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Painful Truth: Sometimes a slap isn’t actually that important

Not everything is a window into our society’s ills
FILE - Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The incident on Sunday has sparked debate about the appropriate ways for Black men to publicly defend Black women against humiliation and abuse. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Here’s the thing about the Oscars slap – I don’t have a strong opinion about it at all.

That’s a rare thing these days. I think more people should try not having opinions, it’s pretty relaxing.

I haven’t watched the Academy Awards in years, for all the usual reasons: it’s too long, I haven’t seen most of the movies up for awards, the speeches are kind of boring, and the alleged “entertainment” between the opening of the envelopes is of pretty dubious quality.

But this year we got an actual surprise event, when comedian Chris Rock cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness – she has alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair loss – and her husband, Will Smith, took offense to this, mounted the stage, and delivered a single slap to Rock’s face. And that was about it. Smith, who won best actor that same evening, apologized later in the show, and has since apologized again. Rock was not injured, except maybe his dignity.

About 20 years ago, this would have been perfect water cooler discussion fodder and made for a couple of weeks of tabloid headlines and gossip column fodder.

Now, everyone can comment, all the time, about everything.

Which means that millions of people had to rush to Twitter and Facebook and other social media channels to comment.

And after the initial “Holy cow, did you see that slap!” wave of reactions had passed… well, this is where things go off the rails.

To gain traction for your post or tweet or video, you have to have some kind of angle on the slap. Was it good and justified? Was it wrong and harmful to the social fabric? If so, why? Who got to comment on it? Did it say something about violence against women? About the way we view violence in the media? About toxic masculinity? About racism? About policing in America?

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And then there were the hypotheticals. What if one of the stars involved had been white? What if they hadn’t been famous, surely Smith would be going to jail then, right? What if (and I am not making this up, someone suggested this) it had been Betty White slapped for making that joke?

(I mean, that would have been very different, mostly because it would have meant Zombie Betty White had returned from beyond the grave to yuk it up at the Academy Awards. I totally would have watched that show!)

The constant churn of social media, the desire for attention, and the parasitical way people will make any event about their personal cause or grievance means that water cooler talk has turned into a churning, toxic swamp of people desperately trying to one-up each other with their “hot takes.”

But not everything is actually important. Not even if celebrities are involved, not even if it was on live TV, not even if everyone is talking about it.

Trust me, as a semi-professional opinion-haver, some things aren’t worth having a strong opinion about. Maybe it says something deeper about the society we live in, but sometimes, as Freud might have said, a slap is just a slap.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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