our children, and that lesson may be harder to teach now.
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/why-did-will-smith-snap-his-complicated-childhood-holds-the-clue-41502889.html Why did Will Smith snap? His complicated childhood holds the key