Bullies and Victims: When Will Smith Slapped Chris Rock

I’m trying to understand why so many of us were triggered by the slapping incident at the Oscars.  Some understood and even sympathized with Will Smith. Some were enraged that Chris Rock suffered from a slap in the face for simply doing his job. Others were offended, thinking Will took away his wife’s power to defend herself.   

Why so much angst over this particular incident? It was at a ceremony where members of the movie industry once again dressed up and congratulated themselves. Take away the silly pomp, and this moment boils down to a smart-aleck insulting a woman and getting slapped for it by her husband. It’s not really a big news item.  It might only have gotten a line in the public records somewhere, but it got more attention because it was on TV and occurred between artificially famous people.   

I can’t deny that it touched off some old trauma in me, which explains why my heart pounded, my fists clenched, and my eyes welled up every time I thought about it.  On the one hand, I think it’s wrong to hit people.  On the other hand, it’s wrong to insult people and then play the victim when someone retaliates.

I read an article by Melissa Hankins, MD, that referenced Will’s autobiography, where he describes how at the age of nine, he saw his mom get beaten by his father and then speaks of his lifelong regret that he didn’t have the courage to defend her.  Hankins suggests that this childhood trauma is behind Will’s actions at the Oscars. It doesn’t excuse Will’s actions, but perhaps it helps explain them.[i]

I think Chris Rock was violent, too.  I know he is a professional comedian expected to ridicule people, and for some reason, society says that’s okay. But he used his position to say something hurtful, which is also a form of violence.

I maintain that words can be used as a form of violence. Children can suffer lifelong damage from their parents’ words. Spouses can traumatize each other with them.  Some preachers hurt their congregations with rage-filled words couched behind religiosity.  And crowds are stirred to physical violence with words.   

I grew up watching people I love being harmed by the spoken word. I have spent my entire adult life feeling guilt over childhood memories where I thought I should have stood up for someone even though I was just a child myself.  I’m sure I became a professional caregiver to protect and help people heal from their long-term wounds. 

People can say Will Smith is a bully, but I understand that he thought he was standing up to a bully. Others can speculate that his wife manipulated him, but to whom else would she show her tears? And some of us can say Chris Rock is a bully, too, but maybe he is also a victim of childhood abuse. In fact, I’d bet money that he was.

The older I get, the more I see only the wounds of others, which don’t excuse wrong actions, but perhaps they are a key to real healing for people.

[i] https://www.kevinmd.com/2022/03/will-smiths-slap-is-a-trauma-response.html?fbclid=IwAR1YaO8OKeDLob0z2auyir6pUQ3didYfrWW0BWYnp47uh9JCw3sr__6YoDw

10 thoughts on “Bullies and Victims: When Will Smith Slapped Chris Rock

  1. Violence is the last argument of a loser.

    Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.

    I was together with a sociopath for three years, so i can recognize and sympathize with Will Smith, but it’s still his choice to use violence to “protect” his woman.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, whatever our background, we ultimately make our own choices.

      I once heard this saying: “Sticks and stone may break our bones, but words can break out hearts.”


    2. With utmost respect to all whom have posted differing opinions. I see this in different ways. A big part of me, the old school part says we defend those we care about, especially in regards to the disease she’s facing.
      Another side says you get what you pay for, you signed up to be a role model and a public person, deal appropriately.
      I guess when uts said and done I’d have done the same thing just not in a public setting.. however I do have the utmost respect for everyone who’s opinion differs from mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt bad for everybody in this scenario, and I wrote an essay about it, but I like yours just as well. Maybe more. It’s from a masculine perspective that’s reasonable and compassionate rather than reactionary. As a woman I hated it that yet another teachable moment passed–one whereby a woman might not be rescued like a damsel in distress, but empathized with and allowed to have a viewpoint. Also, I thought it was sad that the slap forever ruined the moment for all the other winners. The big stars may be artificially famous, but all the ‘little people’ who work tirelessly on a movie to make something they can be proud of deserve to be recognized, and that was stolen from them, But it got us talking–always a plus. Thanks. I’m glad to have found you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahh, I wish I could tell you I was published. Alas, not, I have four novels, a novella, a bunch of short stories and no desire to promote myself. I do have a blog, but I got too caught up in the political climate of anger and intolerance and got angry myself and railed against it too much. I cringe when I go back and read all my political diatribes. Who was I trying to convince? You’ve reminded me I can talk about other things and that I do have a sense of humor. Sometimes. My blog is Pat Ponders Life. I’ll let you know when I get something in print. In fact I’ll send you a copy.

    Liked by 1 person

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