Let me start by saying that I watched the movie “King Richard” just 24 hours prior to the start of the Oscars. It was pretty much the only movie I’d seen that was nominated.
I’ve been a big fan of Will Smith since the late 80’s when I’d listen to his hit song “Parents Just Don’t Understand” over and over again, blasting his cassette tape from my ghettoblaster in my bedroom. Being a teenager at the time and having parents who just couldn’t understand me, his words resonated lots with me. I also never missed an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air when it debuted a couple of years later and have watched it in reruns ever since. **As a toddler Jacob would dance around the room every time the theme song came on TV.
I was rooting for Will to win his first Oscar, I believed it was a long time coming. His performance in the movie was so fresh in my mind and I felt he deserved to win leading up to the start of the show that was. I’ve always admired his strength, his love for his family and his kindness he exemplifies to the world (Rich got to meet him a couple of times when he worked for Sony and he always showed that side of himself to his audiences, and did you also know that Will gifted his 40 million dollar salary from the movie to the rest of the cast and crew as a bonus because they had worked so tiresomely through Covid!). A real Mensch, right?
So then what the heck happened last night? Will’s reaction went way over the top. He pushed boundaries that were unacceptable and quite frankly dangerous, especially for his many young impressionable fans who look up to him. If this had been a school yard bully, he’d have been suspended immediately but instead Will left viewers from around the world, speechless and in shock and then shortly thereafter received a roaring applause and standing ovation from the audience as he accepted his Oscar win.
His acceptance speech channeled his character Richard Williams’s beliefs in many ways as he spoke through his tears about how love can make you do “crazy things” and the importance of protecting your family at all cost.
We all overreact sometimes, often finding ourselves tangled up in that immediate emotional response to anger or fear and especially when we feel as though one of our core values is being challenged.
But violence is never the answer and Jada is not Will’s “property” either. A man’s rage and impulsiveness do not equate to love and protection. His display of toxic masculinity last night continues to normalize stereotypes placed on men that they need to be tough, show bravery and take charge which only places society in further harms way, especially when there are no consequences to their actions, infact in this case they almost felt celebrated.
They have both spoken out very publicly about having an open marriage and that Jada has also had an affair; being as open and public as they are has got to be a comedian’s wet dream. But yes, Chris Rock told a very tasteless joke; even though it was well received by many in the audience with lots of laughter heard throughout the room, including from Will Smith himself. But being a comedian shouldn’t give you a free pass either when it comes to making fun of a person’s health and wellbeing. He may have unknowingly taken the first swing last night though, not realizing that Jada had been dealing with a health concern even if she has been very open over the last few years about her battle with an autoimmune disease called Alopecia, which causes hair loss. It is something she has learned to embrace over time and even chose to shave her head on Instagram.
Chris handled the incident with class by not retaliating. Will’s apology to his fellow nominees and to the Academy itself was completely self serving. He took home his Oscar last night but at the end of the day his actions have now overshadowed so many historical moments that deserved to be celebrated and even more incredibly joyful moments, especially for Serena and Venus, their family and the entire cast of King Richard.
I think Will probably needs to take a time out from Hollywood right now and work on his self-reflection; and it may not be such a bad idea if he does so by moving back in with his auntie and uncle in Bel Air while doing so!
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