— Reuters (@Reuters) March 31, 2022
The Oscars is still trending thanks to Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Chris Rock.
My first thought upon seeing the bizarre incident was that Jada’s reaction to Chris’s insensitive joke couldn’t have gone unnoticed or even ignored by her husband.
Eye roll, head tilt, shoulder drop…lights, camera, action!
With mere seconds to decide how the 2022 award ceremony would be remembered, the best-selling author and (not yet) Oscar award-winning actor went on to produce a telling moment in “the greatest night in television history.”
Camera still rolling.
To be honest, I don’t think the comedian expected anything as wild as being slapped on live television by a disgruntled Black man and husband defending his wife’s honor, all because of a joke he probably rehearsed and anticipated would lead to laughter.
Hold frame…and cut!
Some say Will went too far. Others say Chris got what he deserved. Another group says Jada didn’t need anyone to defend her because she sure as hell can do that for herself.
Like everything else getting tried on social media, judgement over Will’s emotion-fueled decision to attack Chris is a matter of perspective and politics. The jury is still out, and I am certain we haven’t heard the last of this action-and-intrigue-packed episode.
My second thought about the incident presented me with a question:
How many times have we endured public humiliation in the shape of online abuse from people who “reacted emotionally” over a comment that wasn’t intended to harm?
This made me have empathy for Chris because I have been in his shoes before.
Anyone who has ever experienced ridicule, or verbal or physical abuse for a comment that was albeit insensitive but not intended to harm must have felt the weight of Will’s slap on their cheek.
And if you have somehow navigated life and social media without having your comments taking out of context, making a bad joke, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time for whatever reason, I can tell you it hurts—both physically and emotionally.
People who get hurt sometimes slip into a dark hole out of shame and anger. These people may struggle to come out of that sticky mental space. And sometimes, they never recover or return.
What I suspect Chris Rock feels, based on my experience, is a mixture of pain, confusion, anger, and shame. This feeling is the result of a culture endorsed by society as the gold standard of reactionary measures: Act now, think later.
It is based on the concept of instant gratification, which has impulse as the core driver. Add the hedonic element of our being, and you have successfully created a social monster terrorizing all and sundry.
For example, think about something you bought online solely driven by impulse, which probably made you feel good for a while, then you regretted it after some time because you really didn’t need to buy that extra pair of whatever. Or that huge reaction to something someone said online, which probably made you feel good in that instant because “you got your point across,” only to regret everything you said later.
If you haven’t noticed, there is a perception that anyone who takes a reflective pause, suspends judgement, or delays a politically correct reaction to a situation is “slow,” not “woke,” or “weak.” There is also a perception that anything not delivered instantly or speedily loses ground as a progressive option.
Society passively gaslights us into reactions we probably should have thought through, and only with hindsight do we realize that a better outcome was possible, if only we had disregarded the tasty bait. But we never truly learn because the “act now, think later” culture is a perverse but pleasurable monster constantly fed by our ego and fear.
We are usually more concerned with how we look rather than how we are; what they’ll say rather than what we believe; looking good for the ‘gram rather than actually feeling good when we lay our heads to rest.
I should note here that a better outcome to any situation doesn’t mean suppressing our emotions when people hurt us with their words or actions; that’s how passive aggression is born, which is a toxic reaction that leads to trauma and more ugliness.
A better outcome could be anything, as long as social pressure has limited influence in those decisions. For this, we give ourselves room (time and space) to assess our options while fully present, rather than allowing impulse and high-flying brain chemicals to stir our emotions.
I urge you to watch the clip again. But this time, watch it with intention—not to make a judgement about who was wrong or right. Watch Chris make fun of Jada. Listen to the audience. Watch Will and Jada. See Jada’s reaction. See Will’s reaction.
It’s all there, but we never seem to listen beyond the noise or look beyond the surface. Even if we did, we are too proud a people to admit that we are drowning in our own vomit, addicted to elements of our being gifted to us by nature, in nature.
Again, Jada and her reaction to Chris’s insensitive joke couldn’t have gone unnoticed or even ignored by her husband—he was aware and had to do something…a speech, a slap, a silence.
He made his choice, which, in hindsight, he’s admitted was a mistake and has since apologized for, because, like the rest of us, he is a work in progress.