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Violence at the Oscars 2022

2022

‘…if you think that women want or need men to act violently to defend violent them against purile jokes, you’re living in the wrong Willennium…’

Yikes! With the box office on life support, and streaming sucking the life from cinema, the Oscars had one job this year; show audiences what’s good about films. Unfortunately, what they got was the opposite; a display of toxic masculinity from actor Will Smith that shows the worst of Hollywood’s excess.

I’d noted elsewhere my discomfort about watching Smith’s film King Richard, which seemed to have a tight grip of racial issues, but a complete lack of vision when it comes to women and so it proved when it got to the ‘victory’ speeches, with Smith somehow forgetting one of life’s basic tenets ’don’t act violently to other people, and certainly don’t act violently when you have the eyes of millions on you’.  Smith should hand back his award in disgrace; these things were designed to reward career excellence, and Smith doesn’t fit that description at all. His lame justification, defending his wife from a cheap joke by comic Chris Rock, is like something from the dark ages; if you think that women want or need men to act violently to defend them against purile jokes, you’re living in the wrong Willennium.

Elsewhere, in the world of Oscars, most of the category calls were solid; Jessica Chastain was a worthy winner for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, also a fine choice for hair and make–up, Kenneth Branagh’s dark horse Belfast deserved a screenplay win, and Dune vacuuming up all the technical awards was pleasing for a ground-breaking work of commercial art. Ariana De Bose was also good value for West Side Story, and what should have been the big story was the excellent Coda surging past the presumed front-runner The Power of the Dog, which won for Jane Campion; the Academy’s voting system seems to have been effective in creating consensus.

But it’s a muted end to an awards season that’s completely failing to serve audiences, creatives and product; as an advert for the best in cinema, the 2022 Oscars ended up rewarding the worst in the form of Smith, exposed as a bully by his own behaviour, rather than the role model we were promised. There’s no applause for all this; just silence, frustration and anger at the crudest Hollywood hypocrisy on show while the film-making Rome burns to a crisp.

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  1. During my troubled teen years of the 1980s, I observed that by ‘swinging first’, in general, a person potentially places himself (or herself) in an unanticipated psychological disadvantage—one favoring the combatant who chooses to patiently wait for his opponent to take the first swing, perhaps even without the fist necessarily connecting.

    Just having the combatant swing at him before he’d even given his challenger a physical justification for doing so seemed to instantly create a combined psychological and physical imperative within to react to that swung fist with justified anger. In fact, such testosterone-prone behavior may be reflected in the typically male (perhaps unconsciously strategic) invitation for one’s foe to ‘go ahead and lay one on me’, while tapping one’s own chin with his forefinger.

    Yet, from my experience, it’s a theoretical advantage not widely recognized by both the regular scrapper mindset nor general society. Instead of the commonly expected advantage of an opponent-stunning first blow, the hit only triggers an infuriated response earning the instigator two-or-more-fold returned-payment hard hits. It brings to mind an analogous scenario in which a chess player recklessly plays white by rashly forcefully moving his pawn first in foolish anticipation that doing so will indeed stupefy his adversary.

    I’ve theorized that it may be an evolutionary instinct ingrained upon the human male psyche—one preventing us from inadvertently killing off our own species by way of an essentially gratuitous instigation of deadly violence in bulk, which also results in a lack of semen providers to maintain our race. Therefore, in this sense, we can survive: If only a first strike typically results in physical violence, avoiding that first strike altogether significantly reduces the risk of this form of wanton self-annihilation. In other words, matters should remain peacefully peachy when every party shows the others their proper, due respect. It’s like a proactively perfect solution. ….

    It should also be noted, however, that on rare occasion (at least from my many years of observation) an anomalous initiator/aggressor will be sufficiently confident, daring and violently motivated, perhaps through internal and/or external anger, to outright breach the abovementioned convention by brazenly throwing the first punch(es).

