I take as an example the recent kerfuffle during the Academy Awards. Now, I am previously on record (see Post 143 from mid-March 2019) as not being very enthusiastic about “awards” for Movies, TV shows, Recorded music, Plays, Musicals, and other sorts of “ART,” I suppose that no one would be surprised that I did NOT spend the evening on March 27 last watching the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) awards to the selected few of its members who were handed out the various “Oscars” which they felt were commercial enough that they MIGHT attract a TV audience.
Let’s face it, the Oscars are mostly intended to try to attract bigger audiences for movies. I would argue that the same sort of thing is just as true for the “awards” in the other “arts.” I would suggest that history proves that the movies, plays, books, visual art works, pieces of music, etc. which people WANT to experience (some of which is “critically” good work, some isn’t) will attract audiences, with or without the hype of “awards.” I confess that I find it quite amusing that the great actor, Paul Newman, who I quoted in relation to this idea back in post 143, ended up playing “Doc” Hudson (aka The Fabulous Hudson Hornet) in Pixar’s movie, Cars, a few years back. There’s a scene, about mid-movie, where Doc talks about how little his winning the Piston Cup trophy three times meant to him in the long run. Then, at the movie’s climax, it is demonstrated that our hero, Lighting McQueen, has considerably revised his thinking about the important things in life (and racing) when he gives up winning the race in order to assist the former champion (“The King,” vocal played by Richard Petty), who was, purposely, wrecked by a challenger. Lightning talks with The King as follows:
The King: What are you doin', kid?
Lightning McQueen: I think the King should finish his last race.
The King: You just gave up the Piston Cup, you know that?
Lightning McQueen: Ah. This grumpy old race car I know once told me somethin': it's just an empty cup.
I believe that, while it IS an honor to have your work selected by your peers as being worthy of recognition is extremely nice, it’s NOT what the work is all about. So, where am I going with this?
Obviously, I am NOT going to defend Smith’s actions. I deplore physical violence and have avoided it all my life. I don’t believe that I have ever, intentionally, tried to do physical harm to another person. I may have done so, but I can’t remember it. If I have, I am ashamed of having done so. But the word, “violence,” also refers to “doing damage to, or to adversely affect” something or someone. What offends me about this situation is that Smith is being presented as the only “bad guy” here. I find that a bit hard to take, given what I believe to be the facts of the situation.
Let’s see, Chris Rock, appearing as a “presenter,” comes out and immediately makes an unnecessary, tacky, tasteless comment about Smith’s wife’s appearance, while he knew he had everyone’s attention in a VERY public setting. Believe me, if I knew about Jada Pinkett Smith’s health condition (which I did), it MUST be widely known that she is dealing with a medical situation which affects her hair. I would suggest that that this so-called “comedian” probably deserves to be called out for the vulgar bully which he, apparently thinks it’s “cool” to be. I believe that the kindest thing I could say about his behavior is that it’s the equivalent of the spoiled Facebook bully brat putting up a post that someone else is “ugly, fat, stupid and nobody likes her.”
So, while I do NOT condone Will Smith’s response, I think I understand it. If someone behaved like that towards MY wife in that public a setting, I think I would be tempted to give him a good slap, too. I probably would not DO it, in spite of the fact that one of the central principles of Western civilization is that it’s a man’s responsibility to defend his wife and family. Still, it was inappropriate, at best, but that’s really not the point here.
The point is that a slap in the face is not the only sort of behavior which constitutes violence. What I would like to know is, “How does Chris Rock become the only victim here? How is it that HIS behavior is without question when it can be easily argued that he is, at least equally, guilty of, at best, inappropriate behavior?” Given the past several years of social history, how is it okay for someone to publicly bully someone else in such a manner and be rewarded and protected for it because HE thinks it’s “funny?” We, as a society, have been actively staging events and programs in churches and schools to prevent such behavior and otherwise condemning these sorts of statements for a number of years now, knowing the cost we have paid for it in suicides, drug abuse, mental disorders, etc. Yet, because CHRIS ROCK (or various political figures) says it was a joke, it’s okay to make fun of someone else in the most public fashion, and place, possible.
If THIS is what AMPAS considers to be appropriate humor for their awards show, it’s little wonder to me that their audience is smaller than it used to be and that, for all of the expanded outlets for motion pictures there isn’t much out there to watch that a lot of people really seem to care about. I suspect that I’m not alone in not having much interest in “awards” shows such as this, since this year’s audience was only somewhat bigger than last year’s, and that one was the smallest in history. If Chris Rock’s idea of humor is in the mainstream of the industry, it’s little wonder why I haven’t been to many “comedies” in the last several years. Humor does NOT have to be hurtful. Perhaps when AMPAS learns that, we will have more, and actually funny, comedies. So, if AMPAS is going to take action against Will Smith, it is their right. But they really ought to consider the tasteless provocation of Rock’s comments and condemn them as the reprehensible bullying which it is, too. After all, the sting of a slap in the face goes away, the emotional hurt of bullying is MUCH harder to heal.
I’d also suggest that AMPAS bears a bit of the responsibility for this. They hired (chose?) Rock to be a presenter, knowing that he had a history of making tacky, snide comments about Jada Smith (he had done so before at their awards show), and also knowing that Will Smith (therefore his wife as well) would be seated right up front as a nominee, so Rock would be likely to see them and, perhaps, make a comment. Yet they, apparently, did not warn Chris about the inappropriateness of such “humor” when they sent him out (unscripted, I assume, because if he was scripted to say what he did, somebody needs to talk to their writers) with a license to say whatever he wanted.
I would suggest that there is plenty of blame to go around here. We really need to practice what we say we want to preach as a society. Bullying is not acceptable behavior! I doubt that we will ever stop it completely, but we certainly don’t have to reward and defend it, whether from “comedians,” politicians, Internet and Social Media jerks or anybody else. It IS possible to be amusing without being vulgar, tasteless, and tacky. Too bad more people aren’t willing to work hard enough to be funny without crossing such lines.
By the way, does anyone else wonder what the reaction might have been if Chris Rock had made some comment about how the cast of CODA “talked?”
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” ―Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows