So, I’ve had a day to decompress. There was a LOT going on with this year’s Oscars, most of it pretty bad, and that’s before we even got to “The Slap.” The ceremony opened with Venus and Serena Williams talking to a camera at the back of stage, making me openly wonder if I was actually watching the ESPYs for a second. The first category was presented by two black people to the tune of Toto’s “Africa,” one of whom was BRITISH to boot, so the colonialism metaphor was on point in the worst way possible. Megan Thee Stallion added a superfluous rap verse to “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” that ended up being an advertisement for the Oscars themselves, which we were already watching in real time. The insulting relegation of 1/3 of the categories saved no time whatsoever, as all that was really cut out was the introduction and the walk up to the stage for the winners (as well as any acceptance speeches from people beyond the first one to the microphone). The ceremony actually finished a whopping 40 minutes late. Zack Snyder fanboys and incels trolled the Academy by flooding the virtual ballot box for Army of the Dead. Our much ballyhooed trio of hostesses was introduced by the interruption of a man who doesn’t eat pussy, and combined they barely got 10 minutes of screen time.
Yeah, there were a ton of problems.
And then of course, there was the infamous slap. I won’t go into too much detail, because it’s all anyone’s been able to talk about for the past 48 hours. I’ll simply leave it at this. Chris Rock has told way worse jokes not just in his career, but on the Oscars stage. There have been bits that have aged far worse than Rock’s one-liner could ever do. And maybe the joke was in poor taste. I don’t know if he was aware of Jada’s alopecia, and if he was, he could have easily redirected the joke to Tiffany Haddish, who would have not only laughed, but maybe even heckled with a solid burn for a comeback.
But what really matters here is that once again, this came down to judging a perception of the content rather than the intent. There’s no evidence to suggest that Rock meant to truly insult anyone, or make light of a medical condition. And even if he was, even if somehow the worst interpretation of the joke is the accurate one, who cares? Learn to take a fucking joke, people! The only reason I’m alive right now is because I had to learn in a very desperate hour of my childhood to differentiate between a gag and an outright attempt at harm. In the former, I’d join in the laugh, in the latter, I had to practice preempting the insult to diffuse its power.
That was me as a fragile, bullied kid contemplating suicide. Will and Jada Smith are celebrities, public figures, in a setting where they know they’re gonna get roasted because it’s part of the atmosphere and tradition of the ceremony. Will had no problem laughing at every other joke told that night, and even laughed at this one, until Jada gave him a death stare. Then he decided he had to be the avenging angel and commit assault and battery on national TV.
Get over yourselves. You’re famous. It’s the price of admission for that fame that you be put up to public scrutiny. Some will be good, some will be bad, some will just be funny. Jada was not the target of the joke. She was the subject. The target was G.I. Jane, a notoriously bad movie. People need to stop assuming harmful intent and malice aforethought where none exists. And to the people saying that Chris Rock got what he deserved, fuck you entirely. There’s a social contract between a comedian and his audience. It’s a performance, meant to entertain. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. It happens. Leave the room. Bitch on your social media after the fact. But to turn the moment violent is NEVER okay! In an age where the former President literally told people to commit violence and insurrection whenever someone did something they didn’t like – even promising to pay legal fees for those who got arrested – any display that normalizes violence in response to free speech is simply not acceptable. If you think Chris Rock was intentionally mocking Jada’s condition, you’re entitled to that opinion. You’re objectively wrong on the facts, but it’s your right to think that way. It is, however, not your right, nor was it Will’s, to take that opinion out on a man simply telling a joke.
Okay, rant over. Even when I try to keep shit succinct on this topic, I still end up going on for four paragraphs. This is “Wardrobe Malfunction” levels of messed up, and there will be a reckoning for it, I hope. But if that verdict is to further censor free speech because it might upset someone even when it’s clear that wasn’t the intent, count me the fuck out.
Anyway, there were myriad issues with the overall presentation of the Oscars, most of them due either directly or indirectly to Disney’s interference with the content in an attempt to boost ratings, particularly by drawing in a youth audience that is notoriously apathetic to this process. Last year the show had its lowest ratings ever, drawing in 9.8 million, which any other show on network TV would kill for. There was an uptick to just over 13 million this time, which I’m sure Disney will chalk up as a success for their ideas, even though it’s still below pre-pandemic levels, and the second-worst ratings of all time.
They will think their strategy of cutting categories and shoehorning in their own content worked, even though the real explanation is much simpler. Last year, people didn’t get to go to the movies, and therefore became detached from Hollywood. They were too busy trying to protect themselves from a raging virus and burying their loved ones who weren’t so lucky to watch a parade of largely downer movies. This past year, as restrictions have eased and the pandemic has subsided at least to an extent where our lives could resume some semblance of normalcy, people went back to the theatres, and while the quality of the films wasn’t as great as some other years, there was enough to keep a few more people engaged. I guarantee you that literally none of the changes Disney insisted upon had any material effect on the ratings. It’s just audiences slowly but surely weaning themselves off the pandemic response and back into a multiplex.
Still, I want to help, and with that desire in mind, I offer this latest video, with my Top 5 steps the Academy can take RIGHT NOW to ensure that next year’s Oscars are better than this year’s. Enjoy!
Thanks as always for taking this Blitz journey with me. There’s one last item to account for with regard to the 2021 cinematic canon, and I’ll address that tomorrow. After that? Holy shit, it’s almost April! You know what that means. In just a couple of days, it’ll be time to shred some trailers once more! Join me then.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What did you think of the ceremony overall? What were your favorite parts? How many memes have you made out of “The Slap?” Let me know!