Behind the Slap: An Off Color Oscar Moment has us asking all the right Questions
It happened on a night when nobody was tuning in. Without the chatter that resulted the morning after, most wouldn’t have known it was the 2022 Academy Awards show, taking place on March 27th. The Monday following that night, headlines poured in: “Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock.” Social media took off. Ironically, in a culture of “everything goes,” this moment went a little too far.
We’ve lived through the past couple years having to wear masks and avoid hand shakes. But Hollywood has thrived on mask-wearing and back-patting even before it was popular. Facades. Just “playing the part.” Perfecting the “art” of appearing one way, while remaining another. These are all obvious signs of Hollywood culture that seem to pass without second thought. Anyone who’s watched a bit of interviews with actors/actresses might recognize the difficulty in trying to detect what is true from what is false in the one answering questions. Are they being authentic? We might wonder. Which brings us to the moment that many people can’t seem to shake. The Will Smith slap.
Precedents and Pressure: Foundation-Setting and Pipe-Bursting
Notable celebrities are now engaging in conversations around morality and ethics leaving many to consider the question of “what type of precedent this sets” following the “slap heard around the world” which the Academy subsequently took little action regarding. Sure, we learned the Academy “asked Will Smith to leave.” He didn’t leave though. The show went on. He was awarded his first Oscar and immediately gave a speech that revealed more man-in-the-midst-of-a-mental-breakdown than it did heartfelt plea at gratitude and thanks. Or better said, maybe it was simply an acceptance speech of a different kind, with tears screaming “please accept me despite what I’ve done. I’m scared. I’m barely keeping it together.” Whatever it was, one thing is for sure in my mind, and that is it wasn’t fake.
The whole incident is interesting considering there are few things in celebrity culture that are authentic. It becomes uninteresting if it was staged. But if this is real, as many perceive it to be, then many are understandably asking “what precedent Smith’s actions set.”
The thing about this entire question is that those asking it, ought to perhaps dive deeper and turn inward to ask, what precedent was already set? What shaky foundations were already in place from the start? Were insults, mockery, and bravado so common that we act shocked when someone responds off colored, to a joke that was off colored? I’m obviously not approving Will Smith’s actions. The bottom line is the Chris Rock — Will Smith exchange was jarring. And perhaps that’s the best way to describe it. Pressure was applied and the pipes burst. The whole moment was abrupt in the midst of a culture full of abject immorality. It was shock in the midst of laid-back apathy. It was a wake-up in the midst of an immoral, unethical slumber. See what I’m trying to unpack is not only the obvious wrong, but also the very blatant wrong surrounding the incident that took place — that is, the culture of vainglory. See, I feel if we just gloss over this as some obscure, isolated incident, we easily become like tourists on a safari jeep pointing through the mud-soaked windshield to the uncleanliness of the dirt-covered rhinoceros; In seeking to point out the sins of the far, we very obviously miss the filth that is so near.
Perhaps more than ever before, people are asking the right questions. What is right and wrong? Where do we draw the line? If this is so clearly wrong, then shouldn’t ask the impartial questions about what else is wrong? What about the wrong that lies within us? We are valuable, with a value that is God-given and thereby cannot be man-stolen. But in pointing out that value, we must reject all that which has devalued us.
We must face ourselves, without masks. What we do not like, we look at clearly. Not through the jarring force of a brute slap, but with the mirror that gets at our souls. That mirror is the living, active words of God in Scripture. We can talk all about how Will Smith shouldn’t have [opened his palm] or how Chris Rock should have [shut his mouth], but at the end of the day we are left facing neither the Fresh Prince or Marty from Madagascar, but ourselves. I look to the wisdom from above in these times, penned by the half-brother of Jesus: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness if sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17).
And to get to that place of sowing peace, we must first make peace between us and God. But not just for the sake of being peace-making, but more importantly, so we can become what we were always created to be and be placed into the union for which we were always made. That union is to become one with God, and the chasm standing in that way is the weight of our sin-debt. But there is a God Who came as Jesus to bridge that sin debt and to offer to cast it into the ocean forevermore, never to bring it up again. Will you believe Him? Will you take Him at His Word?
“Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression
of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger
Because He DELIGHTS IN MERCY.
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18–19).
Will you accept His over-generous, abundantly-gracious and free offer to lay aside our sins? The ball is in your court.
April 4, 2022