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Will Smith Oscars slap: analysis, strategies & power dynamics

I was aware of some commotion around the (dying) Oscars but, luckily, I managed to stay away from most media and TVs.

So only today when I had my first meal with YouTube rather than friends and family, I got some more details.

Some quick reflections:

Self-help obsession is a red flag: Will Smith has some problems

Self-development is GREAT.
This same website is all about self-development.

As for everything: there are exceptions.
And balance is important.

I've met several people deep in self-help and "motivation" who struck me as unhealthy.

Many cluster around equally unhealthy or predatory organizations and gurus, but you can also find them following every single guru, as well as gurus themselves.

I've met more than one person who followed -and admired- Will Smith for his continuous streaming of self-help and motivational messages.

Generally speaking, endless "motivation" is a red flag.
Never-ending talk of "pushing limits" and "achieving" is also a red flag.

They are sometimes the escape valves and/or cover-up -including self-cover ups- for some troubled souls.

When it comes to the gurus, if they make money with the self-help, then the cover-up of wanting to help others is often a cover for narcissism and oversized ambitions. These are red flags for others, not for the gurus themselves.
But when the guru is famous and wealthy outside of self-help, then when an issue is present, it's more often about other mental issues than narcissism.

Will Smith does have some issues, including some related to what seems to be a toxic relationship of unhealthy obsession, jealousy, and personal insecurities.

Mean, out-of-place slap

There is a time and place to attack and/or slap someone.

In a place and environment where roasting is expected and normal and with a joke that wasn't even that bad, it probably wasn't the time.

Smith seemed to be OK until he realized his wife was getting offended.

He delivered the slap with lots of strength, and the way he kept his gaze low before approaching also seemed like a Machiavellian ruse to hide his intentions.
That made it quite mean-spirited.
The way he yelled after it was also ugly.

Talking about "pushing someone's buttons", with his overreaction Smith showed to have a lot of buttons around his wife.

The action he took, that slap, that walk... It was dominant as fuck. But the deeper motivation that drove it was weak as fuck.
He acted like an insecure, dependant, manipulated white knight.
And the deeper motivation outweighs the action, which is a consequence.

Chris Rock: adopt a more defensive position

Power dynamics and social strategies aren't just about non-violent communication.

It spans the whole gamut from micro-aggressions to violence and world conflicts.

If a guy is walking up to you with no signal of friendliness and/or for no apparent reason: always prepare yourself.

A slap isn't that dangerous.

But there is more than one case where one slap can cause hearing damage.

Plus, the presenter didn't know what Will Smith was up to.
And since it was coming right during a roast, he certainly wasn't going to bring flowers.

Move one foot back to decrease your exposed areas, raise your hands in a way that serve two functions: to de-escalate, as if to say "hey, easy man, I'm not wanting to fight" and to prepare for a blow/for the fight.

The perfect power move: go higher as you frame him as a bully with issues

It seems to me that the presenter was caught totally off-guard -in every sense-.

BUT he kept his cool quite well.

I think that allowed him two solid options:

  1. Use humor to go down hard on Smith and wife: he could have roasted them for good, and I think he'd have deserved and it would have send a positive message that violence doesn't pay. If Smith attacked back, get ready to fight until security intervenes, or call security while Smith walks towards you. Then keep on roasting him while he's being dragged away in ignominy.
  2. Frame Will Smith as having issues: something like:

Delivering joke means to walk a tight line and sometimes people can get offended (just some bla bla higher-level philosopher frame to prepare the ground)
But sometimes getting offended has more to do with someone's issues and hot buttons than with the joke itself (sub-communication: Will Smith has hin skin and over-reacted like a bitch).
Obviously Smith didn't take it too well here and I'm sorry if it hurt him (covert power move: I hurt him, he got hurt the most).
I hope Will Smith can overcome his issues get well soon (covert power move again: I'm healthy and was joking, hes' not. He's got issues, he's sick)

That would have framed Will Smith as overreacting and having issues, which was the perfect frame for being true.
If he wanted to go down even harder, add:

But violence is never excusable and it's not cool to assault someone. We must all stand against violence today here to make our call for peace louder than any bully's slap.

Delivered that way, Chris Rock would have gone higher and everyone would have nodded along with him thinking that Will Smith is a bully with issues.

Attacking back is fair, but not optimal in this case

A third option was to attack Will Smith back.

Totally fair in my opinion but, in this case, he'd have lost out.

Option 2 instead would have delivered a clear and resounding win and obliterated Will Smith -including ruining his Oscar-.

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Lucio, your analysis is awesome and full of super-helpful insights and teachings.

I was also wondering on two additional points related to this incident.

What should Will Smith have done instead?