    Perhaps with the logical anticipation, or hope even, that his conventional foe will physically respond in kind by swinging at or hitting him, the unprovoked initiator/aggressor will feel confident and angered enough to willfully physically continue, finishing what he had essentially inexcusably started. It was as though he had anticipated that through both his boldness in daring to throw the first punch and then furthermore finish the physical job he himself had the gall to unjustifiably start in the first place, he will resultantly intimidate his (though now perhaps already quite intimidated) non-initiator/non-aggressor foe into a crippling inferior sense of physical-defense debilitation, itself capable of resulting in a more serious beating received by that diminished non-initiator/non-aggressor party.

    Or, another possibility remains that the initiator/aggressor will be completely confident that when/if he strikes first and the non-initiator/non-aggressor responds with reactor’s fury, he, the initiator/aggressor will himself respond to that response with even greater fury thus physically/psychologically overwhelm the non-initiator/non-aggressor with a very unfortunate outcome for the latter party. Regardless, it has always both bewildered and sickened me how a person can throw a serious punch without any physical provocation.

    • You nail it with the last line; ‘Regardless, it has always both bewildered and sickened me how a person can throw a serious punch without any physical provocation.’. In a real fight, it’s hard to land a meaningful punch; the element of surprise is what allowed Smith to throw his, since violence to others in public is a taboo and for good reason.

      • I caught the really early TV news on Monday morning and was left disturbed by the assault (initially I thought it was a punch), and part of my emotional reaction was due to the unexpected occurrence being embarrassingly extremely public. For me, it was also telling of the increasingly angry times we’re living in.

  2. “… if you think that women want or need men to act violently to defend them against purile jokes, you’re living in the wrong Willennium.” That’s a pretty good line. My two cents: How many times have I seen video on the news of some knucklehead (man or woman) who climbed over the counter at the fast-food restaurant because the fries were cold, or the service was slow, or they were out of chicken tenders, or because they felt “disrespected” and addressed some hapless wage-slave with a slap (or worse)? The hapless Rock doing his job (serving up laughs) poorly; the angry customers (Smiths) who overreact. I don’t know if the altercation is a reflection of society at large or an accelerant to the further erosion of civility.

    • I think it’s both; violence is rewarded by a pre-planned standing ovation and a celebratory party and dance. It tells the world that you can and should be the agressor if you think you have enough clout to get away with striking an unthreating, unarmed man…

  3. Nope, no dissenters…most seem to agree here, have chosen the same side, though we’re discussing Hollyweird, not the UN. Hollywood seems to be, in 2022, a wounded animal, shapeshifting, a bit addled, disenchanted, strung out? Having once lived there, I recall CA was named after a 15thc Spanish novel describing a woman as “mirage like paradisiacal dream…” LAX (el-lay) was named after mirage like beings and invaded by Mormons that soon fled. Hollywood is still a barren, privately owned hillside. Glad I recently reread Day of the Locust, The Long Goodbye, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and Hollywood Babylon Vol I & II, and agree film magic replaced real magic. Flicks once served as solace, entertainment, and release. Awards once meant ‘you did good.’ I think most still do that. Can I get a ‘hurray for Hollyweird?’
    Are people judging Philly born, battered as a boy Smith for his action while considering his entire life and body of work? Are people acknowledging our reptilian and middle brain are often, still, in charge? Must we always pick sides? Are we heading into a humorless world? If so, I’m going to recall Don Rickles ghost, hold a roast and invite Dave Chapman, laugh at the grand circus that is us, rewatch Animal House…

    • I’ve taken a day or so to think this over; no, we don’t want robotic, well-behaved stars all the time. But people can and will judge Smith on his action here; his whole life led him to this moment and he ruined it, for himself, his family and everyone involved. The first rule in staging an event is that you keep the people involved safe; by letting this pass, it showed that the vaunted Academy have fewer qualms about what goes on in their name that a spit-and sawdust saloon might. And this comes as part of a tradition of hosts slagging off the nominees, a negative trait that we really don’t need right now. We’re meant to be celebrating good work, not making fun of talented and creative people. But this year’s Oscars are now a freak show, highlighting the worst instincts of humanity. I can’t see how any of this can be put right…

