For months after last year’s Oscars, it seemed like everyone could talk was “the slap”-When Will Smith stormed the stage and slapped the host Chris Rock for a joke in bad taste about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. For the first 60 minutes of his new stand-up special, Selective outrage, Rock manages to avoid mentioning the couple, the incident, or the discussions that emerged afterward. Even so, viewers know what’s coming.
“You all know what happened to me, getting hit by Suge Smithsaid Rock towards the end of the special. “Everybody fucking knows.”
Rock seems to resent at least the narrative that emerged after the slap. At the time, some social media users and culture writers argued that Rock’s joke was a classic example of misogynoir, a specific type of contempt reserved for black women. On a national stage, the comedian, who has already produced a documentary on black women’s relationship with their hair, compared Pinkett Smith to the character of GI Jane because of her hair – in spite of herself well-documented fight against alopecia, a condition that affects hair growth. (Rock said he was unaware of Pinkett Smith’s alopecia at the time.)
His choice of words to sum up what happened at last year’s Oscars is telling: “Nobody’s picking on that bitch,” Rock says in the special. “She started this shit.”
Rock references the Oscars in 2016, when Pinkett Smith urged him to boycott the event after several black-led films, including Smith’s Vehicle Concussion, did not receive a nomination. (It was the same year as #OscarsSoWhite went viral.) “She said, me, a grown man, I should quit his job [as 2016 Oscars host] because her husband was not nominated for Concussion,Rock said in disbelief. “Then he gave me a concussion!”
Those who’ve been watching this beef for a while know that Rock also made sure to ridicule Pinkett Smith at the 2016 awards show. “Will Jada boycott the Oscars?” » he said then on stage. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!
Masculinity seems to be a dominant theme in the final section of Rock’s special. The comedian fondly relives the one-year-old slap on stage, while insisting that despite his palpable upset, “I’m not a victim, baby. …You will never see me on Oprah Or gayle tears. …I took that hit as [boxer Manny] Pacquiao. Before long, we get to his thesis, which also serves as the special’s title: “Will Smith Practices Selective Outrage,” Rock argues, “…because everyone knows what happened.” Everyone who Really knows, knows that I had nothing to do with this shit. I had no ‘tangles’.
As anyone who tuned in in the summer of 2020 probably knows, Rock is referring to the Smiths’ discussion of Pinkett Smith’s extramarital activities with musician August Alsina. The revelation, fueled by growing social media gossip, was eventually discussed by the couple in a candid conversation, extremely viral episode from Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch series, Red round table. While Pinkett Smith called his time with Alsina an “entanglement”, Rock chooses cruder terms, saying Pinkett Smith was “fuck his son’s friend”. It doesn’t matter that the couple openly explained that their relationship isn’t monogamous, or that Rock also openly brags about his preference for dating younger women during the same special. As he says, “I didn’t get rich and stay fit to talk to Anita Baker. I’m trying to fuck Doja Cat.
In a 2021 QG profile, Smith said that at some point during his marriage to Pinkett Smith, they chose to become non-monogamous. “We gave each other confidence and freedom, with the belief that everyone should find their own path,” Smith said. “And marriage for us cannot be a prison. And I’m not suggesting our route to anyone. … But the experiences that the freedoms we’ve given ourselves and the unconditional support, to me, are the highest definition of love.
Rock appears to dismiss the idea that Smith voluntarily entered into this arrangement, instead implying that Pinkett Smith humiliated her husband with his infidelity. His summary? “She hurt him way more than he hurt me.”
Rock’s special might do a good job of reminding Hollywood that he’s mad at Smith for disrupting his sense of propriety, but he’s also drawn some negative attention. April Reign, who created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in 2015, the year Concussion was among the black-led films excluded from the awards—noted on twitter that, while Rock doesn’t mention Pinkett Smith by name, “he called her ab*tch, and it sounds just as bad, if not worse. TOME.” Other critics chimed in to express their disapproval of the Rock’s act.
It’s curious that even after being slapped on live TV, Rock couldn’t pass up an opportunity to goad Pinkett Smith, who didn’t lift a finger that night. Smith made his intentions clear as he sat down after the slap that night, yelling at Rock to keep “my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” In Rock’s opinion, it seems that Pinkett Smith not only deserves the jokes at her expense, but also the blame for her husband’s actions. She cuckolded Smith, implicated Rock, and rather than assert her dominance, Smith relented and chose to bully him instead.
“Everyone in the world called him a bitch,” Rock said of Smith, near the end of the special. “I tried to call that motherfucker and give him my condolences. He didn’t pick up for me. Everyone called that man a bitch…and who’s he hitting? Me. bitch shit.
One could make this argument. Then again, the same could also be said about spreading extremely stale gossip in a stand-up special.