If Will Smith wanted to show he was displeased with the joke at the expense of his wife, what could he have done?

I can think of two options:

1) shake his head, maybe even stand up and exit the room for 5-10 minutes, then come back and sit again;

2) shake his head, then wait, then comment on the bad joke and/or publicly praise his wife afterwards, when speaking after receiving the Oscar.

Was Chris Rock right in not asking the police to arrest Will Smith?

From the press, it seems the police was there after the incident and told Rock that they would immediately arrest Smith in front of everyone if Rock pressed charges: he refused.

I tend to think he took the right choice, because otherwise he would have risked being perceived as having a disproportionate reaction, especially after not reacting strongly himself after the incident.

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Hey Bel,

What should Will Smith have done instead?

I think that a good course of action for Will Smith if he wanted to support his wife was to move closer to her and touch her / place a hand on her.

The sub-commication should have been: "you're not alone, I'm here beside you".

That's all that was needed if he wanted to support her, and would have been far more effective as well -as long as the woman is a high-quality woman, because there is a subset of women who want their men to take risks for them and do stupid shit because they get kicks out of manipulating and treating their men like servants/body guards-.
I'd personally consider Miss Smith's reaction to the joke a red flag of a woman who can be confrontational, too easily triggered, and too easily angered.

If instead he wanted to hit back at Chris Rock, he should have done so when he was in front of a microphone.
Whenever there is a microphone and audience, that's the biggest leverage you can have -in situations like this, far bigger than violence, since as we've seen violence can have huge costs-.

Chris Rock  decision

I think either choice was fine for Chris Rock.

It's all about his personal preferences -minimizing, or getting revenge-.

Asking the police to arrest Smith wasn't going to damage him because public opinion decided that what Will Smith did was disgusting, so he would have aligned with public opinion in that case -and he might have even used the event to ride the wave of public outcry against Will Smith, thus probably even gaining some-.

And Will Smith would have lost even bigger as his night -and reputation- would have been further ruined for not having been allowed to even receive his prize.

So if Chris Rock wanted revenge -and some more popularity and status boost-, then having Will Smith removed was probably better.

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BTW, I think there is a good chance that Will Smith with a good woman, would have been a huge win-win.

He's a high-value guy who, I think, is very well-meaning on top of being a great protector and provider.

However, his wife might not interested in doing what's best for Will Smith, or for both of them.

Obviously, this is all heavy speculation, a gut feeling based on very little observation.

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Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 1, 2022, 9:45 pm

Chris Rock  decision

It's all about his personal preferences -minimizing, or getting revenge-.


So if Chris Rock wanted revenge -and some more popularity and status boost-, then having Will Smith removed was probably better.

And, it seems Chris did indeed go for revenge, focusing a portion of his latest special, Selective Outrage, on the Will Smith slap.

On one hand, I'm glad he addressed it (finally), I think it was wrong (really, it was assault), and the fact that it seemed like Will never wanted to apologize for it in the first place always bothered me.

However, I'm also not sure that Chris handled it as well as he could have here, waiting a year, then unloading some bottled-up frustration on Netflix (which could've been chalked up to "exaggerated acting for the delivery of his jokes", but he once even messed up one of the jokes and admitted it while ranting about Will during the special, so that doesn't seem to be the case and I think most people feel it wasn't).

Now, he makes it seem that he was stewing behind the scenes for a year, secretly holding a grudge the entire time, which isn't the most powerful position he could've taken (albeit, not many think about power when they're angry + feel they've been wronged, they only think about getting even—the rest is often an afterthought).

Then, he made a few moves I didn't think too highly of:

  • Calling the "slap" a "punch": seemingly to frame Will as more of an "out of control guy"
  • Calling Will and his wife a "bitch": retelling the story of their personal turbulence regarding the "entanglement" affair

And, lastly, basically saying that Will was punching down/picking on the little guy by punching the guy "he knows he could beat".

And, it's true, I doubt Will would've gone for it if it were 50 Cent up there, someone who's in good shape and known for having no qualms about getting physical with others (plus, maybe, having a good likelihood of winning).

But, I think a better frame would've been to frame Will as unprofessional, mentally unstable, and lacking the ability to even morally comprehend the repercussions of what he'd done, evident by the fact he was so unwilling to apologize (which would frame him not as someone who had "one bad moment" but as someone who "is progressively becoming a worse person").

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Lucio BuffalmanoJackKavalierBel

Great analysis, Ali!

Chris Rock had gained quite some respect with avoiding the topic and probably most people thought it was classy and "flying higher".

I haven't seen the video, but I agree with your analysis on general principles.
Attacking back so long after, and also doing it poorly as you say, was not a great move.

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