Oscars 2022: Decoding Comedy in America
Will's slap, Schumer's "seat fillers", Hall's sex jokes, and more.
The 2022 Oscars is being defined by not cinema or speeches, but by a slap that's becoming infamous. Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith over her shaved head saying, "Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2. Can't wait to see it." Then Will Smith, Jada’s husband, walked onto the stage and slapped Chris. The audience laughed thinking it was scripted, but the expressions turned sour as reality dawned when Will Smith yelled at Chris Rock: "Keep my wife's name out of your fucking mouth!"
This moment is being seen as a representative of today's world of comedy and how people are easily offended by anything, thus posing a threat to the "freedom of speech". So now, let's decode not just this moment, but other moments from the Oscars like Amy Schumer's "seat fillers" joke, Regina Hall's uncomfortable sexual advances, and a few more, along with the audience reactions to figure where America stands when it comes to comedy.
One: Will's Slap
Was Chris's joke in bad taste?
Maybe. Listening to the joke from the point of view of someone who doesn't know about alopecia or the hidden metaphors behind G.I. Jane, this joke seems very harmless. The comedian finds resemblance of a woman with a character. People do that in every day life. Everybody reminds us of somebody. It's just being human.
But perspective seems to matter a lot. And it is the perspective of different people—what Jada was going through, of how Chris Rock was aware of it—it seems to have changed everything.
According to Tiffany Haddish, G.I. Jane was used as a term to label women as unfeminine/lesbian back in the day. Making such a joke about a woman who might feel insecure in a world that is obsessed with femininity can be hurtful. And according to Sheila Bridges, who previously spoke with Chris Rock about living with alopecia for his 2009 documentary, "Good Hair," the joke took her by surprise since Chris Rock was well aware of the condition and the toll it takes on the people living with it.
But let's try to move past that and see it for just a joke. Chris was careful and humble enough to be respectful to Jada. He started the joke with "Jada, I love you." If Will hadn't slapped Chris, this joke wouldn't have spread like a wildfire and stirred this intense discussion about alopecia.
Was Jada's eye roll an overreaction?
Not at all. And neither is it a representative of how today's world has allegedly lost its sense of humour. Being a woman with a condition (alopecia) that removes hair off the head--something women are conditioned to take good care of, and treasure as a sign of beauty and attractiveness, she has every right to not like the joke.
Was Will's slap an acceptable reaction?
Absolutely not. Defending a loved one when somebody says something disrespectful is normal, but going on a stage and slapping a grown man in front of the entire world among people who know and respect him—all for saying a seemingly harmless joke is unjustifiable. You could see Chris was expecting Will to just pretend like he was about to fight.
Chris stood there, not running away, or even moving slightly, because he trusted his friend. The slap was a shocking, shameful, and quite hurtful moment for him.
The thing that's perhaps even more bizarre than the slap itself is how Will went from laughing at Chris's joke to turning violent upon seeing his wife's reaction to the joke. A sensible reaction to seeing your loved one being hurt is to comfort them. Maybe Will could've held Jada, and later, could've confronted Chris in private. The couple could've made a tweet about the whole situation, educating people on what was okay and what wasn't. Heck, they could've just stopped talking to Chris entirely. Anything would’ve been better than physically assaulting a man on stage.
Comedians have done worse on that stage. Seth MacFarlane sang a song called "We Saw Your Boobs" listing the names of actresses and the film's they've been nude in. As a little girl, I was a little shocked, but I laughed. But as I grew older, I couldn't believe a stage that was meant to be so prestigious and of the highest standards let a grown man sing a song about seeing actress's boobs. It's as if a thirteen years old boy was taking control of Seth's brain. It was the dumbest, most sexist thing ever. So yes, this stage has held worse. But that isn't an excuse for the future to follow the lead.
Two: Amy Schumer's "Seat Fillers" Joke
Americans hate Amy Schumer. Why? Well, I hate to break it to you, but if men find a woman is not conventionally attractive, that's a good enough reason for them to hate her. They say all kinds of things about her— she steals jokes, she’s racist. But male comedians who do the same or even attractive female personalities who do worse are not put under such hate. Amy Schumer is hated for being fat. That's the fucking truth.
So during the 2022 Oscars, Amy went to Kirsten Dunst and her husband, asked Kirsten to get up calling her a "seat filler" and took her place for a minute.
The same guys who tell you that anything is acceptable in comedy, upon seeing their attractive sweetheart Kristen Dunst being made fun of by an unattractive woman—these guys change their stance and take offence and defend the attractive girl. If Kirsten had made the joke about Amy, these men would've laughed uncontrollably and asked Amy to learn to take a joke.
Three: Regina Hall's Unwelcome Sexual Advances
During the show, the actress patted down Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa, called onto the stage Simu Liu, Bradley Cooper, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalamet, and said "I'm going to swap the back of your mouth with my tongue and we’re just going to do some other freaky stuff which I'll record". She chalked it all up to Academy Protocol for Covid safety measures.
Imagine if it was a male comedian saying that to a group of actresses including someone closer to Chalamet's age like Zendaya. It's creepy, isn’t it? But most people don't seem to have a problem with it.
Is the World Divided into Offence-Takers and Easy-Goers?
Nope. A black man making misogynistic jokes won't be okay with racist jokes. A fat comedian making racist jokes won't be okay with fatphobic jokes. A straight woman making homophobic jokes won't be okay with sexist jokes.
The men who tell you everything is acceptable in comedy won't accept an attractive woman being the butt of a joke made by an unattractive woman. These men who defend misogyny, racism, homophobia in the name of comedy will attack you when you make a joke about their masculinity.
And as people are pointing out, if The Rock had made the same joke about Jada instead of Chris Rock, Will Smith wouldn't have slapped him. Jada probably wouldn't have rolled her eyes because she wasn't a close friend to The Rock as she was with Chris.
The world isn't divided into two when it comes to comedy. It's divided into people who have their own limits and preferences. And that’s a lot of divisions. What's offensive and what's not changes from time to time, person to person, and situation to situation.
Americans who say anything is acceptable in comedy and are worried about “freedom of speech” are more obsessed with a person's right to be disrespectful than they are willing to fight for someone who's faced disrespect.
People’s reaction to a slap seems way extensive compared to sexual assault from Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, or Woody Allen’s fucked up relationship with his little, adopted, daughter. Why aren’t the ones who’re asking Will to give his award back ask the same of these men?
In reaction to Will’s slap, Jim Carrey said it made him feel like Americans weren’t the “cool gang anymore”. But there never was and never will be a "cool gang" who won't take offence at anything. Even a person who laughs at a joke intended at them in public might feel hurt in private. They'd hide it because if they don't, they’re afraid they’d seem “uncool.“
Not everything is acceptable in comedy. The people who say that are fooling themselves. But what is offensive can be hard to determine in a profession where sometimes you need to make jokes on the spot. Any reaction to an offensive joke should be done in a respectable manner. Comedians are neither beneath you for you to assault them, nor are they gods who can say anything about you and get away with it. Any displeasure with comedy should be done with words, just as a comedian does, and not with physical assault.