Tag Archives: assault
“Was that Will Smith?”
Chris Rock, to Dave Chappelle after the latter was attacked onstage
It was the slap seen around the world. During the single most awkward moment at this past Sunday’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual Oscar ceremony, actor Will Smith got so mad when presenter Chris Rock made cheap comment at the appearance of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, that he stormed the stage and literally smacked him across the face. Rock – a comic already known for his abrasive sense of humor – was about to present the award for Best Feature Length Documentary, when he started his usual routine of picking on some of his fellow celebrities – including the Smiths who were seated in the front row.
In recent years Jada has been suffering from alopecia, so she sat beside her husband with her bald head. In an industry that puts so much emphasis on looks, with most everyone – especially women – trying to out-coiffure and out-style one another, Jada appeared defiant and comfortable with her new-found condition. If not comfortable, at least accepting. When Rock turned to her and said, “G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” he was referencing the 1997 movie “G.I. Jane” about a fictional first female Navy SEAL candidate, where actress Demi Moore portrayed the title character and even shaved her head as part of her method-style acting. If you watch the moment, it’s obvious Will got the joke and started to laugh. But his wife rolls her eyes, as if she was suddenly offended. At that point, Will snapped and practically ambushed Rock, then proceeded to curse him out once back at his seat.
The audience gasps are audibly apparent, and the mood suddenly darkened. What many in the theatre and global audience thought was a staged incident turned out to be brutally real. Will Smith really slapped Chris Rock across the face! Rock – in his usual comedic, show-must-go-on persona – seemed to brush off the incident and continued with his presentation.
Things seemed to get more awkward when – some 35 minutes later – Smith won the Best Actor award.
But the response has been insane and surreal. Social media (of course) blew up with Smith defenders and critics, as memes mocking the fiasco exploded across the cyber universe. The incident made national news, and late night talk show hosts have had fun with it.
The Oscar ceremonies have dealt with plenty of controversy over the decades. A kerfuffle arose over Hattie McDaniel’s Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in “Gone with the Wind”. She was the first African-American to be nominated for and to win an Oscar in any category. Just as many eyebrows were raised when “Midnight Cowboy” became the first (and to date, only) X-rated film to win a Best Picture Oscar. George C. Scott created a tiff when he refused to accept his 1970 Best Actor Oscar for “Patton”. One of the biggest fiascos arose two years later, when Marlon Brando didn’t appear at the Oscar ceremonies to receive his Best Actor award for “The Godfather”. Protesting the treatment of Native Americans, he sent a would-be actress attired in Indian headdress to speak for him. The audience booed her as she exited the stage. The following year saw another unexpected moment, when a male streaker pranced across the stage behind David Niven.
Over the past several days, just about everyone has an opinion about the Rock-Smith flap. Ricky Gervais tweeted a clip from his popular TV show “The Office” that pokes fun at alopecia. Like Rock, Gervais is known for his unbridled humor. If everyone who got offended by his jokes took a swing at him, a coroner would have to identify him by whatever little pulp of his flesh remained. Comedian Kathy Griffin – definitely no stranger to controversy – worried openly that Will Smith’s actions could pose a danger to everyone in her profession, if the incident goes unchecked.
It has to be noted that Smith apologized to the Academy during his acceptance speech, but waited until the next day to apologize to Rock. Jada has now opined and called for a “season of healing” – whatever that’s supposed to mean. These latter two statements naturally came out on social media.
The matter took a more serious turn when the Academy’s Board of Governors decided to convene and discuss possible actions against Smith, including stripping him of his award. That has never happened in the institute’s history. If bad behavior on or off stage is reason to rescind someone’s Oscar, then the majority of recipients would be award-less.
