When we first heard the joke by Chris Rock that was directed at Jada Pinkett-Smith at the Oscars, we didn’t get it. It was not until Will Smith stepped up to smack Rock that we grabbed our laptop to do a Google search for “G.I. Jane” and “Jada Pinkett-Smith” to figure out what the incident was all about.
We’ve admired Chris Rock and Will Smith throughout their careers, both on and off the stage.
But the behavior exhibited by both of them at Sunday’s Oscars show was inexcusable.
Chris Rock’s joke (which wasn’t even funny) was obnoxious, in bad taste, and hurtful. Mocking a person with a disease (Ms. Pinkett-Smith suffers from alopecia) or a disability never is appropriate in any setting.
This sort of bullying behavior is a characteristic of many men. Recall for example, when our former president mimicked with his body language a New York Times reporter who has a physical disability.
Similarly, Will Smith’s subsequent assault and battery upon Rock exemplified another variation of a uniquely-male noxious attitude in which men justify the use of their fists (or guns) either to salve their bruised egos or to get what they want by brute force (e.g., Vladimir Putin).
We have read in various media that some have attempted to justify Smith’s criminal behavior on the grounds that he was defending his wife’s honor. However, women are more than capable of taking care of themselves. They don’t need a man to do so. That attitude prevails only in societies where women are treated like second-class citizens. In our view, both Chris Rock and Will Smith should be banned from the Oscars until further notice. Their toxic masculinity has no place anywhere in our society, but especially on a stage as big as the Oscars.