Lost among the shocking spectacle that was Sunday’s Oscars ceremony was the fact that Samuel L. Jackson was honored with the Governors Award for his lifetime contribution to film a few days prior.
In one of his earliest roles, the typically brash Jackson portrayed Mister Señor Love Daddy, the FM DJ and voice of reason in Spike Lee’s 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.” As tensions rise, Love Daddy pleads to his listening audience, “YO! HOLD UP! Time out! TIME OUT! Y’all take a chill! Ya need to cool that shit out! And that’s the double truth, Ruth!”
Now a day after The Slap Heard ‘Round The World, I cannot think of a better time and place for people and organizations to heed Mister Love Daddy’s advice — despite being over 30 years old. The academy, Will, Jada, Chris Rock, ABC: Y’all need to take a chill pill.
The purpose of the Oscars is to celebrate film and filmmakers. ABC’s goal is to get as many people watching and talking about the broadcast as possible. And thanks, in part, to The Slap, ABC’s goal has been met. Millions more people watched Sunday than they did the year before. Likewise, tens of millions now have hot takes on The Slap and what should be done.
The truth is nothing should be done right now.
Some say Smith should be removed from the academy. There is precedent, sort of. Five members have been removed in the 94-year history of the organization. Four were booted for sexual offenses and one was expelled for selling screeners. I think it would be tough to argue that one slap is equal to those offenses.
Some are suggesting Smith should have his Oscar taken away from him. That would be a first. The notorious Harvey Weinstein, who is currently serving a 23-year stint on rape and sexual assault charges, did not have either of his two Oscars removed, nor the 81 that were awarded to films his studio helped make. Therefore it would be unlikely Smith would have his long-sought-after trophy snatched from his now-famous right hand.
Some propose that Rock press charges. Not only do snitches get stitches; Rock came out of this whole situation practically unscathed. He took The Slap. He didn’t even touch his face. He endured the threats from Smith to not say Jada’s name. And he went on with his segment. What good would come from Rock going through the motions that would lead to Smith doing some community service to pay a penance? What this year’s Best Actor is experiencing right now cannot be comfortable. It has to be the most bittersweet victory lap in all of Oscar history.
Speaking of Rock, he’s got plenty of critics too. Some say the joke about Jada’s hair — and lack thereof — was tasteless, insensitive and deserving of a violent response from her husband. One would think that Rock, the producer, narrator and creator of the 2009 documentary “Good Hair,” which explores the complicated relationship Black women have with their hair, would be the last person to make such a joke while staring at Mrs. Jada Pinkett Smith right in the eyes.
Perhaps. But maybe Rock felt like he had permission to rib her because just three months ago Jada said she can only laugh about the condition of her hair.
“Now at this point, I can only laugh,” she said in a video posted to Instagram last December. “Y’all know I’ve been struggling with alopecia, and just all of a sudden one day — look at this line right here. Look at that. It just showed up like that and this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide.”
So if she can laugh about it in December, can Rock not laugh about it in March? Apparently not. Thus The Slap.
The academy, an organization I previously worked for, full disclosure, felt it needed to make some declarations. First, they took to Twitter last night. Big mistake. Why? Because Twitter is ruthless and it was still reveling in the unexpected wildness it just saw.
“The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” they tweeted, adding, “Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
The howls from the peanut gallery were loud, forceful and, at times, quite funny. Many brought up how the academy had *just* celebrated one of the most violent movies ever, “The Godfather,” and how they have yet to do anything about some of its other members who are being accused of violence.
The academy is in an extremely difficult situation, but last night I don’t think there would have been a thing they could have tweeted that would not have been ripped to shreds by the mob. Monday, after phone calls and meetings, the academy sent out a statement (not via Twitter, wisely) that read:
“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”
According to Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter, there will be a Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday to decide what to do next.
I say they should listen to Mister Señor Love Daddy and chill.
A man told a controversial joke. Another man defended his wife with one — relatively weak — slap. It was ridiculously compelling television.
It was also far more complicated than even this humble essay could convey. Let it play out. The ball is in the court of Mr. Will Smith and his beautiful bride.
Watch them do the right thing.