I did not watch the Oscars, but I do not live in a cave, either, so I know about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. I do not condone Smith’s actions. Oscar hosts and presenters have always been expected to taunt, tease and, sometimes, humiliate, those in attendance. Whether you think that is right or wrong, that’s the way it has been…and what Rock said about Jada Pinkett-Smith was quite mild compared to what I have heard from some hosts and presenters in the past.
I have heard some people suggest that the reason behind Pinkett-Smith’s shaved head might be a factor in Smith’s response, but that doesn’t seem to hold much weight. She shaved her head last July after encouragement from her daughter to do so. She apparently acknowledged several years ago that she had struggled with hair loss issues and the tests to try to determine the reason revealed no medical issues. Relieved by that, Pinkett-Smith said that she “put it into a spiritual perspective, like the higher power takes so much from people,” like cancer, for example, and she was grateful that she was only losing her hair.
I realize that it is more common and probably less attention-getting for men to lose their hair than women, and I am not going to suggest, as someone who began losing his hair before he even graduated from college and has been “bald” for many years now, that I can empathize with what Pinkett-Smith went through in dealing with hair loss. But, whether appropriate or not, a bald head does tend to attract some wisecracks. For Rock to make a passing reference to G. I. Jane 2 in regard to Pinkett-Smith is pretty tame.
In 2013, Seth MacFarlane uttered what may be the worst attempted joke in Oscar history, saying, “The actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.” The crowd wasn’t amused, and MacFarlane tried to blow it off. Of course, neither Lincoln nor his wife was present. A close second came in 1955, when Bob Hope said, “The winners will take home an Oscar. The losers will all be presented with monogrammed do-it-yourself suicide kits.” In 2010 Steve Martin asked, inexplicably, of Meryl Streep, “What’s with all the Hitler memorabilia?” In 2014, Ellen DeGeneres called Liza Minelli, who was in the audience, a Liza Minelli impersonator and then added, “Good job, sir.” Chris Rock himself has said worse—see 2005’s crack about Jude Law and his 2016 introduction of Stacey Dash as examples.
Referring to director Alejandro González Iñárritu, a citizen of Mexico, Sean Penn said, in 2015, “Who gave this son of a [expletive] his green card?” Yikes. But Iñárritu said later that he thought it was “hilarious” and that he and Penn had that kind of a relationship, a “brutal relationship” that included some “very tough jokes.” Maybe Rock and Smith don’t have that kind of relationship. Maybe Will Smith really just was not okay with someone making fun of his wife. I don’t know.
If the outrage over Smith’s slap of Rock results in less mockery, that may well be a good thing. Despite Smith’s action being wrong, though, and condemnation of him slapping Rock being appropriate, other parts of the response to it by some has been simply outlandish. Wanda Sykes, who co-hosted the Oscars, called it “sickening,” said she felt “physically ill” and three days later said she was still “traumatized” by it. Sykes also complained that no one had apologized to her as the co-host. Sorry, Ms. Sykes, but I don’t think you are the one deserving an apology.
Another of the co-hosts was Amy Schumer, who took to Instagram two days after the event to declare that she was “still triggered and traumatized” and “waiting for this sickening feeling to go away from what we all witnessed.”
Let’s put this in a bit of perspective, shall we. Last fall, Schumer marched in the Rally for Abortion Justice in Washington, D.C. At that time, Schumer posted on Instagram a photo of herself holding a sign proclaiming “Abortion is Essential.” She has also posted on Instagram, “Everyone deserves to have a safe and supported abortion, at any time and for any reason.”
Back in 2006, in response to President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominations, Sykes said in a comedy special, “I got two abortions on the way here. I was, like, ‘I got to stock up.’” She said essentially the same thing in her book Yeah, I Said It, writing, “Women and our right to choose were going to be challenged with Ashcroft around. When Bush appointed Ashcroft, I went out and got me four abortions. I stocked up. The doctor was like, ‘Listen, you’re not pregnant.’ I said, ‘Hey, just shut up and do your job. I’m exercising my right while I can, dammit.’”
As I have already said, Will Smith was in the wrong. But when you joke about the murder of unborn children, you have no standing to claim that you are sickened and traumatized by an adult male slapping another adult male for making fun of his wife. Doing so would seem to put Schumer and Sykes in the running for a Best Overreaction award. I would like to ask Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes to do a little research into what abortion entails, especially a late-term abortion, since Schumer thinks “everyone” should have the right to an abortion “at any time.” Perhaps then they can get back to us on what is really sickening and traumatizing.