I do not think it takes a psychiatrist to see that actor Will Smith needs some professional counseling. His entering the stage in the middle of the Oscar awards to slap the face of comedian Chris Rock in and of itself would call for a trip to the shrink – and even to the police station for assault. But this was a black-on-black crime, and they get less attention from the law – as seen with regard to inner-city crimes.
The entire incident speaks of anger management issues. Somewhere in Smith’s mind, all the guardrails of proper conduct failed. His mindset allowed Smith to commit a criminal act of violence in view of a worldwide audience that needs some explanation. There is never a proper occasion for an attack on a fellow human being – but the Oscar stage is about as inappropriate as possible. Many asked, “what was Smith thinking?” And that question, alone, suggests some mental or emotional issues. His “thinking” was not working properly.
Smith made a lot of the Hollywood community look bad as many were seen cheering – and giving Smith a standing ovation. It revealed their arrogance and shameless sense of privilege that permeant the celebrity community.
Smith also did a great disservice to all the other Academy Award nominees and winners by overshadowing the news coverage. The Monday morning reports were almost exclusively about Smith – not the winners. That was true of the Tuesday morning reports. While post-Awards reporting in the past covered many facets of the event. This year was all about Smith. Even the ladies’ dresses – or lack thereof – were suppressed. That is a lot of damage for people who crave the publicity.
With the smack in the face, Rock’s joke may have been part of the story – as being tasteless and an affront to women. Smith even managed to take the sting out of that by making Rock the focus of sympathy – and even praise for his handling of the sock to the face.
But it was not just the slap seen around the world that raises questions about Smith’s mental stability. His later tearful acceptance speech was half apology – but not to Rock – and half self-excuse. He later apologized to Rock in what seemed like a lawyer scripted statement.
And then there was that earlier interview, which may have been a warning of Smith’s frame of mind. In that interview, he proclaimed himself the protector of black women as some sort of Messianic mission. He seemed to see himself as a changed man – a St. Paul acquiring his mission by God. But instead of the road to Damascus, Smith showed his weird conversion on a stage in Hollywood.
The initial reaction by the Academy was tepid. There was no criminal battery charge even though the evidence was clear. Smith was not refused access to the stage to receive his anticipated Oscar. He was not disinvited from the after-parties. It was only later, as public opinion shifted away from Smith that the Academy promised an investigation.
So far, the harshest punishment is speculated to be the refusal to have Smith as the presenter of next year’s Best Actor award – a traditional honor. I am betting that even that threat will evaporate by then.
Some hypothesized that the timid response was because Smith is black – or because he is a rich and powerful celebrity. It may be a bit of both – although I lean to the latter.
Smith did do one thing the Oscar folks have failed to do in recent years. He boosted ratings. Once word of the slug went viral, millions of new viewers tuned into the show. Of course, that boost was not because people were any more interested in the awards than they were last year – when the program reached an all-time low in viewership. It was all about the Smith/Rock confrontation. It worked so well that perhaps next year we can have a hair-pulling tussle between a couple of the ladies. Smith’s wife will not be involved, of course.
So, there ‘tis.