In case you’re not big on history, the “shot” heard round the world was the beginning of the American Revolution waaay back in 1775. 250 years-ish later, we have to ask ourselves, "was the “slap” heard round the world a sign of the times for us.?
This is not a fun piece to write. And honestly, there are plenty of professional writers that have recorded the incident at the 2022 Oscar awards…show? See there, I don’t even know what the event is officially dubbed. As a licensed therapist, my energy and focus isn't on television. In fact, I don't watch TV unless I'm on it! I do, however, spend a lot of time and energy studying emotion. Let me begin by saying that I heard about “the slap” on Monday morning while taking the kids to school. Like most Americans, I don’t pay much attention to Hollywood drama. In fact, I only remember a handful of Hollywood actor names but two of them happen to be Will Smith and Chris Rock. I'm a fan of them both! I also keenly remember my initial emotional reaction: pride.
"You can't say that, Jed!" I know, I know – not supposed to but here we go! I was proud of Will Smith. Initially, I interpreted the slap as him protecting his wife, Jada…not sure how you spell her name. Digging a little deeper, my emotional reaction stems from a history of not being protected by people who I thought were my friends and even my family. Emotions are pretty fascinating and – hear this – they’re always about you even when it’s someone else being abused.
What is going to happen now, after the slap heard round the world?
For an award ceremony was showcasing “actors”, this sure felt like real life. I am a mental health counselor, by profession and have spent a lot of time studying psychology. After a day of therapy sessions, hearing about anything dramatical is off-limits. I just want to come home to a calm house and avoid all things stressful. My lovely wife has to endure all of the emotional roller coaster television sitcoms on her own. In particular, the past couple of years have somehow felt more intense for myself, than the years prior. It's almost like the chaos and isolation spent navigating the “Covid 19 pandemic” has put a strain on everyone's emotional well-being.
And it appears that the Hollywood elite are not immune.
It's easy to forget that they’re human, isn’t it? By the way, I HATE saying that because it bugs me that the U.S. population puts “actors” (people trained at being fake – not real) on such a pedestal. Yet, here I was, Monday morning, having a strong emotional reaction! Apparently, I had put Will Smith on a pedestal and it was sad to observe the exact moment he fell from said pedestal. Wow, what a fall. It was hard and fast…, "hard and fast". I’m laughing here. Can you imagine what THE Chris Rock could do with a sentence like that? I would never hear the end of it – so many ways to go. Puns aside, wasn’t it heartbreaking to watch Chris being assaulted for being - a comedian? The more I watched the video, the more I felt tricked. I felt angry. I felt like I’d been slapped in the face by a friend while they smiled at me. The more I watched, the more I processed my own issues that had brought out my own emotions.
Maybe I don't know myself as well as I thought.
In therapy, it’s common for clients to discover that their emotional reactions have little if anything to do with what they’re reacting towards and everything to do with themselves. In other words, when we feel something sharply, we’re processing something about ourselves. This isn’t difficult to prove for most. Here's an example, if you’ve had a parent die when you were a toddler, there’s a good chance that you’ll have more of an emotional reaction to a show where a kid loses a parent…or, if you’re me, any show that has beautifully depicted connecting father and son moments (Damn you The Pursuit of Happyness!). There was more to this, though.
What was it that had me feeling so confused, frustrated, angry and sad? It didn't make sense at first. I'd seen MANY a show depicting violence, rage, suspense even MURDERS. Why would a little slap (that Chris handled beautifully, by the way) even hitting my emotional radar? And then it hit me; Not only was it pinging a deep seeded fear of rejection, it also clued me in that I might be missing something on a larger 'emotional intelligence' scale. I felt kind of scared. Why? Because I’d witnessed one of the most revered, trained, seasoned actors in all of Hollywood lose his shit on National Television. Not only that, Will was highly favored to win the top award for the movie “King Richard” where he plays another role where he beats all of the odds and conquers the world while protecting people he loves! Ok, I haven't seen the movie, but I imagine, it's something to that effect. This actual life behavior was the exact opposite! He wasn't protecting his wife...he was protecting his Ego. Don't even get me started on the Jada girl. But still...
If Will Smith can’t keep it together, what chance do we have?
I wonder if it’s just our nature to categorize other people. We label them good and bad and everywhere in between. We especially like to hold other people to higher standards, don’t we? And we’re ever at the ready to distribute swift justice when those standards aren’t met! When I think of Will Smith I think “The Pursuit of Happyness, Legend of Bagger Vance, Aladdin, Fresh Prince, The concussion guy”. When I think of Will Smith, words like “stable, respectful and safe” come to mind. In a world that’s feeling more unstable, disrespectful and unsafe, I don’t like seeing the illusion falter. When something like this happens, it forces us to re-shape our beliefs about the world around us.
So - many - questions.
What is going to happen after the slap heard round the world? How are we going to re-shape this wild frontier of emotional wellness that we’re just beginning to understand? What have we learned from all of this?
William Shakespear said it best, “all the world is a stage”. I don’t know how you want your continuing role to play out, but might I suggest moving forward with compassion. We are all having a human experience, here. Apparently, We're all human. Seems nobody is having a super easy, cool, chill time of life. Actors aren’t. Therapists aren’t. Teachers aren’t. Add whatever title to the list and know that life isn’t easy for any and all of them. Nobody has it easy. Everyone has good and bad days, we have good days and we have bad days. We are all in the same boat of life – trying to figure things out. We have good days and bad days. Sometimes we can have our worst days on the days we expected to be our best days! Nobody is immune to the struggle that life provides FOR OUR BENEFIT. It’s ok that nobody has their emotions 100% in check 100% of the time.
Us non-actors just mess up without the world stage watching.
Now, before the call out culture (ugh) starts rising up with the chant, "no excuse, no excuse!", remember, this isn’t about Will Smith or Chris Rock. It's not about justice or race or assault or how mentally messed up Jada probably is. It’s not even about the Revolutionary War! It’s about something MUCH more important; you. You individually. You personally. This is an opportunity to process your own issues and believe me, you have them. I have them. We ALL have them. We NEED them in order to grow into better versions of who we act in like, today.
Will Smith, I'm here if you'd like to set up a time to talk.
Till next time, awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, Licensed Therapist