Honour smacked Humour and sent it cowering into its shrunken limits on the Oscar night, even as the contours of conjugal love, chivalry, gender relations and entertainment got redrawn. Comedy is a shape-shifting watchdog. Offence is a self-assessment scheme. Since the watchdog has to bark or jump over your façade to get noticed, it runs the risk of venturing into private domain, and incurring the wrath of the one whose territory has been trod upon. Offence, by its very nature, is subjective, and depends upon the whims and fancies of the one claiming to be offended. For this reason, it has the tendency to spring occasional shocks. Offence and potential reprisals keep comedians in check, whereas comedy teases the offended ones to grin, bear and evolve. The desire for peace and harmony always scores over the right to free speech. Comedy’s sweep shrinks by the day. Slapstick is out of favour, body-shaming is no longer acceptable. There is an overdose of lame stand-up acts everywhere, hurting the credibility of the craft. Offence is riding on bull stocks like medical conditions, religion, gender and caste.

Dare you breach these million invisible hig-voltage lines!

Will Smith’s ‘shot of disgust’ is sure to make millions of partners feel obliged to defend the honour of their other halves, or risk getting judged for passivity, in case they are lucky, and indifference, if they are not. If they are to be eventually executed, cases may even be built against such dullards who fail to defend their spouse’s honour or for secretly enjoying crass jokes being cracked at their expanse. The slapgate is not just about a husband acting violent to save his wife’s honour, rather a person standing up to protest against public ridicule of his or her partner. Expect soon to be called upon, or obliged to, defend your partner’s honour, and your gender doesn’t preclude you from this obligation. If Will Smith can, so should you. Its gonna be a new test of love, loyalty and friendship. “You don’t need to pluck the stars, hon’, just slap that loudmouth who seems to be mocking me!”.

Honour, a vestige of feudal mindset, has hit back at a time when gender equality has taken deep roots, and medieval notions like chivalry are being confined to dustbins of history. This is how it should be, for chivalry is sexist, hence anachronistic, undesirable and out-of-place in the modern woke world. Jada Pinkett would have furthered the cause of women empowerment by many miles, had she herself stood up against the perceived slight and taken a heave at Chris Rock, rather than looking expectedly at her husband as her protector to take matters into his own hands. Her wish, which he took for command, belongs in the 19th century, not 21st!

Poor Will Smith. He is also a victim here, having ruined the greatest night of his life by behaving like a hooligan. Perhaps the routine drivel that he is forced to bear for his ‘open marriage’ to work, took his toll.  Jada has a penchant for discussing their private affairs on camera. She has been quite affected by the condition affecting her hair. A couple of years back, Jada even has made public posts about her struggle with hair loss, and appearance of bald patches on her scalp. A few days back, Jada had proudly flaunted her bald pate in a photograph, and declared that she didn’t give two c***s what people thought about it. A mild GI Jane joke pertaining to her baldness could not then be termed as out of order. And even if it was, Will had no business smacking a nice, unsuspecting fellow.

Perhaps, Will didn’t read or listen to Jada’s ‘fuck-you world’ announcement. Will has acknowledged multiple times that he considers his divorce with his first wife as the greatest calamity of his life, as it made him feel weak and helpless. That is a very complicated emotion to carry, which is sure to place a lot of burden upon anyone. This determination to keep the relationship going, no matter what, despite Jada’s exuberant public utterances about her flings, might be behind the turmoil in Smith’s head.

Here is a man could not take a joke on his wife. Please recall what Will Smith screamed after he had struck Chris Rogers, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Perhaps, it was not the joke that he found distasteful (as if jokes were meant to be palatable!), rather he was bothered by Chris Rock mouthing her name. This is an altogether different level of neediness and possessiveness. He had an option, as did his wife, of walking out. But then, the power couple would have come across as weak. Hence, the ‘show of force’ by Mr.Smith to demonstrate his relative importance in the Hollywood hierarchy, as compared with the hapless comedian.

