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When Will Celebrities Learn to Stop Talking?
A parade of A-listers is being taken down for hypocritical Will Smith comments. Reminder: you never have to say anything!!!
Let this be a warning to all who utter a cross word about The Slap: if you come for Will Smith, an underground cabal of internet sleuths will come for YOU!!!!
In four days since Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, the incident has taken on a body count of its own. Smith defenders (or normal people who have a thing for calling out hypocrisy) have dredged up the unsavory pasts of other celebrities who’ve reacted to the slap with a seeming air of moral superiority.
First there were the obvious KOs delivered to the likes of Judd Apatow and Alec Baldwin, whose pearl-clutching over Smith’s slap elicited a collective internet response of “you’ve got to be kidding me.”
Apatow was called out for excusing abuse on his own TV set, while Baldwin was called out for exhibiting violence at, uhh, basically every turn of his career. Basic Twitter layups! Anyone could have shamed such obviously misguided moral righteousness.
And then there was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who wrote a whole piece about the slap on his Substack, to which critics reminded him that his son literally stabbed a man several times. And Jim Carrey, who called the Oscar audience “spineless” for giving Smith a standing ovation when given the award for best actor, and that he was “sickened.” To that, Twitter vigilantes brought up his past as an anti-vaxx activist, the lawsuit an ex’s family lodged against him after she died by overdose (the suit was dismissed), and the time he kissed Alicia Silverstone at an awards show, clearly without her consent. (He also tried to kiss Smith at that same show, coincidentally.)
Alas, no amount of stardom, not even on the crest of a generally well-received superhero movie, could protect even the most pithy of jabs. Zoe Kravitz fell into the Smith stan crosshairs for her Instagram captions referencing the Oscars, “where we are apparently assaulting people on stage now.”
In response, her whole life’s backstory was dragged into focus, including her comments on being seen as a Black artist and fitting in with white peers growing up, comments calling Jaden Smith “handsome” when he was 14 years old, and even her dad’s history of allegedly dating a teenager when he was nearly 36. Even Hailey Bieber was dragged for just liking the posts. All over an Instagram caption!!!!! No one is safe!!!!!!!
It doesn’t help that the details regarding what happened in the aftermath of the slap are still murky. First, sources close to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said “Academy decision makers” just couldn’t “mobilize” to a decision on whether to remove Smith from the ceremony before his award for best actor was announced. Then a new report dropped on Wednesday, in which the Academy alleged Smith was asked to leave and “refused.” Then a new NEW report said that the Academy LIED about ever asking Smith, and that he in fact was told by a producer that they didn’t want him to leave. On Friday morning, Oscars producer Will Packer threw yet another spoke into the narrative wheels, implying that Chris Rock had been integral in the decision to have Smith stay—something that anonymous sources immediately began denying as well. What is the truth?????
It feels ridiculous that the slap has taken on a life of its own, decimating just about anyone who dare get in its path. Remember in the early-to-mid 2010s when it became popular interview practice to ask female celebrities if they were feminists, leading to immense backlash if they said they weren’t or framed feminism in a negative light? This feels a lot like this, where famous people are being asked to condemn a random and shocking isolated incident of physical violence (though I use that term very loosely), and as a result are tripping over their own sordid histories of violence, because Hollywood, and the entertainment industry as a whole, is actually very, very violent!
If anything, these slams against celebrities illustrate just how insignificant Smith slapping Rock was compared to all the other kinds of violence that celebrities and their industries allow to flourish, and how misguided it is to look toward celebrities to be our moral arbiters of what is right and just.
And I kind of get it. It’s not like you have to be a morally pure person to have the exclusive right to speak out against violence, and systems change in part when people in power stand up. But it’s also not like people are begging random celebrities to “SPEAK OUT” about the slap — media outlets are asking celebs for their thoughts, or celebs are volunteering their thoughts of their own volition, definitely overestimating just how much people care to hear what they have to say. Please, for the future of your careers, just take a page from the PR 101 playbook and don’t say anything at all!!!