Academy Award Ceremonies, March 27, 2022
My son and I managed to watch all of the movies nominated Best Picture for this year, except for “Coda”.
My favorite top three, in order of preference, were “Drive My Car”, “Dune” and “Licorice Pizza.” The two at the bottom of my list were “Don’t Look Up” and “King Richard”. All the movies were good, though for the reason given I cannot opine on “Coda”.
After the awards ceremony ended, however, the only thing I could think of was Will Smith’s assault and battery on Chris Rock. I thought of it during the two hours before I went to bed. I thought about it until I fell asleep. I don’t think I dreamt about it, but I was asleep, so I don’t know. I thought about it upon waking.
Because I have some personal experience with physical abuse. My oldest brother was liberal with not only his intimidating verbal abuse; he was liberal with his slaps and punches, too. Another person, my best friend from late high school and university, was a tightly inserted cork waiting to pop. He exploded twice because he did not quite like my responses to his questions on two of his oil paintings.
Such behavior is a chill on first amendment rights. Ever since, I keep my opinions of art to myself.
So, yeah. I have some personal experience with physical abuse.
The morning after the Academy Awards the internet was chock-full of opinions on the matter. A majority sided with Chris Rock, though a surprisingly large number of people sided with Will Smith. Those siding with Will Smith and his actions tended to say that “Chris Rock had it coming.” This is language that I find very disturbing. It’s the language of abusers.
When I became a lawyer I took part in a court-sponsored workshop offered as a prelude to drafting declarations to accompany restraining orders. The workshop was about spousal abuse, and how to recognize it for what it is.
Of all the points touched upon that resonated with me, because of personal experience, the one I was finally able to identify is that abusers blame the victim, even when apologizing. There is always a “but”.
“I’m sorry, but you know, really, it’s your fault. You know that, right? You shouldn’t have….”
“You realize, don’t you , that his would never have happened but for the fact that you called the cops.”
“I’m sorry I hit you like that, but God, you know sometimes you just know how to drive me crazy. You don’t know when to shut up.”
There are a million reasons why abusers abuse. There are a million reasons why a slap or a punch or a kick readily substitutes for words.
Will Smith’s son Jaden proudly defended his father, saying, “And that’s how we do it.”
Good to know.
I’m not sure what Will Smith was crying and blubbering about for far too many minutes when accepting his Oscar for Best Actor.
And I’m not entirely sure why law enforcement agents didn’t pick up Mr. Smith for assault and battery. Or why, in this politically correct day and age, the Academy didn’t rescind Will Smith’s win. Chris Rock declined to press charges, but the criminal matter would be The People, and not Chris Rock, versus defendant Will Smith. Chris Rock is a witness, but there’s really no need for Rock as a witness, is there? I mean, it took place on national television, captured on tape, viewed by a live audience of hundreds, seen by millions of people on TV.
Chris probably wants to just be cool about it. He’s probably conflicted about it himself.
It is no grand revelation that comedy has a mean streak to it. Somebody is always getting the short end of the stick in comedy; someone is invariably getting made fun of. And yes, nobody — nobody — likes it when they’re the one being made fun of.
And there are degrees of mean. Ricky Gervais is known for humor that is just downright mean, otherwise he’d be charged with defamation. But not everything that is true should be fair game, and more importantly, if it’s not funny, then why? Gervais is often accurate but unfunny. And when victims react and try to defend themselves, he reacts like a cornered cat, hissing and baring his claws. Well. Comedy is comedy, what can be said? I believe it was Damon Wayans who, during a stand up routine, said that he came from a family of comedians, and that as kids they often could be mean to each other, like all families. “But if it was funny, you weren’t in trouble.”
Funny is funny.
And just as true, violence is violence.
Will Smith was the winner of the Best Actor award, but in my book, his actions Sunday night branded him a loser.