Having A Normal One
The Oscars’ morning after.
This is a special emergency edition of Hung Up about the 94th Oscars. It is absolutely way too long.
There’s some healing that needs to happen. At the 94th Oscars last night, about 20 minutes before accepting a trophy for his performance in King Richard, Will Smith unexpectedly took the stage to pop Chris Rock in the mouth. “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!” Smith yelled onstage after returning to his seat. Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s shaved head, and the slap was Smith’s reply.
Very Karen Collins in Veep voice: There are many allegiances to have and sides to take. I humbly offer: Hung Up’s exhaustive guide to the fallout. (I have finally found a moment in my schedule to take a break from crying over Troy Kotsur’s beautiful speech — I’m really a big softie, who would’ve guessed!) By my estimation, you are either:
Chris Rock, who could only offer “Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke” after Smith’s open-palm slap. He’d made a joke about Pinkett-Smith’s buzz cut, which she’d gotten because of her alopecia. Smith appeared to laugh along with the audience; Pinkett-Smith rolled her eyes. Rock knew it was a dig, was satisfied at the reaction, and was ready to move on to presenting the trophy for best documentary feature.
It’s making the rounds today that Rock made a joke about Pinkett-Smith’s Oscar boycott in 2016 — “Jada says she’s not coming. Protesting. Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” (In that bit, he also poked fun at Smith’s unsuccessful Oscar campaign for the sports drama Concussion.) Ultimately, I think this figures into this drama less than it seems. Chris Rock always has some slick shit to say (especially about black women and our hair!). Not everything is a deep-seated, years-long feud, and it feels presumptuous to assume that’s what this was. Rock made a cruel joke, which everyone seems to agree on. (Except for, I guess, Nikole Hannah-Jones who asked how an autoimmune disease is a disability.)
Or Will Smith: He was defending his wife, or he was defending himself, or it was a display of something-something-something toxic masculinity something-something-something. (I’ve seen murmurs, even this morning on The Ankler, that Jada “doesn’t stand up for herself but sends her man to the stage to avenge her slight” which smells like misogynoir to me!)
I do think there’s more to it than one single joke: After decades of being the everyman, the hero, the good guy, Smith finally tried public vulnerability. He went on his wife’s talk show, and discussed the intimate details of their marriage; he wrote a vulnerable memoir and did a sufficiently-vulnerable magazine cover story, and was finally an Oscar frontrunner. The movie was received well-enough; the book’s press tour was mocked mercilessly. Every day was a new overshare, a cycle of memes making fun of that overshare, only to be followed by yet another confession. Hollywood is full of narcissists and their sycophants, but what happens when you perform yourself so well and for so long that an attempt at vulnerability and total honesty is so misshapen and unappreciated?
The slap was wild, but this speech … hmm. Not for me! I did not appreciate him invoking the name of every woman in and around King Richard as some kind of cover for what just happened. Many were shocked that Smith effectively doubled down (and this “love makes you act crazy” reasoning), but using King Richard’s female cast members and Richard Williams’ life was such a weird and flimsy justification, regardless.
Or you’re Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper, and Tyler Perry, an improbable trio that springs into action to console Will Smith: Washington tells him that the devil finds work! Bradley Cooper, who has lost every Oscar he’s ever been nominated for but won the rights to the Leonard Bernstein biopic, gives him a hug. Tyler Perry … was onstage earlier in the night as a man Regina Hall claimed she is horny for, and I’m still trying to figure that one out, honestly.
Or you’re Jude Law, who is somewhere thinking: finally that man’s chickens have come home to roost!
Or you’re Lupita Nyong'o who was the first onlooker in the entire Dolby to see that this was serious and Will was not playing.
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