Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Should ‘The Slap’ spell the end of our celebrity addiction?

Watching this year’s Oscars felt, in a lot of ways, like wading into the ocean on a particularly windy or choppy day. 

In the first moments, you’re expecting nothing more than the typical watery experience that usually greets you. In the beginning, the Oscars were the same. Slowly but surely, though, as you wade further into the water, you’re continually hit by wave after wave, each seemingly more forceful than the last.

But something about the Oscars keeps drawing you in, much like the pull of the ocean, deeper and deeper, as the hits keep getting stronger. While everyone’s particular experience surely varied, for many, these moments included “The Flash” being honored during the ceremony or Megan Thee Stallion freestyling over “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” 

You look out past the waves and see you’re much farther away from the shore than you realized. You look to find your friends on the beach, but all the faraway objects are just unidentifiable shapes, obscured and blurry, much like one’s sense of reality while watching this year’s Oscars. 

America drowned Sunday night when Will Smith marched onto the stage at the Dolby Theater and slapped Chris Rock in the face. 

The slap heard ’round the world, as many have called it, may eventually prove to be the lifeboat we all needed, floating us back to shore, away from the celebrity culture riptide we’ve fallen into. 

Recent years have been marked by a significant lessening of trust in long-held institutions. At the extremes of this change, you can see populist political movements like those that resulted in the election of Donald Trump. On a much smaller scale, a similar phenomenon has taken place with celebrity culture. 

It seems, these days, that the Golden Age of Hollywood archetypes of celebrity idolization have all but faded away. The manicured images of old-Hollywood legends like James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Katherine Hepburn would be impossible to replicate in the 21st century. 

But even more recent stars who were viewed as role models, like Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts or George Clooney — their opinions and behavior are less likely to move the needle than they used to. 

But when a large collection of the industry’s best give a standing ovation to a man who just slapped someone on live television because of a joke, the detachment from reality is stark, even if the joke was overly-personal and clearly crossed a line. 

Smaran Ramidi / DFP Staff

Calling out Smith for his actions does not mean you have to agree with those who’ve blown the situation out of proportion, like Judd Apatow, who was universally criticized for saying that Smith “could have killed” Chris Rock. 

There needs to be a happy medium found between “this is the worst thing that has ever happened” and “Will Smith was totally right,” a medium likely reflected in public opinion but not reflected in the media. 

Jim Carrey, in an interview with CBS News following the events at the Oscars, said that Hollywood’s stars were no longer “the cool kids.” Carrey, who in the same interview suggested that Smith should have been arrested, may have overreacted a tad on this particular incident. 

The problems with Hollywood’s stars, and their separation from the average American, did not begin just this week. 

When we, as a society, decide to celebrate and revere a group of individuals based solely on the fact that they’re good on television or in movies, we inevitably run into situations where their god-like statuses are exposed as false.

Yet each time they do mess up we all collectively act as if the sky’s falling. 

This leaves us two options, either we stop freaking out every time someone from the world of Hollywood does something uncouth or we decide to move away from our collective deification of actors. 

Given the cottage industries within media whose sole purpose is to propagate said deification, the second option is probably not going to happen but it would be in all our best interests to do so.

We can still agree that Smith’s performance in “King Richard” was amazing and the product of a true master of his craft, but we don’t have to turn to him to be a model of perfection. We can honor you for what you’re good at but that doesn’t mean we have to pretend you’re good at everything. 

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One Comment

  1. Meh-I don’t agree with your conclusion of only leaving us with two options (paraphrasing: accept actors are people too with faults; or move away from idolising actors).

    I think there is way more than a summation of 2 things we could take away from this event and our culture’s relationship with Hollywood. But with that said – yes actors are real people.

    But if this was a “real” “normal” person event – like say going to a work sales meeting- and another coworker who is a bit of a relentless instigator jokingly insults your family (and also a few other people present) while presenting in front of the whole corporation – a “normal” reaction from those watching would be absolute horror if the person at the brunt of one of the painful jokes just stood up during the presentation, walked on stage and assaulted the insulting presenter.

    Like in the real world there would be consequences, immediate consequences- and possible termination of the assaulter. Period.

    That what is so shocking. It’s why we are still talking about it.

    Regardless of what was said- you can’t just beat people up because they are jerks. It didn’t happen at pub, which would still be illegal- and not while at a professional event in front of the whole company during the middle of a huge important meeting.

    Wrong no matter how you look at it.

    How ever bizarre or shocking that assault was – the weirdest thing is why nothing is being done because something would have actually happened in reality to a “real” person at a “real” event assaulting another person.

    On a different note: Personally I think that Ricky Gervais was way more hurtful in his comments over the years of seat squirming cringe worthy and plain mean jokes.

    But I agree with Gervais. These are very wealthy very privileged people who have access to many unimaginable perks constantly. They so separated from reality. They and their families have mind blowing opportunities because they are famous.

    Surely a joke about sensitive problem J. Smith has but had already openly discussed can be dealt with in a different way? She’s a strong capable woman – she can take a low slung inappropriate joke from an annoying comic and come out on top – maybe smearing him afterwards with her platform she uses to discus every other very private detail of her life? And I must say she is such a stunningly physically attractive person you hardly notice the hair. It’s not like he’s picking on a particularly vulnerable or “regular” person. I think he thought she could take it.

    So the reaction to the “joke” is just 100% unacceptable in any situation- whether it be people by people who are idolised or “real” peoples lives.

    I think that’s why we’re all talking about it. It was about real shocking and unhinged behavior. It’s not that it happened to be amongst famous people.