Will Smith’s slap could hurt his family’s brand

At this year’s Oscars, even before Mr. Rock took the stage, Regina Hall referred to the Smiths’ relationship in a comedy in which she hinted at personally inspecting some of Hollywood’s most suitable bachelors, joking that the Covid test results were lost. “Will Smith,” he said. “You’re married, but you know what, you’re on the list and it looks like Jada approved of you. So get up here. ” He laughed and sat down.

What got Mr. Smith to his feet, deliberately walking into the room to hit Mr. Rock, was a billboard for Mrs. Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. It stung, Mr. Smith later explained, because Mrs. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which leads to hair loss. “A joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me and I reacted emotionally,” Mr Smith said in an apology to Mr Rock and others on Instagram on Monday night. For his part, Mr. Rock said on his comedy show on Wednesday that he was still working on the event. (A spokesman for Mr Smith declined to comment. Representatives for Pinkett Smith and Mr Rock did not respond to a request for comment.)

For many viewers and fans, especially Black fans, the incident with three of Hollywood’s top black artists was overwhelming and unfavorable. “It’s a really complicated moment, because of all the ways it resonates with gender, race, power and branding,” said Miriam Petty, a film historian and professor at Northwestern University who studies the Black Star.

Some commentators criticized Mr. Rock for what he considered a joke. Others, such as actress Tiffany Haddish, who co-starred with Pinkett Smith in the comedy “Girls Trip,” applauded Mr. Smith, who seemed to be defending his wife’s honor, something Dr. Petty described as understandable in a world where Black Women and other women of color are not given the same social protection as their white counterparts. But was this attitude anti-feminist? Did he glorify violence? “Again – messy, messy, messy,” Dr. Petty said.

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Since turning 50, Mr. Smith has, to some extent, relaxed his public image. A recent YouTube series, “Best Shape of My Life,” which’s’s seemingly aimed at his non-superhero dad, was actually about unlocking his own strict behaviors. Traveled safely for the first time in years. he finally learned to swim. and tried to reconcile, after the death of his father in 2016, with the tax that this relationship had.

In a statement announcing his resignation from the academy, Mr Smith said: “The change takes time and I pledge to do my job to ensure that I will never again allow violence to go beyond reason.”

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