First, a couple of quick corrections to my hastily-written Oscar report: The co-host was Regina Hall, not Regina Bell (missed it by two letters!), and the underwhelming movie about Lucy and Desi was “Being the Ricardos.” I was thinking of “Lucy and Desi,” the excellent Amy Poehler-directed documentary I’ve seen since, and that I strongly recommend over the Aaron Sorkin dramatization.
Now, on to “The Big Story.” Judging from the wall-to-wall coverage, Will Smith slapping Chris Rock was a more shocking and newsworthy assault than Russia bombing Ukraine (it actually knocked Ukraine out of the headlines.) I’m from Texas, where that wouldn’t even count as a punch. Chris is hardly a brawny guy, and he just shook it off and went on with the show. Some commentators are saying the notoriety could help revive the Oscars’ ratings. Only if next year’s show is like the WWE, with Kenneth Branaugh smashing a folding chair over Dame Judi Dench’s head.
Personally, I thought it was just disgustingly immature behavior of a type that sadly typifies our age. Try to imagine Cary Grant doing that to Spencer Tracy on “the most glamorous night of the year.” Not just the punch, but the cruel and tasteless joke that sparked it, and the very loud F-bomb afterward. It’s the type of classless, boorish behavior that’s been fostered by the Internet, described by Mike Tyson as the place where people say things to others that they only say when they know they won’t get punched in the face.
The latest developments are that the Academy is holding a meeting to discuss revoking Smith’s Oscar (prediction: they won’t. These are the same moral giants who gave an Oscar and a standing ovation to Roman Polanski. And they didn't even have the excuse of being surprised; they'd known what he did for years.) Also, Smith released a statement covered with the fingerprints of professional crisis management consultants, in which he finally remembered to apologize to the guy he hit.
Now, how about an apology from the Academy for not having adequate security, or from all the celebrities who keep preaching to us that “words are violence” and we peasants are intolerant examples of toxic masculinity, but who not only applauded a man whom they’d just watched assault someone, but who frequently make it clear that they believe violence is perfectly acceptable if you disagree with what someone says? That ranges from Kathy Griffin holding up the severed Trump head to Sally Field threatening to assault the Governors of Florida and Texas, the latter of whom is in a wheelchair (“Stupid is as stupid does.”) And that violent intolerance is hardly limited to celebrities.
Finally, how about explaining why they think Will Smith shouldn’t be charged with a crime, but some granny who walked through an open Capitol door and took a selfie on January 6th should spend the rest of her life in prison? Never mind: judging from the scripts of last year’s movies, that would take far more creativity than currently exists in Hollywood.