the slap heard ’round the world is the sound of money, fame, and man-love
What I appreciate most about the internet is being able to pontificate about famous people I’ve never heard of, and situations I don’t care about. And no one can stop me. It’s like, I’m a trucker convoy of one, without the truck!
Today’s people I’ve never heard of are Will Smith; Jada, his lady fair, and rather impressive despite, or maybe because of, how would I know, alopecia; Chris Rock, a heterosexual comic attempting spontaneous wit and, though it be ever so redundant to emphasize, failing; and one topic I know more about than I ever wanted to: The straight male’s longing for some homoerotic bro time but, confusingly, delivered as a bitch-slap RuPaul would be proud of.
It’s not that I revel in my ignorance. I’d be ashamed to admit my ignorance about anything at all that actually mattered. And, in case you were wondering about where I stand on the Will Smith thing while checking the progress of your TV dinner, let me just unequivocally state that Will Smith turning into a little bitch on global display is not anything that actually matters.
I don’t mean to demean Will Smith, or at least, not a lot, or make him less-than. It’s just that I’m not going to make him any-more-than. Because if we’re talking about justice, it’s part of the rule of law that we’re all equal, and by that I don’t mean social justice, availability of work, housing or any other opportunity historically denied to Black people. I mean criminal justice, right here and now, and specifically applied to Will Smith.
In fact, my situation is less like ignorance, and more like innocence that brings me up to the edge of this storm in a teacup and hands me a silver spoon, a couple of lumps of sugar, and a spot of milk so I can stir this down to its proper proportions.
I can approach this like Justice blindfolded, and I’m always so encouraged to be reminded that Justice is just a kinky ‘ho, like me, but, like every annoying Hermione at Hogwarts, one-ups me by actually doing something useful. At least, more generally useful than anything that’s ever prompted a straight guy to ask me, “If I brought my girlfriend around, would you teach her to do that?”
So. Oscar night. I haven’t been in a movie theatre since 2011, when I sat enthralled, or was it confused, I get them mixed up, at the TIFF Lightbox as Terrence Mallick put Sean Penn wandering around on an over-populated, rocky beach, in a vision of the afterlife that’s like a cross between a special-needs class reunion, the New York subway, and the typical English summer seaside excursion that gets rained out before you even get the flask of Ribena and the Marmite sandwiches packed. Bummer.
Since that dismal outing I’ve stuck with almost daily home replays of my favorite films from the seventies—true to form, I’ve just discovered torrenting twenty years after it was a thing, but at least no one’s looking any more—plus All About Eve, starring Bette Davis, who I am trying to become in case someone beats me to Quentin Crisp II.
And I watch alone, even with ten people in the room, because there’s no one left in all of Christendom, Islamdom or Hindudom who can pry their corneas off their smartphone screens or concentrate for longer than it takes to text Sup, dude?
And I text back, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a Bumpy Night,” which prompts their response, “Sorry, looking for now lol.” I can practically hear their cracked screen. How can it be “now” when you live in Scarborough and I’m downtown?
I’m never going to have sex again unless I die, then get reincarnated as someone’s baby who lives in the same room as you. Even then it’s a good sixteen to eighteen years’ wait! Excuse me while I grab this shovel and just start ladling dirt onto my commemorative urn filled with mixed ashes from everyone.
All this being the case, I’m startled to learn that people who can’t even watch a movie for ten seconds would let Matt Gaetz take their daughter to Prom before they’d miss the tawdriest, most boring movie awards event ever devised, which effortlessly takes two hours of entertainment and stretches it out to four hours of perfectly irrelevant tedium.
It’s like, we’re totally confident Biden’s election victory wasn’t faked—we don’t talk any more about whether elections produce any desirable result, we just determine that Chinese operatives, disguised as the guys delivering your take-out chow mein, didn’t stuff the ballot boxes, and we’re good—so just to get our dose of fake we can buy into, we have the Oscars.