The show’s producer, Will Packer, now confirms that Academy officials asked Will Smith to leave the Dolby Theatre, but he refused. Moreover, Los Angeles police (who are always present for such a large-scale event) entered the chaos and said they could arrest Smith. After all, it was felony assault. Packer says he deferred to Rock who refused to demand Smith be arrested. Now, this about this for a moment. How many of you believe you could bitch-slap someone in a public forum and then be given the option of vacating the premises?
One unique irony of the incident is that, just last week, Jada posted a TikTok video stating she doesn’t give “two craps” what people think of her now and how she looks. So what happened at Sunday night’s event? She suddenly got offended? Or is that woman’s prerogative to change her mind suddenly manifest itself?
I couldn’t care less. One egotistical celebrity attacking another egotistical celebrity because his feelings were hurt amidst a pack of overrated zealots gathered to bloviate how wonderful they all are doesn’t bother me. Will Smith’s actions shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, he’s a rapper at heart, so violence and vulgarity are in his blood. Neither he nor his wife are exactly class acts.
Jada admitted a few years ago that she had strayed from their union on more than one occasion. She confessed to having entanglements – meaning she fucked around. But Hollywood is like Washington, D.C.: if you want loyalty, get a dog.
Understand one thing: Jada is suffering from alopecia – not cancer! She’s losing her hair – not her life! Considering that thousands of our military personnel from returned from Afghanistan and Iraq without limbs – if they didn’t come home in body bags – and what’s happening now in Ukraine, it’s really tough for me to feel sorry for an over-hyped actress who has an image problem.
Jada is a selfish, egotistical wench who went from empowered to pissed off in a nanosecond. And her husband felt into her trap as he let himself get sucked into the proverbial chivalrous role of male protector; a man willing to become violent to uphold the dignity of his woman. In this case, a woman who had already disrespected him by entangling with other people and then playing the victim when someone made a joke about her hair. Spare me the drama!
Of all the antics I’ve seen at the Oscar festivities, I have NEVER seen anyone physically assault another person! This is truly a first.
The show produced a few other unique firsts. “CODA” became the first film with a majority physically challenged cast to win the Best Picture Oscar. Troy Kotsur became the first deaf man to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, while Ariana DeBose became the first queer woman of color to win Best Supporting Actress. (Curiously, DeBose won the same award for the same role that Rita Moreno won 60 years ago. They’re the only two Hispanic actresses to win acting Oscars – something that annoys me more than a fight over hair follicles.)
On Friday, April 1, Smith declared that he will resign from the Academy. But the damage is already done.
The Rock-Smith incident will forever be sealed into the memory of the American public. No one who saw it – either as it played out or later – will ever forget it. Will Smith will forever be known as the guy who struck someone on live television in front of a global audience. His award does not overshadow what he did to Chris Rock; what he did to Chris Rock will overshadow his award. No matter what he says or does now, he will never be able to escape that.
The jokes were seemingly endless. “No hard evidence.” “Won’t stand up in court.” This was part of the chaos surrounding the infamous John and Lorena Bobbitt fiasco from two decades ago. In June of 1993, Lorena Bobbitt was an Ecuadorian immigrant living in Arlington, Virginia and married to a former U.S. Marine, John Bobbitt. Lorena claimed John returned home in a drunken rage one night and raped her. In retaliation, she grabbed a kitchen knife and severed his penis. Then, she fled their apartment with the organ in her hand, dropping it into a field.
The story quickly made international headlines, and Lorena Bobbitt became an instant feminist heroine. And then, the jokes started – about John Bobbitt. Everyone, it seemed, especially television and radio talk show hosts, had a good time with it. Women in my own workplace laughed out loud about it, carrying on as if they were discussing the antics at a family dinner. But, I noticed no one made fun of Lorena Bobbitt.
