Oscars 2022: Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock was wrong, but the comedian's comment was extremely insensitive

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock was wrong, but the comedian's comment was extremely insensitive
© Provided by Firstpost Oscars 2022: Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock was wrong, but the comedian’s comment was extremely insensitive

Is there no other way to crack a joke without ridiculing someone’s illness or physicality and that too on stage? The 94th Academy Awards took place on Sunday night was the first offline Oscars ceremony since the pandemic. Will Smith was awarded Best Actor for his role in King Richard.  However, the event took a nasty turn as Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for commenting on his wife, Jada Pickett Smith’s hair loss. Will Smith reacted to Chris Rock making a joke about his wife’s hair loss, referencing the 1997 film G.I Jane. Jada Pinkett has recently opened up about her struggles with alopecia and has shaved her head. Comedians do have the benefit of getting away with a lot of extremely rude and inappropriate comments in the name of tolerance and comedy. But somewhere the line has to be drawn.

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Model Sonalik Sahay says, “I have always been extremely disapproving of comedians picking on the audience and the rest of the crowd enjoying the humiliation of one individual. We all want to take life in a lighter spirit and somewhere comedy helps us achieve that goal. But making fun of someone’s illness on an Oscar stage is not something that can be taken lightly. Even though I feel that violence could have been avoided and dialogue or verbal disapproval would have been enough to control the situation. At least this instance brings the spotlight to the fact that voicing an improper opinion under the shield of comedy is not acceptable.”

Comedians’ body shaming and objectifying women is extremely distasteful, but punching a man in the face on a public forum is not justified. But these comic jives on women are extremely problematic. Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, writer on gender and sexuality says, “Humour is not right when you make fun of someone’s weaknesses. I really feel it was in very poor taste. Humour or satire per say is the highest form of intelligence. We don’t need to reduce it to the lowest common denominator.”

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Kundu points out that if you see the Bollywood hits, you will notice how these item songs are always objectifying and making fun of women’s bodies. Be it here or in the west we always kind of see this very low crass kind of humour which is not healthy or funny, to begin with and it is sad when you see so many people are consumers of this humour. People are laughing and clapping at the worst kind of humour which is insensitive.

Actress Rajshri Deshpande who played the role of  a gay police inspector in Fame Game says, “When I heard about the Oscar slapping incident involving Will Smith, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. And it took me a while to even realize that this wasn’t staged. But now that there is more light on the issue I can see people are intensely divided on the issue of which side is right. My personal feeling is that every action we take must be within reasonable limits of sensitivity. Are we so deprived of our ability to find ways to laugh that a man had to crack a joke on a woman’s receding hair on a stage that was being watched by the global audience? I know it’s a joke but how would that woman sleep that night or for many nights knowing she has been laughed at for something that has been traumatizing her for a while. I think jokes have to be fun for all without reducing another’s sense of self.”

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But at the same time slapping and violence is definitely not the way to resolve it. Will  Smith could have responded with words and put his thoughts across even more strongly. “Not just comedians and actors but all of us as a society we have to be more compassionate instead of chasing immediate laughter as well as vendetta. And in all this conversation for and against the violence of words and action, let’s put ourselves in the woman’s shoes to see if she is okay being discussed so brutally,” adds Deshpande.

The joke was in very poor taste but Will Smith had already won big with his Oscar and his achievements on all fronts that night and it is unfortunate that a star as gracious and endearing as him lost his cool on one of the biggest nights of his life. But singer, music composer and lyricist, Sona Mohapatra says, “The real loss is for the other winners of the Oscars night, whose achievements have been completely overshadowed by this incident. This has taken over public chatter over what’s the real deal; celebrating the best of cinema in the Western Hemisphere and motivating excellence.”

Mohapatra believes that the life of a film star comes with disproportionate returns and privileges. So, it’s even more important for stars to find a way to cope with the taunts, barbs, insults and criticisms that may seem disproportionate because the rewards are invariably in the same ratio. Since then, Smith has publicly apologised to Chris Rock and all’s well that ends well. But it is sad to see people or rather celebrities making fun of women on stage.

My advice to women of all shapes, sizes, colours, hair types and skin types is don’t chart your life about what random people have told you about the way you look. I remember Vidya Balan once in an interview had mentioned, “Body positivity for me wasn’t about making people realise this is the way I look. It was first about me accepting my body the way it is. Only when I started accepting the fact that this is who I am and I cannot change the way I look, I started feeling liberated and good about my body. Then, immediately people began saying, “Oh! Look how cool you look and you are so comfortable in your body” and so on. I think there is a daredevil in each one of us because we all dare to dream and dare to challenge the world and fight various odds to live our lives.”

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