If you witnessed a bad car accident, would your immediate impulse be to stand there on the sidewalk, pointing and shouting about which driver was at fault, and why? Or having done what you could do to help, would you quietly stand there in shock, hoping everyone would be all right—and, whatever their culpability, that both parties learned from the incident: He to pump the brakes in the snow, she to drive a little more defensively in wintertime.
And let the cops or the judge sort out who was to blame and whose insurance company ought to pony up.
Then why in the mother of fuck did you think it was important to share your “hot take” on the socio-emotional accident Sunday night at the Oscars? Or re-share Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s hot take, titled, “Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing.”
I know what you’re going to say: You felt compelled to weigh in, because the incident addressed important issues of our time. Kareem justified it best: “With a single petulant blow, [Smith] advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community. That’s a lot to unpack.”
As an English professor of mine once said of Henry James, “He chews more than he bites off.”
Will Smith lost his ever-loving, standard-issue narcissistic Hollywood mind for a few seconds—and then, in the ego maw of the Academy Awards program, failed to find any equilibrium (much the way a car accident survivor, whether at fault or not, might be emotionally unstable for a few minutes or hours after the incident). He then later apologized.
Shocking to see—but not the Kennedy assassination or the Kent State shootings or the Rodney King beating or the O.J. Simpson verdict or the murder of George Floyd. About as much of a cultural watershed, I’d say, as Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction,” or Rosanne Barr’s gross performance of the National Anthem in 1990, or Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer on the ground in 2003: Untoward incidents that inspired just the right amount of self-righteous high dudgeon to give the whole nation a brief dopamine whippet.
Why, having just survived a pandemic, with a war on in Europe, could you not emerge from a televised Sunday night snafu involving complete strangers (who you have generally passively admired for decades, by the way)—and get back to work on Monday without phonily fretting about how six seconds of one man’s (or two men’s) dumbfuck behavior would now beget a national rash of violence, a generational setback for feminism, or the Black community having to rewind to Bigger Thomas, and start over?
As a daily writer, I’m on thin ice, telling people to shut their pie holes. But being a daily writer does train one to try to keep the daily news in perspective, and, generally, to write about what one uniquely knows.
If what happened Sunday night was something you felt you had to speak out on, okay.
It’s springtime, after all: Why not leave Will Smith and Chris Rock out of this and get eagerly back to your own work, and tend to your own life—both locations where you are generally dancing around real and chronic problems having precisely nothing to do with the hypocrisy of “The Academy”?
I think I just answered my own question.