It could have been the perfect example of a “Be Wise” moment.
But – despite the platform to be seen as a great role model and reach millions of people to boot – Will Smith blew it!
Let’s be real – given that so many of us take our moral cues from celebrities whose lives are so far removed from our own – it’s worth highlighting what is dubiously being referred to as one of the most memorable nights in live television.
For all the wrong reasons, the reaction to Smith’s storming onto the Oscars stage to slap Chris Rock over a joke referencing his wife’s alopecia has lit up all corners of the internet – including our own social media pages.
In a bombshell instant, a man famous for his ability with words, resorts to a physical altercation.
The Pat Cronin Foundation’s position on violence is clear.
Although Will Smith has since apologised, his behaviour in the heat of that moment underscores the importance of education in this space and the reality that as a society we still have a long way to go.
An alternate reality
Well, what would you have done?
That’s the question people will be asking each other around the proverbial water bubbler, down at the pub or at the family dinner table over the coming days.
Although there’s many layers to this issue, Foundation director Matt Cronin believes there’s no wriggle room for the way things played out on Hollywood’s Night of Nights – a coming together of people accustomed to using their voices to stand up for what they see as right.
“It’s extremely disappointing of course that a man who is so gifted with words should have missed the opportunity to be a great role model,” says Matt.
“He could have simply stood up – with his wife – and walked out to make his point, or he could have addressed Chris Rock in a reasoned fashion about his comments.
“Either way, that would have gained the respect of the room, and sent a message about the appropriateness of poking fun at someone’s medical issues.
“The list of responses however does not include striking someone.
“Part of what we do is put a spotlight on the far-reaching consequences of violence. Ironically, around the same time as this particular drama was unfolding, we were another world away in Maryborough, central Victoria – called in specially by the community to do just that.
“Far from us to comment directly on the star power of Hollywood’s top actors, suffice to say that Will Smith now has the task of winning back the public’s esteem.
“Sadly, as much as he apologises, he can’t take his actions back.”
What people are saying
A post on the Foundation’s Facebook page has attracted a wide range of responses. Here’s a sample:
“Totally agree with this post. Very poor form from someone in the public eye who people, especially the younger generations, look up to.”
According to another: “We try to teach our kids that violence is never the answer. He missed an ideal opportunity to use his brain and his words!”
Others pointed to women not needing men to “defend their honour”.
“Many lives have been ruined by young men believing they have to fight to prove their honour. Women do not need men to defend their honour with violence.”
Someone else said: “Double standards. If he’d slapped a woman for making a joke about his wife’s hair he’d have been arrested and the media/law would be coming down on him.”
Violence is ‘poisonous and destructive’
Smith’s apology states, in part: “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive.
“My behavior … was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.
“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.
“There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.“
The art of being wise
The Foundation’s core messages – “Be Wise. Think Carefully. Act Kindly.” are simple but deceptively powerful.
They’re powerful because understanding emotions, and how they cloud our responses takes insight and practice – and as we’ve just seen, at all levels in our society.