Apr 4 • 30M

When Reality Slaps You in the Face

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The podcast version of Sasha Stone's Substack essays.
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Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on live television was probably the most truthful ten minutes anyone in Hollywood or watching at home had seen in five years. It was ugly. It was violent. It was disturbing. It was unforgettable. And it was the truth. A real thing happened that couldn’t be scripted.

There is a reason this uncensored clip of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock has over 90 million views when the Oscar telecast only had 16 million. It’s because it was the truth at a time when the “Left” did almost everything they could to obscure it.

The Academy was trying so hard to boost its ratings and satisfy the Wokerati who watched every move they made, every joke told, and every fashion choice. Ever since 2020, people in positions of power have been terrified of losing that power, and the best way to do that is to make Twitter mad with some kind of transgression or to violate an accepted social norm.

The Oscar ceremony was produced by a Black man, Will Packer. Two of the hosts were Black women, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. The Best Picture contenders were intersectional and inclusive - two films directed by women (The Power of the Dog and CODA), one film directed by a Black man (King Richard), and one from Japan by an Asian director (Drive My Car). The first film with a predominantly deaf cast took the lead and ultimately won Best Picture. Who could ask for anything more?

No writer in 2022 could conceive of anything this dramatic, and if they could, they would not be allowed to write it because it would be too offensive. Only white characters are allowed to be written as bad. Black characters, or any marginalized groups, must always be portrayed as perfect. Yet, there was an event millions witnessed with their own eyes. There was no way to gaslight us over it, no way to memory-hole it. It was, simply, the truth.

It seemed clear that Will Smith believed he was in the right when he marched on stage and hit Chris Rock. He believed he was still in the right when he sat down and shouted, “keep my wife’s name out of your f*cking mouth.” He thought the crowd would applaud him. They didn’t. They fell silent. I did what everyone else was doing - I looked around at the people next to me and said, “was that real?” A woman sitting behind me said, “I have children watching at home.”

No one really knew what to do after that. You could feel the tension in the room that was filled with well-meaning, mostly white liberals who were in shock at what just happened.

But thanks to Chris Rock pulling it together and announcing the next award, the show could go on.

His face said it all. He quickly regrouped, having had a lifetime of dealing with bullies and having to hide his pain lest he is bullied even more, and gave out the prize for Documentary Feature to Questlove’s The Summer of Soul, or When the Revolution Could not be Televised.”

Like everyone else there, I was in shock, but I didn’t know it. I was just waiting for the endless ceremony to finally end. Everything that came after “the slap” was a blur.

You might not know it if you are part of the industry, but if you macro out, you will see their social justice voting choices everywhere. People in the future will look back on these awards and see nothing but “woked out” Oscar winners. Jessica Chastain won for playing Tammy Faye, who was sympathetic to AIDS patients (LGBTQIA), Jane Campion won for Best Director (a woman and an LGBTQIA-themed film), and Best Picture to the first film with a predominantly deaf cast. Best Supporting Actress was the first Afro-Latina, openly queer Ariana DeBose. Supporting Actor was Troy Kotsur (the first deaf male actor to win). CODA’s director won Adapted Screenplay, with the only white male to win a major award, Kenneth Branagh winning Original Screenplay for the film that should have won Best Picture, Belfast.

And last but not least, the Best Actor winner was Will Smith, only the fifth Black actor to win in the category. As they did their “good puritan” parade of deserved winners and waited for their pats on the back to show that real change had occurred, reality crashed through their glass bubble - leaving a mess that would need cleaning up. Hollywood and the Oscars have built a house of cards that denies reality at every turn to sell a preferred version of it.

By the time the Oscars were over, we all just hurried out of the theater as fast as we could. I am never invited to the Governors Awards afterwards so I just found the garage. The valet asked me, “how was the show?” “Well,” I said and he bowed his head, “yeah I heard about Will Smith.” He did not look sympathetic, though. He looked annoyed. Many people would take Smith’s side after that night. He was probably one of them.

I drank some bourbon when I got home and went to sleep. It wouldn’t be until the next day that my friend called me that I realized just how shaken up I was by the event. You don’t see that kind of thing at the Oscars. When my friend asked me about it I could not help but burst into tears. And as I did this I could hear Twitter scolding me for being a white woman centering myself. Shock is shock, though. You can’t police it out of your nervous system.

It doesn’t really matter how hard people try to make things true that isn’t true. Sooner or later, truth bubbles to the surface. The idea that “words are harm” and that no joke can offend a marginalized group is one of the many bizarre Orwellian delusions we are all forced to accept now.

So many people tried to make this about “white privilege” and “anti-black.” The Guardian’s Tayo Bero says that the Academy has seen worse and her example of this is John Wayne being restrained from approaching the stage while Sasheen Littefeather accepted Marlon Brando’s award:

It’s also not just about what Smith did; it’s where he did it and who was watching. Anyone who has been following these shows can see that Smith is being held up to much stricter standards than white men who have behaved just as badly or even worse in those settings. In 1973, John Wayne had to be restrained by six security guards when he tried to rush the stage and attack the Native American actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather. Littlefeather was on stage to accept the best actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando, who was boycotting the awards in protest at Hollywood’s depictions of Native Americans.