We know how it’s gonna play out. We’ll overlook anything nominated that was “forrin”; the animated film that features characters who look like walking voodoo dolls will get “Best Actor”; musicals, which arguably films do best, will be ignored, likewise comedy, which films do worst (because of no audience response to play off); and that extravaganza starring a Marvel comic hero done in CGI will walk away with the honors. Non-white actors who aren’t the maid, the chauffeur or Whoopi Goldberg may get a nod now and then, like Will Smith did.
Oh, yes, and anything about the Holocaust is a shoe-in. Usually with justification, but did anyone actually enjoy ‘The Pianist’? It’s an ordeal you should sit through, but if they’ll award that Best Picture to Roman Polanski, you better believe it’s because, if Hollywood loves anything more than an exploitative Holocaust-fest, it’s sexualized adolescent girls. Double shoe-in!
Anyway. Chris Rock is presenting. He makes an embarrassingly unfunny and, frankly, mean, joke about Jada’s alopecia, Will Smith strides up to the podium and bitch-slaps Chris Rock.
You call it shocking. I call it a critique.
It’s also a bit of man-to-man combat substituting for man-on-man, on-the-down-low poontang. You gotta know it’s a man-lovin’ world when women are revered but not respected. Putting women on a pedestal is half-way to putting them in veils: protecting their frailty by tacitly agreeing on their inferiority.
My sexual belt is covered with notches made by those above-mentioned brain-partitioned guys who wanted me available for in-depth training of their “ladies”, who can’t admit that the frisson between males is in a different league. It’s the uncompromising, Spartan world where love is measured by strength, daring and heroism, not squalling babies, flowers on Valentine’s Day or afternoons at IKEA.
Put another way, if Chris Rock didn’t go home and jerk off while replaying the sound of that virile hand on his cheek, then I’m not ten Sally Bowles in leather.
Thus came the love-smack heard round the world. And, big surprise, nothing happened (hi, Donald!). Smith wasn’t kicked out (he left, probably to go home and jerk-off, too). His award wasn’t taken away from him. He can still win more Oscars. He’s banned for ten years from attending.
Ten years’ banishment? I call that “nothing.” I mean, Black people haven’t even been to the Oscars hardly twice since Hattie McDaniel took the rear entrance, walked through the kitchen, helped them chop a few carrots, then sat by the garbage bins awaiting her “Special Child Colored Person’s Award Thing Made from Papier Maché by Orphans”, so he’ll hardly even notice not going!
So the chatter is: any criticism of Will Smith’s actions is racist; is not for white people to make, not our business; and Will Smith had to do what he did or be accused of being a pussy. It is forbidden to “cancel” him (excuse me, I vomited a little bit into my mouth when I typed cancel, but I’m OK now). Will Smith, that Fresh Prince of Bel Air had to defend his Fresh Princess with No Hair.
(Get it? Fresh Princess of… OK. I really wanted that to work out better. It is what it is, but then so is everything else.)
Here we go again. “Cancel culture”, or, as I like to put it: Oh, cancel, schmancel.
You may need a reminder about the legal meaning of “assault.” Perhaps you do it differently in the United States, but up here the legislation reads that assault is “the least of touching without consent. The amount of force is not material.”
It would be for a jury or other trier of fact to decide guilt or innocence, but clearly Will Smith could justifiably have been arrested and charged with assault. You don’t get more prima facie than a slap in the facie viewed by millions.
Some comments from the Black community rightly abhor the extreme opinions battling it out for first prize in racist obnoxiousness or just bone-headed stupidity on platforms such as Twitter; some decry any opinions at all from white people.
I say, a discussion about whether one man hitting another man in the face is or isn’t assault from a legal perspective isn’t a discussion about race—at least, it shouldn’t be.
Barring hate speech—defined as speech that incites hatred against a specific class of persons and presages an imminent breach of the peace—opinions have every right to be expressed. Everyone’s in favor of opinions they support; you might like nice, polite, reasonable opinions. That’s your right (just don’t count me in your camp). Other people are exercising their right, as distasteful and obnoxious as that opinion might be. For shutting down opinions, the bar is high.
That’s your much vaunted “first amendment” isn’t it? Democracy and free speech make for big, messy opinions that are often unruly, even shocking.
That’s the price you pay for not getting locked up for expressing them.
