Actions have consequences… or at least they do for most people.  

If you haven’t heard that Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in the face, well, now you have. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the video.

What led to the incident was Rock’s joke about Smith’s wife, Jada, having a bald head. He made a comment about her being in “G.I. Jane 2,” and that was more than enough for Smith. The joke, albeit in poor taste, was not anywhere near the caliber it needed to be to warrant that reaction. It is important to remember that Ricky Gervais pretty much insulted all of Hollywood at his speech in 2020. 

So why has this led to a nearly three-day news cycle of coverage? Because people don’t understand when words can and cannot lead to violence. 

Here’s the thing, there is not *no* situation in which words do not warrant physical action. In the real world if someone calls for violence against you or you are threatened in any way, you have the right to defend yourself. 

While I cannot condone violence, Smith shows that words have consequences. 

Most of Twitter immediately took to actually defending Smith for standing up for his wife and her medical condition, alopecia, which is causing her hair loss. So, maybe he was right to defend his wife, and maybe that is an honorable thing to do in theory. Then again, perhaps the words shared with Rock after the slap, would have been enough. 

Jokes should be met with words, not with action. But what is the real point of all of this? 

While Smith has taught us that words have consequences, he has also unintentionally taught us that actions seem not to. More specifically, actions do not have severe consequences when you hold an elite status in society. 

Let’s take a look at a few examples. 

First, not all that long ago Whoopi Goldberg claimed that the Holocaust was not about race. Her punishment? A two week suspension from The View. After a nearly forced apology, Goldberg is back on air like it never happened. 

How about Alec Baldwin, the outspoken gun control activist? On the set of the movie “Rust,” Baldwin shot and killed Halyna Hutchins, and then failed to take responsibility for it. Though the movie is not being finished as of right now, the most trending news regarding Baldwin is that his wife is pregnant with their seventh child. Let me repeat that he shot and killed a woman. 

Finally, while there is no way to guarantee that Lori Loughlin got only a two month sentence because of her status, it is hard to see another person committing that crime and getting a light punishment. Then again, only someone of her status could even attempt to commit that crime. 

So, I suppose you can debate the morality of Smith’s actions in “defending” his wife. The legality of slapping someone across the face on national television unprovoked remained relatively clear, however. 

Not being escorted out of the event, winning Best Actor, giving a speech and not paying any repercussions beyond a public Instagram apology seems par for the course for celebrities. Even when the Oscars says they “don’t condone violence,” is letting him give a speech after winning an award really “not condoning” anything? 

Just try to imagine anyone else, not of status, slapping someone across the face and not paying repercussions. 

Maybe in the end, the lesson Smith taught us was not how to defend one’s wife, but to show us that we will never have the true privilege of getting away with something simply because we have status. 

Maybe Smith’s actions will reveal the true divide in America is not so much between the artificial sides we choose to draw, but between the status and symbol that comes with being a member of the Hollywood elite and the average citizen. Only once we acknowledge this divide will we realize that maybe celebrities are just people too, and they do not deserve the pedestal we put them on.  

In the meantime, Smith should consider not being the one up to no good, making trouble in his own neighborhood.