She has no way of knowing what John Wayne planned to do had he gotten to the stage. She assumed she knew for sure he would attack her, but no one knew what he planned to do. That they restrained John Wayne, a prominent WHITE actor, doesn’t occur to Bero. Imagine if security had tried to restrain Will Smith. She has an audience and a platform, and she must give them what they want, which is a way to make white people feel bad for being justifiably horrified at this act of violence.

The new cult-like movement that has infected the ruling class in this country is about denying what is real, what you know, what you can see with your own eyes and replacing it with dogma. As a white person, you aren’t really allowed to criticize or dissent. They believe that your “whiteness” is the source of all of society’s problems, that you are born with it, and that you can do nothing else but shut up in the face of something so unequivocal as what Will Smith did to Chris Rock:

Watching my white liberal friends shrink back and say nothing because they do not believe it is their “place” is disgusting to me. It is an illustration of why people don’t stand up to bullies. It took Jim Carrey to say what needed to be said.

After that, more people found the courage to speak out and thus helped the Academy get closer to some kind of action against Smith. But Smith resigned before they could do anything.

I am not someone to stand in the moral judgment of others. I see an entire movement now to forgive Will Smith, and honestly, I am supportive of that, as long as it applies across the board. This is not a community that is supportive of forgiveness. It is a community that accuses, condemns, and destroys. When it stops being that way, I will be happy to be more forgiving of Will Smith’s remorse and apology.

The truth is that having the freedom to say what you feel, or tell a joke, even if it’s an offensive one, probably makes us less violent as a species.

As Ben Shapiro puts it:

The social compact by which verbiage and violence remain strictly separated is a delicate one. For most of human history, words were treated as punishable by physical response — dueling was commonplace in societies for centuries, familial retaliation for insult was regular, and wars were even fought over verbal slights. But over time, civilized people traded away the privilege of personal use of force in favor of rules; truly offensive words could sometimes meet with social disapproval or even ostracization, but certainly not violence.

Now we seem to be reversing the trend. The entire theory of “microaggressions” suggests that if you are offended, it is because someone has “aggressed” against you — and aggression requires response. To deny someone’s preferred pronouns is now an act of “erasure” amounting to violence, since the person so slighted might feel damaged in their sense of worth or authenticity. Once we reconnect the severed link between words and violence, civilization will begin to break down.

Will Smith went into the Dolby on March 27th, thinking it was the night of his life. His family was with him, including his wife Jada, whose battle with alopecia had motivated her, as with all things Will and Jada, to live it out loud and proud by shaving her head. She would not wear a wig. She would not hide what she was struggling with because that isn’t how Will and Jada live. Whatever it is that causes them the pain, they wish it away with empowerment. Jada brags about her grandmother introducing her to “self-pleasuring” at 9 and why that was so great. Will brags about how okay he is with Jada’s many lovers.

In that sort of mindset, how does anyone have a clear sense of right and wrong if nothing is ever wrong because everything is always right? Their self-help claptrap sounded good for a long time. In one night, though, it all came tumbling down like a house of cards. All of it.

Will and Jada live, love, laugh out loud. They distort every painful thing into an easily forgiven non-mistake. It is much easier to wade into dangerous waters without realizing it when you have no moral line.

Every boundary was crossed openly and on television or video. They seemed compelled to just leave nothing private because THEY had all of the answers, THEY were the enlightened ones, THEY have it all figured out. So when a joke is made about Jada - the all-knowing, all-seeing wise love goddess - that is like disrespecting Lord Jesus himself. And that is why Will Smith probably believed the crowd would be with him. His wife seemed to be, and she is all-knowing and all-seeing.

Back on Planet Earth, though, Chris Rock had no way of knowing whether she had alopecia or not - assuming he follows every utterance at the “Red Table” is wishful thinking. I had no idea she struggled with the condition until after I had made a joke on Twitter about her bald head. I thought it was a fashion choice because she looks great bald, and not everyone does.

His joke about Jada looking like Demi Moore in GI Jane was funny to those old enough to remember that movie. Back then, Moore was a lot like the Smiths are today -she believed in challenging perceptions, living out loud, and bragging constantly about her own empowerment, especially as she shaved her own head and beefed up her body to win the praise of her peers.

In truth, she was mocked for it because she appeared a narcissist of the highest order, like so many icons of the 80s and 90s. This was way before our culture was re-ordered into oppressed and oppressors, where your status depends on where you land in that paradigm. Back in the 90s, in the last gasp of individualism, personal success and icon status were everything.

Now you see some of the relics of that era trying to cling to their status, like poor Madonna. Tom Cruise, ever the nice guy, has to still be the King of Scientology while also clinging to his status as an action hero.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were born out of that era but as Black celebrities, they did not expire the way the white ones did. They held onto their status.

