Smith’s comeback video titled “It’s been a minute…” began with a belabored sigh, one of the signature features of a typical YouTuber apology video.
The video has a polished and professional look – the household name once known for Fresh Prince of Bel Air undoubtedly hired a team of videographers, set designers, and public relations specialists for this very moment. A light is conveniently placed behind Smith’s head, resembling a glowing halo. Could his return feel any more contrived and inauthentic?
Here’s the jist: On the night of the Oscars in March, Chris Rock cracked some lighthearted jokes at the expense of Jada Pinkett-Smith, who was sitting beside her husband in the crowd. Chris Rock shook the wrong tree (Will Smith’s fragile ego and rocky marriage), and an apple (Will Smith’s open hand) smacked the comedian square in the face.
The incident sent shockwaves across social media, the Motion Picture Academy, and the entire celebrity class. Now, Smith says, he “didn’t realize…how many people got hurt in that moment.”
Despite all the backlash for stripping that evening of its “prestige,” Will Smith made the perfect mistake at the Oscars. In our era, words are violence, even silence is violence, but a physical assault on someone for saying a joke that offends you is deemed a permissible act of self defense.
We’ve seen that principle applied in the case of Dave Chappelle, who got charged on stage by a “triggered” audience member weilding a knife at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles back in May. There was scant sympathy for the comedian due to his reputation for telling jokes that verbally “punch down” at transgender people.
Will Smith’s public apology is low stakes. Because the meltdown didn’t offend Hollywood’s woke sensibilities, he only needed to break his silence in order to move forward. Yet, his somber and almost robotic tone would suggest that he is staring down the barrel of a gun behind the camera lens. That pressure is likely coming from Jada, who was implicated in the attack because Will seemed intent on defending her honor (“Keep my wife’s name out your motherf—ing mouth!”).
Smith clarified that he had reached out to Chris Rock privately, but the comic was “not ready to talk and when he is, he will reach out.” Smith continued in his explanation: “There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.”
Within the last few hours, the vast majority of the comments section received the apology well. “Much respect and I haven’t watched the whole thing yet. I’m still and will remain a fan. I know over my many years I’ve done things that I’m not too proud about,” wrote one.
Another sarcastically pushed back on the intentions behind the video, saying, “I’m so proud of him for making a much needed genuine apology into a corporate mandated and produced video. Lets goooo.” The PR reps who concocted this script are high-fiving and celebrating over drinks tonight.