Most people are well aware of the event that took place between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the March 28, 2022 Oscars. Chris Rock said a joke that involved Will Smith’s wife who has a medical condition, and Will Smith walked on stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face and then yelled some profanities from his seat.
It is now almost a month later, and most people have had some time to let their emotions cool down, and we are ready to being to process the events that took place, to help learn from them, so they do not repeat themselves in the future.
As the saying goes…”Those that do not know the past are condemned to repeat it.” Most people think of that quote in terms of major historical world wide changing events, but it also applies to even small stuff like winning big on Everygame casino no deposit bonus casino website. Why do a lot of people who win big at either casino games or the lottery end up being worse off financially 5 years later than they were before they won big?
That specific question is not the focus of this article, but the concept (and the learning actions are the same). You ask questions and learn from other people’s mistakes, so that when it is your turn to “win big” you take advantage of that, so you don’t end up worse off 5 years down the line. Society, as a whole, need to go through that same thought process when looking at the Chris Rock and Will Smith scenario.
What exactly happened between Chris Rock and Will Smith?
Will Smith’s wife suffers from a medical condition called alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is an auto-immune condition that causes hair to fall out in small patches. The amount of hair falls varies from person to person. Some lose it only in a few spots, while others lose a lot. In some people, this condition may be hard to detect if the hair is lost from different parts, while in others the patches connect and become visible.
There is medication that can be taken to help prevent alopecia from getting worse. Unfortunately, these treatments don’t help if the hair has already been lost. The only other option at this point is hair transplant, where a dermatologist takes a skin graft from an area that does not have hair loss and replants that to the area with hair loss.
Jada Pinkett Smith chose the option to shave her head, so the hair loss would not be so visible. She obviously was trying to make the most out of a bad situation by having a positive attitude. This included being outspoken about her medical condition and talking about how she likes the “easy hair maintenance” that shaving her head provides.
Chris Rock claimed that he had no knowledge of Jada Pinkett Smith’s medical condition. He was under the impression that Jada shaved her head for fashion. Or maybe he did know of her medical condition, but assumed that since Jada made positive comment’s about now having a shaved head that it was okay to make jokes about it. As the saying goes “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME (assume).”
The question that is not being asked …
There is one question that I have, that I do not see anybody else asking (or if they are asking it, Chris Rock is not answering it).
If Will Smith had walked on the stage and whispered into Chris Rock’s ear, “My wife had the medical condition alopecia areata and she is very sensitive about her hair. Please don’t joke about it.” What would have been Chris Rock’s reaction?
On 18 April 2022, I typed the question “how do comedians react when a person in the audience is offended by a joke” into Google? Most of the return search results were from over a year ago, so the answers were created before the whole Chris Rock – Will Smith incident.
The very first result was from Quora. The responses were along the lines of:
- People are too politically correct.
- People have no sense of humor.
- The comedian is joking about himself or herself, so the joke it not about you personally.
- They are making fun of real world situations that everybody experiences.
- People are always going to have their opinions about jokes.
- Somebody somewhere is always going to be offended by a joke.
- If you don’t like something, don’t take part in it.
- Some people don’t belong in comedy shows.
- People are too hypersensitive.
- A joke is not supposed to be taken seriously.
- Free speech is still our first amendment so unless that changes there’s no point to fight it.
I also found an article in the Times of India where a comedian had a beer mug thrown at him for a joke he did. The patrons who were offended, left, and then came back to disrupt the event even further.
The comedian’s reaction was “I tried to diffuse the situation with humor, but one of them picked up a beer mug and flung it at me. … Did I deserve it? Does any artiste deserve this? Is freedom of speech even a thing?”
The article continued with another comedian stating, “I think freedom of speech is everyone’s right. Cartoonists, humorists, and poets deserve all the freedom, else how can they be creative? People need to be more tolerant. ”
Another one commented, “I believe that as long as you are not hurting someone by mocking his or her mother or mocking the country, it’s all fine.”
Jada had a medical condition that Chris Rock claims that he was unaware of. He made the joke under the assumption that Jada’s hairstyle of a shaved head was a fashion choice, and not related to any medical condition. If that is true (which we will assume that it is), the whole entire situation was just one huge misunderstanding.