Empowerment is out, marginalization is in, and in a country with mostly white, mostly “straight” people, how do they become marginalized? How can they be victims if they just spent decades becoming empowered and living their best lives? That is why there are many new categories of gender, sexuality, and everything else - even size acceptance. Anyone can be in an oppressed or marginalized group if they fit into these or one of the many other categories.

That is how you get to words being harm, where an offensive joke about a perceived or self-proclaimed marginalized group is WORSE than a slap across the face on live television.

Laughing relieves tension. Laughter brings us together. Laughter is a way to connect even if we don’t speak the same language. We understand what laughing means. That is why it is so important to preserve the freedom to be FUNNY, even if it means you might offend some people.

It occurred to me after March 27th that much of an entire generation might not understand what comedy is for. They might not understand what jokes are supposed to do. If you dissect them bit by bit you can find so much wrong with them. But the whole point of a joke is not to do that. It’s to startle you into laughter so you can release some of the built-up pressure inside.

It’s true that not everyone finds the same things funny, but it should not be the job of comedians, or comedy shows, to make sure their humor is for everyone. Late-night comedy, so-called, with Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver isn’t funny. Not in the slightest bit. It is a magic mirror for the Left, which only finds making fun of Trump supporters and Republicans funny. But that isn’t funny. Funny would be making fun of the self-important, self-serious, sanctimonious, uptight Left. They hardly ever do it because they are too afraid.

That we don’t have humor in our lives that is allowed to be free is very likely why it seems like we slip further into collective madness every day. This is why Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globe video has more views than any Oscar ceremony at any time in their history:

Ricky Gervais is the only comedian who should ever host the Oscars. They need someone unafraid of them and the morality police of Twitter. It is the only way to get back any sort of sanity and freedom.

If you are wondering why Trump won in 2016 and why he continues to resonate, draw crowds, and is currently being polled to beat Biden- this is why. By 2016, the Left had already turned America into a country where speech, language and every other thing was heavily monitored. That is why Trump was such a force to be reckoned with. He not only challenged the rules, he spit in the face of them. There is power in that, but there is even more power right now than there ever has been because we have become disconnected from the truth on the Left. It has simply been nonstop gaslighting by the media to force people to believe what they want to be true.

The Democrats are trapped under the thumb of Twitter. Many of them are simply resigning rather than face an election season where they’re about get steamrolled. The majority in this country can’t stand what’s happening to it at the hands of the Left. Even if, when you bring this up, they will start melting down over “Democracy Itself” and January 6th. As usual, they are digging in the wrong place and can’t see what’s about to happen to them.

It begins and ends with how a culture polices humor. Imagine any cult. Think about what kinds of jokes would be allowed. Now think about Putin or Xi, or Stalin or Hitler, and imagine what kinds of jokes would be allowed under their reign. Now you see why it has become so dangerous for our country to find ourselves here, a country that went through a bloody revolution for the right to tell offensive jokes.

Words are harm; words are violence; silence is violence. Criticizing the government, questioning the vaccine or masks, and refusing to use the right pronouns are all the ways the left is sabotaging itself by thinking this country is ready to become Tumblr circa 2013.

No society can survive if jokes are so bad that they inspire one man to walk up to another man and slap him across the face. We have to get back to a place where we can survive an offensive or insulting joke. We have to allow parents to talk openly about what worries them in their children’s classrooms. We have to be able to debate things without fear of being destroyed or fired.

We have to fight back against big tech oligigarchs policing the citizenry, no matter what it takes. We have to find a way back to truth - and the best way to do that is to let comedians, writers, artists and journalists out of their cages. And let freedom ring.

Otherwise, this country will fall into a kind of Orwellian nightmare that will destroy it. We might be living through the end of the era of great movies and the Oscars. We might be seeing the end of great books. All of them will bear the mark of their time - showing a creative class that was so afraid of criticism that they stopped telling good stories, and people stopped watching them.

When the Hays Code was implemented in the 1930s, it cleaned up Hollywood movies for two decades. The films made back then were covered with a veneer of phoniness. Anyone watching them today will think, why are they all acting and talking like that? Why do they never show toilets or pregnant women? It was the last time we lived through an era like this one.

And just like those movies are easily recognizable for their time, so too will everything produced now and for the foreseeable future be easy to recognize as the “woke” era. It took twenty years for Hollywood to break away from the Hays code and tell more naturalistic stories. I imagine we’re about halfway there now.

Until then, comedians and writers will have to find subversive ways of getting their messages out, as Stanley Kubrick did in Lolita or Hitchcock did in Psycho.

I would like to think the slap at the Oscars was a “hinge moment.” But I think it’s more likely it’s just the beginning of what will be a very dark time in our history.

Like all of us on Oscar night, however, we don’t have much choice but to make it through another day. There is always hot coffee and a sunrise. We’re alive, and that’s all that matters in the end.