From a purely practical perspective what happened at last night’s Oscars was truly ironic. Chris Rock was wrong to say what he said about Jada Smith but as it is, Will Smith’s physical assault of Rock, and Rock’s professional response completely reframed the event and made Rock the victim and Smith the villain.
I’ve been a fan of both Rock and Smith for years, and what happened last night was bad for everyone involved. There is plenty of blame-casting going on in social media and in the news today. I am not here to pile on.
Instead, I want to add a different perspective-the Kingdom perspective. It is why this blog exists, to offer a perspective of how things should be when the world is functioning the way King Jesus intends–how it will be when the kingdom of God covers the earth as the waters cover the seas. All the trendy talk about “toxic masculinity” misses the point, as does facile condemnations of violence. Masculinity is not toxic any more than femininity is toxic, and violence is sometimes necessary, as it is right now in Ukraine to stop an evil Russian dictator from going Hitler on his Ukrainian neighbors.
Let’s start with Chris Rock. In the kingdom of God, comedians exist to entertain people by making them laugh. Some comedians are funnier than others, and there are different styles of comedy, but the purpose is the same for all: entertain people by making them laugh.
Comedy that hurts some people to make others laugh is a corrupt form of comedy. Because it hurts people instead of making them laugh, it fails at the purpose for which it exists. Some comedians understand this. Jerry Seinfeld is an example. The same can be said about comedy that relies on profanity and sexual vulgarity: the more it offends some in order to entertain others, the more corrupt it is and the less it fulfills the purpose for which it exists in the Kingdom. Its failure is not so much ethical as it is teleological.
I’m not going to guess about whether Chris Rock knew Jada Smith shaved her head in response to an autoimmune disorder or mistakenly thought it was a fashion statement. Even if it was the latter, making fun of another person’s appearance violates the purpose for which comedy exists: it should be a means of inciting laughter not offense.
Having said that, Rock did not physically attack Jada Smith or do anything that justified a physical response. Will Smith could have responded a number of ways that would have exposed Rock’s joke as corrupt comedy: he could have (1) leaned over and hugged and consoled his wife; (2) deadpanned a response; or (3) even said “that’s inappropriate.” Any one of these responses would have put Rock in a position of having to justify publicly humiliating Smith about her medical condition for a laugh.
As it turned out, Smith’s improper response made Rock the victim and Smith the villain, and instead of talking about corrupt comedy, we are talking about violence and “toxic masculinity.” GS