Exactly one year after the Bobbitt incident domestic violence took a deadlier turn when O.J. Simpson was charged with murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a friend of hers, Ron Goldman. Shortly after Simpson’s arrest, a group of women’s rights activists, led by Los Angeles-based feminist attorney Gloria Allred, demanded that Simpson be put to death, if he was found guilty. Legal semantics did not concern them in that Simpson qualified for the death penalty under California law because supposedly he’d murdered two people at the same time. Too many men, they declared, had murdered their female partners and gotten away with it. They wanted an example made of Simpson. Keep in mind that they called for Simpson’s life even before he was arraigned in court and long before the actual trial began. But, amidst all the talk about the volatile relationship between Simpson and his ex-wife, one person was consistently left out of the picture: Ron Goldman. He was hardly mentioned. In fact, he was almost always referred to as “her friend,” meaning Nicole Simpson’s. It took a lawsuit by Goldman’s father to bring Ron’s name to the forefront. But, even now, Ron is still often referred to as “Nicole’s friend.”
Four months after the Simpson case erupted family violence took yet another tragic turn. In York, South Carolina, Susan Smith placed her two young sons in her car and rolled the vehicle into a local lake whereupon the boys drowned. Smith claimed that a man had carjacked her. As with the Simpson case, race played a significant role because Smith had specifically stated a Black man had committed the crime. As officials scoured the local area for the missing car, they also descended on every Black man in the county. Not just those with a criminal record, of which there were few. Virtually every Black make who passed through York, South Carolina found himself with a target on his back. Finally, after intense scrutiny, Smith confessed to the unthinkable: she had fabricated the entire story, from the kidnapping to the pleas for her boys’ return, and led police to her car. She had driven it into a local lake – her toddlers strapped into their car seats. The boys’ bodies were still entombed in the submerged vehicle.
The media did a good job of showing many women lovingly holding onto their children, as if to emphasize that most women wouldn’t dream of behaving like Susan Smith. In the Simpson case, however, the media didn’t make any effort to note that most men don’t abuse, much less murder, their wives or ex-wives.
Then, during her trial, Smith made a stunning accusation. She claimed her stepfather, Beverly Russell, had molested her as a teenager. And, after Smith was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, the focus suddenly shifted away from her and her dead young sons and onto Russell. And the same band of feminists who had been so quiet throughout the trial suddenly rose up in anger, demanding that Russell be investigated. And, just like Ron Goldman, Smith’s two sons were lost in the heated discussion about domestic violence.
I thought of these cases Both the Bobbitt and Simpson cases brought the ugly specter of domestic violence into a new light. Virtually every analysis of this subject, however, has focused on males as the aggressors. If anyone mentions the term battered husbands, they are met with incredulity. But, in a 1974 study of couples in which violence had occurred, researcher Richard Gelles found that while 47% of the men initiated the violence on a wife or girlfriend, 33% of the women did the same to a husband or boyfriend. In 1980, Gelles joined with fellow researchers Murray Straus, a pioneer in family violence research, and Suzanne Steinmetz, another prominent sociologist, to analyze an even greater number of similar situations and found that the percentages had increased exponentially – for women. In 1999, University of Wisconsin psychology professor Terrie Moffitt confirmed those findings and added that, contrary to feminist proclamations, women don’t often initiate violence as a measure of self-defense. They are often the aggressors.
Admittedly, roughly 75% of arrestees in domestic violence cases are male. But, does that mean men simply are more violent? Or, that police are more likely to arrest men? Still, the idea of women being violent is somewhat foreign. It contradicts the stereotype of the helpless, passive female.
So, just how many battered men are there in this country? No one knows. Despite years of analysis – even of that particular subject – researchers still can’t present an accurate count. To feminists, this proves that domestic violence is strictly male-on-female and nothing else. But, to those studying this issue from an analytical perspective, it points to a cultural definition of manhood. Men who are abused emotionally or physically by women are considered weak; the objects of ridicule; less than human.
