Here in France, the reactions to the slap are quite different from those in the States.
Discussing the incident over lunch with my colleagues, they all said – men and women alike – that Will Smith was right to do what he did.
“Words are violent,” someone said, “the words of Chris Rock were hurtful not only towards Jada Pinkett Smith, but all those who suffer from that illness.”
“Who knows what could’ve transpired afterwards had Smith not reacted – he might’ve been ridiculed for not reacting, for not defending his wife.”
“But the feebleness and stupidity of the joke didn’t merit such a response,” I retorted. “If Will Smith had something to say to Chris Rock, he should’ve said it afterwards in private. Not in public.”
“But the joke was told in public, and therefore deserved a public response.”
The topic then turned to violence in general. My colleagues said that in any case the whole brouhaha was a giant hypocrisy: the USA is the biggest purveyor of violence in the world, they said: Vietnam, Iraq, etc., not to mention their gun culture and school shootings.
“And they get upset over a simple slap?” said Thanh. Thanh was a child in Vietnam during the 1970s and a refugee to France. “They should get off their high horses and stop with the lectures on moral superiority. What other country in the world sells AK-47 assault rifles over the internet?”
“Also,” someone else said, “crowds of adoring people were clapping, cheering and congratulating Smith afterwards when he won his award. How hypocritical is that?”
Taking the topic further, what better venue to slug a wife-dissing man than at the altar of the very place where sluggers, scrappers, bruisers, gunslingers and ruffians are made and glorified? The American film industry churns out a regular diet of alpha male, testosterone-filled movies while glamorizing crime, guns and violence; it’s entrenched in American culture.
Many of the actors sitting in that very audience, Will Smith included, have earned millions from playing shoot ‘em up, gun-slinging characters in Hollywood movies.
Hollywood manufactures violence and violent behavior. It’s called the entertainment industry.
“I found Will Smith’s act to be very symbolic,” said a Lebanese colleague who escaped civil war in that country decades ago to seek refuge in France.
Art imitating Life or Life imitating Art? In a blurring-the-lines moment between fiction and reality, Will Smith believed himself to be a superhero.
All this to say that the view from across the Atlantic is quite different from the general viewpoint in the States.