        • I’d be keen to read it. I published within hours of this tacky show ending. But several days later, I don’t feel much better about it. The Academy seem like an anything goes flophouse. Smith seems like a pathetic figure, undone by his inner demons. Old stars were more fun, they dined out on their bad behaviour, Flynn, Niven, Davis, Burton, Taylor, O’Toole, Reed. Now stars like Smith tediously virtue signal their goodness 24/7, except that one brief moment when we see them for the hypocrites that they are. Plenty of my heroes have kicked and punched in private; they lived full lives and made no apology for it. But no such thing happened here; Smith was probably correct to calculate that in the run up to his coronation, he could do no wrong, and still get his ovation and party. But those not seeking his good graces will have seen another side, a darkness repressed rather than understood. He’s an example to us all of how you can seem to have everything, and yet have so little that the world would pity your story as the starkest tragedy, and make you and your false virtue the punchline of a crude joke.

  4. Completely agree, Dix. Not a good look at all. Worse yet was Smith’s son tweet: “And That’s How We Do It”. I mean, Jesus. And while I agree Rock’s joke was cheap, you have to praise his composure…

  5. Yeah, I am NOT a fan of “believers” misquoting and misusing scripture, either, as justification.

    Yes! I read about Smith son! The old, “That’s how we roll” non-sense. Ugh. Just awful.

    You’re right and nuff said: We now know know everything we need to know about the Smith clan. In other words: “If I don’t win (well, Jada saying “If my husband doesn’t win!”), you’ll be sorry (to put it politely) because ‘that’s how we Smith’s do it.'”

  6. Yes. His acceptance speech about protecting his family . . . “being a river” couldn’t have been more sincere. More laughable and phony than heartfelt and touching.

    • By giving Smith the opportunity to couch his violent act as a desire to ‘protect’, and broadcasting his mealy-mouthed, self-regarding statement, the Academy are empowering and excusing violent people everywhere…unless they act now and fast. But they only want money, they don’t want to risk their careers, so the decline continues…

      • And Denzel’s advice: “When you are at the top, the Devil comes.” (Whatever the quote was.) So, does this mean Chris Rock is the Devil?

        I’ve dealt with many Baptists and Pentacostals over the years, and I can attest this “attitude” is very real among those faiths. It’s an excuse they use to justify their own bad behaviors. “I’m blessed and you’re the Devil,” so goes the edict. So, Dee telling Will that “truth” and Will repeating it . . . as to say his violent response is justified because he’s beating down the Devil? Because Will made an achievement, the Devil came to ruin it? It’s the old, “It wasn’t me, Satan got inside and made me do it” excuse that Jimmy Swaggart unholstered all those years ago.

        Ugh. Give me a break. Talk about living in déjà vu. . . .

        • Chris Rock is just a tired comic. I interpreted DW’s comment to mean that the ‘devil’ was inside Smith. But either way, he’s using scripture quotes to conceal rather than admit his own sin/guilt. For Smith’s son to say ‘that’s how we do it’ tells you what you need to know about how Smith earned his Oscar…

  7. Remember when the Oscars were regal, rife with class and style? If the taste of the Oscars was on the edge — which has been for a while now — Smith just pushed it over.

    As I said many times: awards (shows) are about honoring the craft of film. Now, what do we get? SNL skits (remember Neil Patrick Harris and the underwear?). Clearly unrehearsed — and uncomfortable — improv by Wanda Sikes and Amy Schumer. Gervais and Chris Rock turning it into a ’70s style Dean Martin roast. (Remember David Letterman with the whole Uma-Oprah disaster?) Sure it makes for great press (and Jada’s LOVING the adulation, this morning, no doubt) but it demeans the Oscar (or Golden Globes) and, going back to Melanie’s post over on her blog, makes goers hate the industry even more than before.

    Yeah, Jada got what she wanted: Will finally got his Oscar. But really, after her #Oscar So White ranting and her going off the rails when he didn’t win for Concussion, what did we expect with his nomination for King Richard (which received middling reviews)? Of course he would win. The Academy always errs to the side of the knee-jerk reaction. Watch, there will be opines: Will won, but did he deserve it? Did race play into it?