African Americans have long been subject to this bait-and-switch of niceness, ever since the civil rights unrest of the fifties and sixties. Toe the line, dress nice, don’t talk back, be brilliant at school, be model citizens. Believing in the goodwill of that promise, hoping for a ticket into acceptability, Black Americans took the bait. It wasn’t until the summer of 2020, when the whole world saw murder enacted live, via a cop’s knee on a Black man’s neck, that the hoax was admitted.
Unfortunately, the only thing that validated the discovery was that white people finally saw it, too.
No amount of dressing nice, not talking back, or civic brilliance would change the fact of Blacks being Black, the ultimate “other.”
“But were they justified in rioting? Rioting’s not nice.”
Justified? Even as a white man I was so filled with rage I would gladly have taken a gallon of kerosene and a box of matches to the White House myself. A demonstration that doesn’t result in at least a few burning effigies or broken shop windows is just another day spent arguing at the whole foods collective, or you signing some faggy petition on Facebook that you think qualifies you as an “activist”.
You’re not an activist, honey—stop pretending that’s blood on your mouth when it’s just Rouge Volupté lipstick from Yves Saint Laurent.
We’ve had it too easy in North America. We don’t remember the crates of tea dumped into the harbor, a Republic founded on a riot; we don’t register the rape and terrorism in Ukraine. We’d rather do our fucking nails and bitch about whether a pre-op transsexual is “he” or “she” while QAnon rages up from the subterranean caves and conservatives ready the torture chambers.
Feeding into this “do the right thing and you’ll be an honorary white person” hoax is the continuing fable of the exceptional Black person. (“Negroes [sic] can excel as entertainers and athletes, even scientists!” trumpeted my Rand-McNally children’s encyclopaedia, circa 1960). This is racist ghettoization: Black men and women will escape oppression by becoming exceptional. Platinum rap and hip-hop artists; stars of the basketball court, media moguls, like Oprah. Nothing less will do.
Or, as Robin DiAngelo reads the subtext of the Jackie Robinson story: “Finally one of them was good enough to play in the major leagues.” Her revised, more honest subtext? “Finally, white people allowed a Black man to play on their team. If not for their permission, he would have been arrested the moment he walked onto the pitch.” Demanding exceptionalism is racism.
It’s not wrong that a Black hip-hop artist or basketball star might rise to the top of their profession. That’s fabulous. But it’s more likely that a regular Joe is overlooked for a regular job, or that an exceptionally qualified candidate for the SCOTUS will be grilled under a spotlight and demeaned with outrageous insinuations of being “pro-pedophile,” whatever that means, like Ketanji Brown Jackson was.
We don’t ask every white person to be a star lest they languish in poverty or endure daily indignity or die needlessly from COVID-19. We should be looking at who is denied housing, redlined out of property ownership, and then stuck with underfunded schools. I’m talking daily, systemic oppression versus privilege.
What happens when a Black candidate and a white candidate apply for the same position? How does the quality of education enjoyed by white kids compare with what Black kids are stuck with? That’s the measure of whether you enjoy equality or de facto slavery.
That’s what burns me up about the Will Smith incident. The incident, but really the lack of response, feeds into this myth that the only strategy that works against anti-Black racism boils down to money plus fame. Just one sip from that unholy grail can turn an historically oppressed, ordinary Black man into an entitled, “money shelters me from the repercussions of my behavior” white bitch-slapper faster than you can say “double-standard Karen.”
Justice isn’t best understood by looking at rich, famous whites and rich, famous Blacks. They’ll both pretty much get the same kind of justice: white justice, the justice that only money and fame can buy.
For Will Smith to face an accusation of assault would not have been racist oppression. He bought his way into whiteness. He can afford equality. He would have deserved to face the charges. If he had been convicted, not at all a foregone conclusion at his level of privilege, you could have, to make space, released and pardoned a Black man caught up in the horrific, failed “war on drugs” and imprisoned, sometimes for life, for a non-violent, victimless crime.
Or maybe even a million of them. That would look a lot more like justice to me.
So tell me your thing you don’t know anything about and we’ll compare.