The IP Weekly
It’s only Monday morning, but I fear if I wait then I will have forgotten what has gotten me motivated to write at all.
Last night at the Oscars a truly unique event took place. After a joke about his wife actor Will Smith approached comedian Chris Rock on stage and punched him in the face. After returning to his seat Smith repeatedly yelled at Rock, who was trying to maintain his composure on live television, to keep his “wife’s name out of his f%$#@!ing mouth”. After watching the event several times it’s hard not to be left uncertain about what to think.
Comedians take risks when they are on stage that is certain. They tell jokes that make some laugh, others cringe and others angry. It is part of their job. The targets of their jokes, especially famous ones, have to sit and take it for the most part. That is the social contract that’s been in place for years. Even at your local comedy club comedians often focus their attention on someone in the audience with a loud laugh or unusual look. We have to remind ourselves that we are in a comedy club and the rules are slightly different than if we are walking down the street.
The thing about social contracts is that we aren’t always aware of when the contracts expire or get re-written which may be what has happened here. I like both Rock and Smith and will likely continue to like them both. There is probably much we have to learn about their relationship or about what Smith has been dealing with recently. I do know we live in a more sensitive time than ever before and maybe, just maybe, those jokes were never well received, but the social contract is what has kept everyone projecting calmness. I don’t condone Smith’s actions at all…I abhor violence. At the same time I don’t want to punish him forever. I want instead for all of us to continue to re-think the constructs that have been part of our lives for as long as we can remember. Maybe it’s time for some to change and maybe the one about laughing at the expense of another needs to go away.
There are other examples of the social contracts we abide by going away. Keep an eye out for them. I’m sure I’ll be writing about them again.