Will Smith’s slap is a cultural wake-up call

It would be a truly astonishing feat of living under a rock if you haven’t heard about “the slap.” Frankly, I would say that it might be a good thing. I’m of the opinion that Will Smith taking the taste out of Chris Rock’s mouth is the most interesting thing to come out of the Academy in years, and I desperately hope more celebrities start punching each other. With every improvised scene that breaks the script of the famous and wealthy, the more we are reminded of the undue influence over our lives that they possess.

It surprises me how we still obsess over celebrities. One would think that the entertainment value in following godlike celebrities would come from drama, but such occurrences have seemingly disappeared in our time. Mainstream media turns inward, to its own script — that life is always good among the upper echelon of actors, musicians, and entertainers, who deserve to influence our lives in the way that they do. Perhaps the intrusive tendencies of social media have exposed the everyday parts of their lives, so the formal face of the wealthy has become an intensely curated and scrutinized one, to compensate. Every award ceremony, gala, and fashion show has become a carefully choreographed part of the great show — that all is well among the gods of American culture. Things were going to plan at the 2022 Academy Awards, until one of the most trusted of the gods acted out of turn — Will Smith slapped the piss out of Chris Rock on camera.

Does this break in the script reel in viewership by the truckload, and loads of cash by extension? Yes. Is this renewed viewership a good thing? Probably not. Hollywood’s influence dying back has been a positive development. So how could our renewed fixation on celebrities’ lives possibly be a positive development? It shows the cracks in the script, revealing what truly lies behind the godlike facade — regular people with too much power. The academy is very good at hiding this, and it affects the rest of America in compounding ways. It’s a question of what’s worse: a culture that idealizes an unattainable, perfect picture of fame and fortune? Or one that hones in near-constantly on the imperfections and petty violences that come with being a high-caliber celebrity?

I, for one, see both options as a cancer on society itself, not unlike the hyper-wealthy. In that case, who doesn’t want to see the script get torn up, and the uber-celebrities fighting like petty middle schoolers? Will Smith and Chris Rock are both excellent at their craft — entertaining us — but at the end of the day, they are two regular people, not gods. Their cultural influence should reflect that.

Show me the cracks in the perfect world of celebrity. It reminds us all how fake it all really is, and it makes me want that wealth and fame less and less.

 

vorndr1@stolaf.edu

Justin Vorndran is from Osceola, Wis.

His major is English.

 

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