    As far as the slap goes: I feel it’s all on Jada. Will clearly rolled with it and laughed. Jada was visibly upset. Now, while we didn’t see it, I “saw” her lean over into his ear, “Are you gonna let him disrespect me like that?” and riled him up. And he GROSSLY overreacted. He could have waited for a commercial, took him aside during the break, expressed his anger, non-violently, and Rock would have apologized coming back from break.

    Harvey Weinstein was kicked out and stripped for allegations. He didn’t even make it to trial and the Academy knee-jerked. Here, there’s no allegation: Smith physically assaulted another person. Remember when the audio leaked of Christian Bale and Tom Cruise went off of the crew for their lack of discipline on their sets? Everyone went nuts and were ready to # them out of existence. What Will did is far more egregious.

    The Academy goes on and on and on with their # non-sense about equality, racism, violence, and dovetailing the plight of the Ukraine — all for the image. Now it is time to pay: Many are now saying Will Smith needs to be stripped of his Oscar. They can’t let him keep it, can they? If they do, the Academy’s integrity — what little of it that’s left — all credibility will be lost.

    • Great comments. I’m no great fan of Smith, but he stepped over a line that we all have to keep to. He wasn’t protecting his family, he was acting like an entitled, violent Alpha male. If the Academy display a tolerance for this kind violence, we’re all screwed. Apologies aren’t enough, and this genuinely raises the question of how Smith got his Oscar in the first place, given that an joke is reason enough to prompt caveman behaviour in such a supposedly classy setting. I couldn’t care less about a nobody like JPS, but she’s abused her husband’s celebrity to get what she wanted for herself; any Surprme Court parallels are there for the making. The Academy join the long list of instituations utterly corrupted, and this incident shames them and everyone in that room that was happy to see this played out…things have been getting worse for a long time, but they took the deepest of dives last night…like the Supreme Court, they either act now to assert their integrity. or get consigned to the dustbin of history….

    • Remember when the Oscars played dress up, tiaras, fake boobs and all? Women couldn’t wear pants suits? Remember when people who weren’t judges judged? When people couldn’t be seen sleeping in the same bed? When a dark skinned person wasn’t allowed to kiss a light skinned person on stage? Remember when people in the closet couldn’t say boo or win an Oscar and Marlon Brando stood up for indigenous people? ‘Ah yes, Gigi, I remember it well…’ where’s that streaker when you need him?

  8. Yesterday I spent 700+ words sticking my neck out for the Oscars. Trying to emphasize the good they can still bring. But today I feel like a weary parent telling a wayward child, “I’m not even angry, just disappointed.”

    • In general, the voting was well spread and the show was ok. But no-one cares now. Like Novak Djokovic, one action unravels the man, and brings into question everything he’s supposedly achieved. If this is how the Smith family like to ‘do it’, they should be run out of town on a rail…

  9. Just caught up with this whatever. Long time since I’ve watched Oscars but that was one hell of a slap. Of course, he will get away with it, all evidence of assault to the contrary. Shame, too, because I thought he deserved the Oscar, as did Chastain. Can’t comment on Coda – did it ever reach cinemas? – and Jane Campion because I walked out of her film bored out of my skull. But I did get another chance to hear Zimmer’s wonderful Dune score at the concert I attended last week at the O2 in London.

    • Coda was picked up by Apple at Sundance, so it was originally made for cinemas, Read that it’s only had less than a million hits so far, so being excusively on Apple TV doesn’t seem to be helped it get to audiences…it’s a really good film, and a way better winner than Power of the Dog.

      I’m not expecting Smith to be charged, but he’s normalising violence, and with no excuse; his wife can speak for herself.

      • Can he? Would Chris Rock need to file the charges. We always hear — at least in the States: “M’am/Sir, we can’t do anything unless charges are file.”

