44. Why I Loved it When Will Smith Cried at the Oscars 2022

April 1, 2022
Barbara Cook

In fact, why I identified with it all

Image pixabay https://pixabay.com/images/id-2546791/

Why I identified with Jada’s and Will Smith’s reactions when Chris Rock joked about her shaved head with a quip about being in the next GI Joe movie

Jada Pinkett Smith is clearly a strong and vibrant woman, comfortable in her own skin and courageously talking about her alopecia to help others.

Like Jada, I, too, have alopecia. Because I was bullied as a child for my partly-bald head and then for wearing wigs, I feel uncomfortable if someone makes a joke about a person’s appearance at their expense. I know they are actually exposing their own insensitivity, insecurity or lack of feeling, but parts of me can still be triggered.

If I were to be bullied about this now as an adult I’m sure that, like Jada, my body language would express hurt and also distaste at the tired old story of people having to ‘jokingly’ make fun of others’ appearance, illness or disability in order to get a cheap laugh or attempt to feel superior. Even if her shaved head had been purely a style choice, why is it anyone’s business to comment?

This humour of punching down at other people’s expense belongs to a less-enlightened age. It’s SO last decade! It SO belongs back in the schoolyard!
Today’s up-and-coming comedians are wittier, funnier and more clever at observing human behaviour.

That tasteless joke

In a perfect world, Chris Rock would not have gone to work (having been employed by the AMPAS to deliver the kind of humour he’s known for) to be struck for something he said. Violence is never OK. It is fitting that a full apology has been subsequently offered to him by Will Smith.

In a perfect world, Chris Rock would not have made a tasteless joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. Without excusing ‘bad’ behaviour, I like to also gather further context.

Chris Rock has been quoted as having been bullied as a child, and has shown readiness to seek help with life challenges. Source.

If he now has the ability and willingness to self-reflect, perhaps he may wonder, “Why DO we comedians often resort to making a joke of people’s hairstyle, clothes, appearance or disfigurements to get a cheap laugh? What IS that put-down humour all about? How can I leave that meanness behind?”

Why I identify with Will Smith in his acceptance speech

As a self-aware man, Will showed integrity in doing his best at reflecting on what had just happened and responding in the moment. His unashamed tears normalised the release of crying for us all. I loved that firstly addressing, owning and apologising for the violent act was more important than the accolade that he’d waited so long to earn.

I loved that he stayed present, soft, real and humble; struggling and sensing what to say in that very unscripted moment.

There is truth in the glory of the role of family protector, AND there was an accompanying struggle to reconcile how it was expressed in this instance. 

I identify with that part that can still act out with the messiness of ‘lower’ energies when triggered. I, too, have struggled with parts of my behaviour or beliefs that need tweaking or purifying. I, too, have needed to find compassion for those parts that act out in a burst of anger or other disempowered states.

If only we could respond ‘perfectly’ at all times

In a perfect world Will Smith would not have slapped Chris Rock, nor shouted obscenities at him. Without excusing ‘bad’ behaviour, I like to also seek further context.

You only have to listen to Jay Shetty’s podcast with Will Smith to know that he and Jada are learned and devoted scholars of many world religions. They are deeply spiritual people, striving to be the highest versions of themselves. As Will Smith said in his acceptance speech,

“I’m being called on in my life to love and protect people. I want to be a vessel and an ambassador for that kind of love, care and concern.”

I don’t see his uncharacteristic outburst as, “Oooh, I’ve just seen a different side of him. He now goes into the box labelled ‘Bad Violent Person’.”

Instead, the way I see it is that life is constantly presenting the perfect opportunity to flush up and clear unhealed wounds from the past; wounds that were protected by the armouring of the ego. 

The ego armour was formed early, and was the child’s best attempt at creating some kind of protection and safety in a world that was at times insecure and sometimes even downright dangerous.

Perhaps this particular ego’s best attempt at defence and protection was to lash out in anger to create some kind of boundary and prevent further hurt. But as any adult who has reacted with blind anger will know, the feeling afterwards is ultimately one of disempowerment.

Self-aware adults know that this is not a solution to anything. Denzel Washington’s advice was to “be careful when you’re at your highest because that’s when the devil will come for you.”

I guess it is a kind of ‘devilish’ energy, because in that moment of triggering past wounds, we can drop into a lower vibration and become young, out of control and helpless yet again. It’s not Love that “makes you do crazy things”, but the armoured yet disempowered ego protector.

Can we shift the focus inwards?

In our childhoods there were some wounds. There was a shaky feeling of vulnerability, powerlessness, of being attacked, unloved, crushed or even hated. In Will Smith’s autobiography we see the wound of the young boy terrified and powerless to do anything about his father’s violence towards his mother.
For any of us, without support to allow these emotions to flow through, they were too much to bear. Instead they were stuffed down and stored, and pasted over with ‘Protective Behaviours’. (Source) The PBs are all about creating upset, drama and venting the stored charge onto others. They become a wonderful deflection from the pain that couldn’t be felt at the time.

So let’s get back to the heart of the matter.

What’s happened to that inner hurt within any of us that was shown visually by Jada’s facial expression on the footage? What’s happened to that pain that was pushed down in the past? Is it being pushed aside yet again by the focus on the drama? Can it be given voice now?

Can the internal hurt and anger be given neither protection nor retaliation now but simply holding? Can we turn away from the battle to the embrace?

Can we please sit with the wounds now, hold them gently and say, “Honey, I hear you. How does it feel? Everything you’re feeling is valid. Breathe into it. What do you need?”

A higher empowered way of dealing with the disrespect

This doesn’t mean taking no action when bullying behaviour is shown to us.

I’m interested in the adventure of exploring a higher empowered way of dealing assertively with disrespect and put-downs. I explore this in my next story “How to Handle Disrespect and Create a Win/Win Situation”.

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