The first time I watched Will Smith’s infamous Oscars Slap, I, like pretty much everyone else who saw it, was in complete shock.
After that, however, came outrage, and it didn’t take long for me to discover that my feelings weren’t aligned with the masses.
Because when I saw Will walk up to Chris Rock and smack him across the face, my first thought was: Good, he deserved that.
All it takes is one quick Google search to determine that most people appear to be “Team Chris” in this situation. There is no shortage of headlines focusing on the Academy’s “outrage” over the incident or discussing why violence is never the answer. You’ll also come across plenty of stories about celebrity reactions, public figures condemning Will’s behavior, and updates on Chris’ now-soaring ticket sales. There’s a lot of talk about Will’s apology posted on Instagram and how Chris, so graciously, decided not to file a police report after the incident.
But, what you won’t find is an apology from Chris (and if you do, it’s probably the fake one that’s been circulating).
Personally, I find this to be just as shocking as the slap itself. Yes, Will definitely owed Chris an apology (assault is assault, after all). But Will’s actions do not cancel out the fact that Chris went on stage and cracked jokes about Jada Pinkett Smith’s health condition on national television.
There is the argument that Chris is a comedian, and poking fun at people is what they do. But, when has it ever been okay to make fun of something like this? If he had gone on stage and made jokes about Selma Blair’s MS, Selena Gomez’s lupus, or Demi Lovato’s bipolar disorder, no one would be laughing — and no one would be coming to his defense.
So, why does it seem like everyone is glossing over Chris’ part in this? He knew what he was doing.
Jada has been very open about her journey with alopecia. Back in 2018, she revealed she had the condition on an episode of her Facebook show Red Table Talk. At the time, she said,
“It was terrifying when [the hair loss] first started. I was in the shower one day and then just handfuls of hair just in my hands … It was one of those times in my life that I was literally shaking with fear.”
Then, back in June of 2021, Jada made the decision to stop trying to strategically hide her hair loss, and instead shaved her head. She discussed her choice on an episode of Red Table Talk a few months later, and said,
“It was just time. I was just ready for that kind of expression and release. I’m so glad I did it. It was such a beautiful experience and such a freedom. I feel more connected to myself and to the great diving in a very special way. I was just like, ‘I’m over it.’ It was that moment. I was just like, ‘I’m done. I’m just done with the worry. I’m done with the care. I’m just done.’”
Still, even though Jada has embraced her alopecia and even said that she and her alopecia are “going to be friends,” that doesn’t mean she’s happy to have the condition. And, no matter how accepting she is of her diagnosis, the only person who is allowed to make light of it is her — and on her own terms.
It’s Chris who needs to issue a formal apology. He is the one who should be saying sorry to the Academy, to his fans, to Jada, and to the 6.8 million Americans with alopecia who became the butt of his joke simply because, through no fault of their own, they have an autoimmune disease.