          • And here I was excited, waiting to see if Sean Penn would spike his Oscars on stage for not making the broadcast all about the Ukraine. “The Slap” is way better!!!!

            But I am still hopeful Sean will l live-feed his melting down of his Oscars. He said he would melt them down if President Zelenskyy wasn’t flown in and honored during the show.

            Now he has too, right? Come on, Sean. Sledge hammer those Oscars and live-steam it. We demand satisfaction!

            As you said: no credibility.

            • Well, they did give the Ukraine a nod. If they were as interested in films as they were in political posturing, we wouldn’t be in this mess…

    • She turned heads at a recent award shows (was it the Globes?). She latched on a racism-bent and went on a ramble, addressing the Williams sisters, directly. You could see their discomfort. Just why, Jane? Just accept the award and thank the studio, etc.

      I am sick of the privileged using the award podium for their causes. Then the go home to their mini-kingdoms of wealth and could care less.

      I got a kick out of Sam Elliot ripping Jane’s film. He didn’t hold back.

        • Yes. Using an awards podium as a soap box has to stop. The one quote I read from an organizer about the “shortening of the show,” her concern is that it will “stifle voices.”

          It’s an awards show. Not a political rally!

          • Absolutely. they only do this for PR purposes. Years ago, you used to read of movie stars saving lives, saving someone from drowning etc. It’s just all made up and probably driven by PR people.

  10. It wasn’t even an insulting joke really, GI Jane wasn’t a bad movie. Ricky Gervaise at the G.G’s never got splattered and he was much more cruel. Of course, he was funnier too. Nope, Will Smith has lost it.

    • GI Jane is a better movie than most of what Smith or Rock ever made.

      Rock, like Smith, just seems to think we’re the gaffawing studio audience, only there to appreciate their self-centred boys’ room bickering.

      Smith has cancelled himself, and those defenders in his circle, in one violent move. When people show you who they are….

        • Not a funny joke, but the very notion of making crude remarks about someone’s wife’s appearance on a public stage tells you all you need to know.

      • Look for the steaming spikes on G.I. Jane. “What movie is he talking about?” Honestly, I think that joke landed flat for the many.

        • Someone, somewhere must think a woman losing her hair to illness is a topic for jokes…

          • No, it’s not a pleasant illness at all. Men going bald is hard enough and they can adjust. A woman losing hair . . . Rock shouldn’t have went there. He’d be better off taking a rip at Jaden’s acting.

    • I found an overseas broadcast — fully uncensored — with Smith dropping the F-bombs. The overhead (from the balcony level, I guess) video (no audio) also leaked of Smith off to the side with Denzel and, I think, Samuel L. Jackson, talking him down.

  11. Yikes is right. I didn’t see it (been twenty years since I watched the Oscars). Just reading about it and watching the clips this morning.

    Will Smith has not been OK for a while now. Whole family seems weird. He needs a reality check. Wonder if he’ll get one.

    • Hollywood has plenty of weirdos, but the generally keep it under wraps. Smith (and Rock) seem to think that the kind of behaviour that would get most of us a police record is how they can behave in public and get away with it. This overshadows Smith’s (now dubious) win, and takes the shine of all the winners and nominees on the night. Our of the jaws of potential success, the Oscars have somehow ended up in their darkest moment of utter disgrace. Sigh.

      • Hollywood is going to get raked over the coals for this by all its haters. And they’ll have a point.

        Also really ugly is the way the attention economy is now driven by these meme-worthy moments. I can’t imagine how many times and in how many ways this is going to get repurposed in the years to come. Which means it was successful in some way, I guess. A real “this is what we’ve come to” moment.

        • A moment that will now be replayed in schools, nurserys, workplaces and behind closed doors in domestic abuse; who will remember or care about any of the other nominations? No point in having awards if this is the kind of behaviour you’re rewarding; it renders the whole gaudy show meaningless. There’s no defence for violence, and if people are feeling that they can give Hollywood the cold shoulder, this kind of macho entitlement will only make them feel justified in doing so. I wonder how the Williams sisters feel….

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