To me, it points to a long-held assumption that violence against men is perfectly acceptable; that the male life is expendable. It starts in infancy, when many newborn males in the United States are routinely circumcised without any type of anesthetic relief and for no established medical purpose. The procedure became common in the early 1950s in the U.S. and soon reached a peak of roughly 90% within a few years. That figure remained relatively steady for the next 30 years, when it began to decline. By 2010, the rate of newborn male circumcisions had dropped to an astonishingly low 40%. But that’s been a difficult battle to fight. It’s still perfectly legal to sever part of an infant male’s penis for the ridiculously mere purposes of religious means or aesthetic sensibilities. Any efforts to ban the procedure – even at a local level – have always been met with hostility and ultimately abandoned.
Yet, in the 1990’s, the issue of so-called female circumcision became prominent, and women’s rights activists pushed for laws to ban the procedure in this country. They achieved that in 1996 with the passage of the Female Genital Mutilation Act, which received 100% support from all members of the U.S. Congress and took effect immediately. Opponents of FGM declared that female circumcision is worst because it removes all of the genitalia, while male circumcision only removes part of the penis. That’s like saying, if you’re going to hurt somebody, stab them. But, for God’s sake, don’t shoot them. Still, FGM never has been practiced in the U.S. or most other developed nations. Personally, I’d never heard of it until the early 1990s.
On the issue of child abuse, male children are six times as likely to endure physical abuse and ten times as likely to suffer injury than their female counterparts. Some school districts, even at the elementary level, maintain policies that forbid corporal punishment from being administered to girls, but not boys.
And then, there’s Selective Service. Mandatory military service for men in the U.S. ended nearly half a century ago, but Selective Service was reinstated in 1980. All males in this country are required to register for Selective Service within thirty days of turning 18. While there’s no penalty for late registration, there are some severe penalties for failing to register; such as an inability to obtain financial assistance for college, find employment, or get a driver’s license. Non-registrants can be fined several thousands of dollars and be imprisoned. Even men who are only children or only sons and those who are physically disabled (but can leave their residence under their own power) are required to register. Selective Service means young men can be drafted into the military in times of national crisis; meaning they can be forced into a war; meaning they could get killed. It turns young men into cannon fodder. Yet, all of that is perfectly acceptable.
Not until 2013 did the United States finally allow women already enlisted in the military to serve in combat roles. But they still can’t be conscripted. And Americans remain squeamish about the thought of women coming home in body bags, or with missing limbs. Apparently, though, we’ve made peace with seeing men return like that.
In the realm of capital punishment, men comprise 98.5% of death row inmates. Death penalty opponents often point out the racial disparities in meting out capital punishment, which are valid. But, in reality, the death penalty is more sexist than racist. And, when women are sentenced to die, the objections are especially boisterous. In 1984, Velma Barfield of North Carolina became the first woman executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment eight years earlier. At the time, she was only the tenth woman executed in the U.S. since 1900. Barfield poisoned a number of people to death, including her own mother. But, when she was sentenced to death, a tidal wave of protests, including some by religious leaders, ensued. And, the same cacophony of protests surrounded the execution of Karla Faye Tucker here in Texas in 1998. No one actually has declared that it’s immoral to execute a woman, even if she is a proven killer. But, it seems to be implied.
I’m not trying to defend the likes of John Bobbitt or O.J. Simpson. Neither has been an upstanding citizen. And, no one really knows what happened those two different nights so many years ago, except the parties involved. The police had been called to the Bobbitt home several times in the months preceding the knife incident. As one observer put it, to say that John and Lorena Bobbitt had marital problems is like saying Jeffery Dahmer had an eating disorder. It somewhat trivializes the entire matter.
Violence is violence, regardless of gender, race, age, or any other attribute. It’s morally wrong and it serves no purpose. We need to stop putting prices on people’s lives and categorizing violence according to how much injury the victim incurs. Despite decades of progress regarding basic human rights, most societies – even those with high standards of living and educational rates like the U.S. – seem to believe it’s okay to kill men. Except in rare cases of self-defense, it is not okay to kill anybody.
Image: J.L.A. De La Garza