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Patty Leon: The real slap in the face is what’s not being discussed
Patty Leon new

The one time I don’t watch the Oscars, Will Smith slaps Chris Rock in front of the world and cusses on live TV. Smith claims he was defending his wife, Jada Pinkett- Smith, after Rock joked about her shaved head — the head she shaved because of her ongoing battle with an auto-immune disease that is causing alopecia, which results in hair loss.

The joke was in bad taste; the response by Smith was in poor taste, too. Did Rock know the real reason why she had shaved her head? Couldn’t Smith have stormed on stage, explained why Rock is a douchebag, and professed his love for his wife for being a strong woman?

I don’t know. I don’t know what is going on in their private life other than what the couple themselves have aired in public or on the show “Red Table Talk.” I have no idea what type of hurt or sorrow Smith and his family may have, what emotions has he been holding in for years that finally bubbled up to the surface.

I have no clue what their married life is like other than what they’ve aired publicly.

Do they share breakfast together? I don’t know.

Do they sleep together? I don’t know.

Has Rock joked about the couple before? Yes, he has, more than once.

Are his jokes typically harsh and hurtful? Yes, a lot of them are.

But then again, so are the jokes of several other comedians.

So is this a topic worth discussing? Of course.

Pinkett-Smith is dealing with an illness — one that many men and woman suffer from on a daily basis. Health care is something we should always speak about with empathy and compassion for others. We should also fight vigorously to make sure health care is available for everyone who needs it.

Some say Smith’s response was that of a man defending the honor of his wife. Others say Smith’s reaction was one of violence, that he could have used the opportunity to educate the public or waited until afterward to have a talk with Rock.

He also could have given Rock a closed-fist punch, which would have been worse.

But his reaction was not out of the norm, either. Before you judge Smith, ask yourself this hard question: If someone was verbally attacking your mom, dad, brother, sister, husband, wife, best friend, etc., and you were standing there and witnessing the attack, would you just stay back and be quiet? Would you stay silent? Or would you


speak up on their behalf? If the situation escalated, would you let this person physically attack your mom, dad, brother, sister, husband, wife, best friend, etc.?

That’s a slightly different scenario than what happened at the Oscars, but had this exchange between Smith and Rock not happened on live TV, on a program broadcast around the world, would we even be talking about it as feverishly?

If someone was bad-mouthing my family, I know I would say something back. If someone started physically attacking anyone in my family, I know my gut reaction would be to jump in and defend my family.

I may jump in to try and push back the person attacking my family. I might try to stand in between the parties and call for help. If they are hurting my family, I may even throw a slap or two.

Rock has the right to say what he wants, when he wants, and about whomever he wants. But why is it OK for Rock and other comedians to joke about people with an illness? Why do we, as a society, allow these types of topics to be the butt of jokes?

Freedom of speech is a wonderful right. But words can hurt as well, and they have consequences. I know of many great comedians who never “joked” about illnesses and other sensitive topics because they were intelligent enough to be funny without being hurtful to others.

I am willing to bet had this exchange between Rock and Smith happened at a grocery store in California, and not in front of a nationwide audience, the topic of conversation for the rest of the week would still be about the Ukrainian conflict, or maybe that other thing — you know, the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice and her texts to the former president’s chief of staff requesting an illegal overturn of the 2020 elections. And the fact that said justice was the only NO vote as it related to turning over certain documents to the Jan. 6 committee.

You would think something like this would be bigger than a comedian getting slapped on national TV, but I guess HOLLYWOOD before DEMOCRACY is a thing now.

Patty Leon is the senior editor of the Coastal Courier.

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