I don’t know how woke activists and feminists would interpret this incident. Perhaps they would just wash their hands off the whole shit show, and ascribe Jada Pinkett Smith’s contorted expressions, and Will’s subsequent behaviour to their touchiness at Rock’s lampooning of her medical condition called ‘alopecia’, which causes loss of hair. There is a case to be made out of this viewpoint. It is distasteful to comment upon medical conditions, if serious, as well as handicaps and mental diseases, and must be avoided. Having said that, sometimes transgressions do occur, which can be overlooked, or addressed in a mature way.

The jihadis who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre were similarly outraged by the magazine’s act of publishing the cartoons, and chose to kill in retaliation. Where does one draw the line? A slap or a punch is as dehumanizing as a stabbing or a gunshot. Best would be to leave this to the discretion of the comedians. The only other option is to subject every gag and joke to pre-censorship, where the concerns of every woke, feminist, touch-me-not, LGBT activist, race, religion and community could be taken into account. Meanwhile, the rest of world can do with developing some thick skin. If we can live with nuclear, chemical and biochemical weapons, we can surely survive some nasty personal jokes.  

The slapgate shall now be imitated across the world by the trigger-happy, the short-fused, the publicity-hungry and the dull-witted ones in one way or the other. Like throwing of shoes, slippers and ink became a popular modes of political protest, slapping around hapless anchors for perceived insults is gonna catch on. Brace yourself for a lot of fake outrage, over-the-top reactions and poor acting display on this count. One ill-thought act of outrage shall inspire many pathetic attempts to generate TRPs.

Will Smith clearly enjoyed ‘the joke’ in real time, then looked at Jada who winced, and looked hurt. This compelled Will to get up, climb the stage, walk towards where Chris was, and slap him. This did not seem like a spontaneous act, rather a premediated one, full of malice and intent to hurt. A critic has commented that Will might have killed Chris. Perhaps he is right. Smith was deep inside the darkness when this incident occurred. He was not fully in control of the proceedings. The night might have had a worse outcome, for Chris could have hit back, and seeing how vulnerable Will was, it might have turned dangerous.

Interestingly, in 2009, Chris Rock had produced and narrated a documentary on the issue of how Black-American women have perceived their hair and historically styled it. The documentary even contained images of what is considered acceptable and desirable for Black-American women, and their relation to the Black American culture. So to denounce Rock as insensitive or uninitiated in Black females’ hairstyles does not make much sense. He is an authority on hairdos and weirdos, much more so than what Will and Jada might be willing to concede.

Coming back to the Will Smith, who played Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in early 90s and once lampooned a drummer for his baldness, might have showed a bit of restraint. Slapping a man on the world stage is never a good idea. Chris Rock’s soul must have be broken with the impact. One does not know what ails Will, but he surely needs professional help. Congratulations to him on winning the Academy Award for the Best Actor, and no one can take that away from him, but it is high time he goes on an introspective self-exile, or is banned from further participation in such public events. Shame on the Academy for giving him a standing ovation, minutes after the incident. He was also celebrated at the Vanity Fair dinner soon after, and no one even mentioned his indiscretion.

A word of appreciation for Chris Rock is due. He maintained his poise even after being hit, calmly weathered the storm and carried on like a true professional. He has refused to file a complaint with the LAPD against Will Smith, who clearly needs help, and such maturity places him heads and shoulders above the petty Smiths. Here is hoping that he won’t think about his Charlie Hebdo moment at the Oscar’s, and would keep taking irreverent swipes at all and sundry, with gay abandon.

#willsmith #chrisrock #jedapinkettsmith #Oscars #AcademyAwards #Oscarnight #Slap #Smack #slapgate

#alopecia #Humour #offence #medicalcondition #hairloss #baldpatch #CharlieHebdo #KingRichard #BestActor

One Comment Add yours

  1. deepshikhaarora says:

    Loved your writing style and thorough coverage of the issue!


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