Why Will Smith’s Slap is Not Just a Slap

Andy Ostroy
3 min readMar 31, 2022

By now you have to be living under a rock (pun intended) not to have seen or heard about the ‘slap heard ‘round the world’.

To quickly recap, Oscar presenter Chris Rock made a questionable joke about Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett. A reference to her baldness (which some took to be Rock mocking her alopecia condition, which causes hair-loss) and a sequel to the film “GI Jane” (which originally starred a bald Demi Moore).

At first, Smith laughed and appeared to be enjoying the joke along with everyone else…except Pinkett. And then he suddenly determined that both his wife and manhood were seriously threatened. So he briskly walked onstage in an ‘I’m crazier than Kanye’ manner and sucker-slapped a stunned Rock. It was perhaps the most awkward live tv moment in history. Certainly of any awards show.

If that wasn’t cray-cray enough, Smith returned to his elite front-row seat and began to scream, twice, “Keep my wife’s name out your fuckin’ mouth”. By that time, anyone who thought the onstage antics was just a stupid gag quickly realized it wasn’t. The awkwardness quickly turned to cringe-worthy shock and discomfort.

In the days that followed, many in America went from outrage to ‘Ok, enough already. It was just a slap. There’s way more important things going on in this world like Ukraine, Covid, terrorism in Israel etc’. And I get it. In a vacuum, a narcissistic Hollywood legend slapping a standup comic at the Oscars can seem insignificant and trite against the backdrop of genocidal war-crimes, a deadly pandemic and global chaos.

But here’s the rub: it’s not just a slap. It has much deeper significance, especially given our collective struggle in 2022 to be good, decent law-abiding people and not a bunch of petulant, mean-spirited, reality-and-democracy-raping corrupt cultists.

We are currently engaged in a battle for the soul of America. Which is why the slap wasn’t just a slap. Why it’s a much bigger problem, emblematic of the good vs evil war being waged in the era of Donald Trump and Trumpism. And how, albeit indirectly, it’s representative of the continuing overall threat to our democracy.

Since Trump burst onto the national political scene in 2015 we’ve experienced a complete, utter, frustrating…

Andy Ostroy

Director, producer, podcaster, writer, resistor, non-profit-supporter of women filmmakers