People are still processing Will Smith’s assault of Chris Rock during Sunday night’s basement-rated Oscar telecast. The shock of the ugliness froze everything. Never before has something like this happened, certainly not at the Academy Awards, which used to be seen as the classiest awards show of them all.
The Oscars are supposed to be the entertainment industry’s four-hour advertisement for itself. Class, charisma, star power, dignity, compassion…!
Not knowing how to react — Is Smith a white knight defending the honor of his wife? Is Smith a thin-skinned bully? Was it staged? Did it really happen? — a lot of people made the poor choice of defending Smith or downplaying the moment, and now most of them have to walk it back.
And it’s still not over…
As the days pass and the shock wears off, and people come to terms with just how outrageous and ugly Sunday night was, things will get worse for Will Smith, a lot worse.
His obituary will lead with The Slap. Then, future biographies will stop in their tracks to detail The Slap. In the coming days and weeks, the media will root around Will and his family’s sordid private lives, looking for answers, for reasons… Soon we’ll be reading long-form articles laying out the timeline, psychology, and events leading up to The Slap.
And in the midst of it all, Smith and his wife Jada and his Army of People that have kept Will Inc. going for three decades will secure, schedule, train for, and rehearse The Inevitable Sitdown Interview with Oprah Winfrey.
None of that will alter three facts… 1) Smith melted down, lost control, and sucker-slapped a much smaller man, and this much-smaller man not only took the hit like a man but showed unbelievable poise. Believe me, Chris Rock’s stock just went up. His reaction defined professionalism. He exited that confrontation the Alpha Male. 2) The very thing that (I believe) triggered Smith’s meltdown — his wife publicly humiliating him as a cuckold, is about to be talked about and examined more than ever. It’s one thing for Jada to have affairs. This is Hollywood, after all. But for her to openly discuss those affairs on a podcast is beyond the beyond. Then she has Will come on the podcast and publicly emasculated him by throwing the affairs in his face. 3) Will Smith believed he could reclaim his manhood in the eyes of his wife and the public by assaulting a much smaller man. Ugly doesn’t begin to describe it.
This is both Shakespearean and image shattering…
Think about the image we all have of Will Smith… The handsome, charming, masculine, funny guy who’s never caught off guard and capable of handling himself in every situation.
Smith has spent 30 years building that persona into a multi-billion dollar brand, and now it’s shattered and still shattering. Believe me; this story is far from over…
Sunday night is further proof that truth is always stranger and more fascinating than fiction…
If you read a book about a character named Will Smith who spent 30 years building himself into a superstar, a driven and talented TV star-singer-movie star who climbed and clawed his way to the very tippy-top of his profession and blew it all up 40 minutes before it happened, no one would believe it.
But that’s what happened…
After 30 years of clawing his way there, 40 minutes before Will Smith achieved the highest honor his profession offers, the Best Actor Oscar, he melted down and blew himself up. Over a nothing joke, and in front of the whole wide world, he forever shattered his hard-earned image of a decent and capable guy who’s always in control. Then he clutched his Oscar and cry-babied six minutes of self-justification. Then he released a PR-tested, lawsuit-proof apology also full of self-justification.
All those decades, all that work, and then at the very moment of his career triumph, he drops his pants to reveal a eunuch, the ultimate insecure man — a cuckold who sticks with a woman who serially humiliates him, an insecure bully who takes his public humiliation out on smaller men, an unstable celebrity who fumbles the ball on the one-yard line; an entitled elitist who thinks he can commit an assault in full view of the planet and get away with it.
I’m not big on What It All Means articles, but the lesson here is that the cliché is true. “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”
Smith lost it in 30 seconds.