In 2022, the “rules of society” say that you do not make fun of a person’s physical characteristics that they have no control over: color of their skin, the country they were born into, the gender they were born into, loss of limbs, cross eyes, being paralyzed, blind, deaf, etc. Those are no-go areas in terms of jokes, with the only exception being a person who is actually of that characteristic can say the joke. A person who has dwarfism can make jokes about dwarfism or a person who is blind can make jokes about blindness, even though a person who is not blind and not a dwarf cannot make those jokes.
So by going by that societal rule, Jada (or anybody else who has a medical condition that causes baldness) can make women baldness jokes, while Chris Rock cannot. Assuming that Chris Rock was unaware of Jada’s medical condition, Chris Rock thought he was making a joke about a fashion choice, not a medical condition.
So the question is, “Once Chris Rock had become aware of Jada’s medical condition, if Will Smith had not hit him, but simply explained the situation in his ear, how would Chris Rock have ‘fixed’ the situation?” Or would it have even been able to have been fixed without a million mimes of Jada being G.I.Jane?
I think that the answer to that would be how good of an actor and comedian Chris Rock is? And even, how good of an actor and comedian Will Smith is? I will admit, that I am familiar with Will Smith’s work, but I am not familiar with Chris Rock’s work. Should they do a “do-over” “show” where the two of them reenact the event, but demonstrate how they could have reacted better? In other words, provide a teaching moment for other comedians and children on how to correct a wrong that was done by mistake.
I can throw out some ideas, and if you have other ideas, put them in the comments below.
State the obvious, admit you made a mistake and turn it into an educational moment
State that you were unaware of Jada’s medical condition, and you thought her hairstyle choice was due to fashion.
I had experienced that once myself. My son was at a friend’s house, and their babysitter, who I had not seen in two years, was recovering from cancer. I made the comment, “Well, at least you did not lose your hair.” She replied, “I did.” For a minute, I was silent, because I honestly did not know that she had lost all of her hair. Then I replied, “I would never have guessed. Your hair looks gorgeous.” Her hair did look gorgeous, and honestly, unless you knew she had cancer in the past, an average person walking down the street would never have guessed that had temporarily lost her hair due to cancer.
Chris Rock could have done the same thing. Complimented Jada. Said how gorgeous she looked, and how completely unaware he was that she had this medical condition. Talked about how a person should not make jokes about medical conditions, and given Will Smith the mike to explain what alopecia areata is. Then judging by how Jada was reacting, maybe asked her, “Given how hot you look, if you did not have alopecia areata, would you keep this hairstyle?”
What not to do
You read articles about this incident and you read the comments … ugh.
One set of comments talks about how Jada is lying and because their relative has alopecia areata and they have hair loss in patches. Medical records are private. How would some random person commenting on an article have access to Jada’s private medical records? There are articles dating back to 22 May 2018 that talk about Jada’s medical condition. Why would Jada do a 4 year charade?
Another article talks about how it was a charade, because Chris Rock was wearing padding on his cheek at the Oscars. Chris Rock was wearing padding on both cheeks during the Oscars. When Chris Rock does not wear the padding, he looks more like a boxer than a comedian. Not intending to make physical jokes, but more to state that Chris Rock wearing padding on his face is a fashion and image issue, and not a preplanned fight issue.
And the final one, the fight between Will Smith and Chris Rock was preplanned to advertise alopecia areata. Pfizer is making alopecia areata drugs and advertised during the Oscars, so that proves that it was staged. No it does not. Jada may be taking already approved alopecia areata treatment drugs or she may be involved in a clinical trial. We don’t know.
Even though Jada tries to hide her hair loss by shaving her head, she has not hidden her medical condition. It is public knowledge, and it has been for the last 4 years. Given that she is a celebrity and Will Smith is a celebrity and they have lots of money and the best medical insurance, she has access to the best doctors and the most advanced medical treatments and research in this area. So Jada knows which companies are involved in alopecia areata research, and those companies know who Jada is. But then Pfizer also did the COVID vaccine and COVID treatment drugs, so there is not a person in the world that does not know the company name Pfizer.
When we talk about Freedom of Speech and we talk about comedy and art, we should live by the saying, “You have the right to say what you want to say, and I have the right to ignore you.”
But does that include preventing other people from hearing you? Just because I do not want to hear you, does that mean that I should prevent the other person from hearing you?
And what about the speaker? Just because a person can speak something, should a person speak something?
Something to think about.