Heartfelt atonement or slick Hollywood performance: Will Smith's apology comes with questions-- and an inevitable conclusion.
I particularly admire this posting. Without rancor, you reiterate and do not excuse the behavior and its wide reaching implications. Then you also forgive and do so eloquently and generously. I realised that as a woman and a member of the film community, I still carry resentment about Will Smith's action but your own generosity reminds me that we all, in moments of weakness, (though not on the world stage, for most) make very real mistakes. You have demonstrated a larger, spiritual and kind outlook. The world needs much, much more of your grace and intelligence. It will be such a better place when we all do as Kareem does.
Y’know, there’s nothing wrong with feeling like “a piece of shit” for wildly inappropriate actions. It wasn’t just the slap. It was his decision to accept the award, his decision to accept it with a defiant speech, his decision to party afterwards, his decision to not apologize like this the next day. When did this “fog” he speaks of lift? I’m sorry, but this video seems overly produced and well rehearsed.
It would be easy to see this public apology as a contrived piece of spin, especially for those among us who like to wallow in drama and a fall from grace. Thank you, Kareem, for leading us back to Love so eloquently.
The complete lack of any emotion troubles me. I saw this as a moment of rage, where all self control was stripped away. Sad to say, my takeaway is that this was another speech written by committee and delivered by a talented actor.
I believe this is all show and sincerity in that Will needs the publicity. If Chris was not ready to meet privately what made Will think he would be ready publicly? Again a violation of Chris’s personal space.
Will Smith plays Will Smith in every movie he's in these days. Tom Hanks does the same thing. As a young actor he showed some promise; his performance in "Six Degrees of Separation" was excellent, but I haven't seen a performance like that from him in a very long time. I know he was slotted to be the next Denzel Washington, but Denzel can actually act: I don't know if Will could do something like "Fences" or "Richard III," but then again he doesn't have to--he gets paid millions for phoning it in just like a lot of other action stars. The timing of this apology is very suspect, I don't know why he obviously believed that slapping someone in front of a worldwide audience was a good idea, something he'd be lauded for because he was defending his woman, but all I could think of was "dude, your career isn't strong enough right now to weather something like this." It's been long rumored that he and Jada are Scientologists, which is not a thing to be in Hollywood these days. The only forgiveness that matters here is Chris Rock's.
A contrived end to a contrived saga. More bread and circuses to distract us from war, recession, and national decline. I was not a Will Smith fan before the slap, so nothing has changed. Worse than disdain for Smith, I have total indifference.
I confess to ignorance re Islamic redemption, but Jewish tradition teaches it requires apology and concrete acts to limit lokelihood that wrong will be repeated. Abstractly, I agree w KAJ but would be more sympathetic if Smith had acknowledged what Jews call the shonda of harm to his community that KAJ so nicely articulated
Initially, I refused to watch Will’s “apology,” but to respond to your commentary, it was required. His apologies always seem to be subsequent to a prior event: being kicked out of the Academy, seeing an interview with Chris’ mom (although no immediate apology), and now, the Hart to Heart interview with Chris Rock. When asked about the rolling of Jada’s eyes, prior to the slap, he spoke of “my own experiences,” then began apologizing to HER. SAY WHAT?! NAH, ain’t buying it. I believe the apology is about him and his “imploding career” still, opposed to the extension of sincere contriteness to Chris.
To err is human
To forgive, divine
You cannot heal and move on without forgiveness
As you said, Kareem, you believe the apology is sincere, and you know Will. It is time for all of us to accept his words and move on. To keep going back to that night and the slap and dissecting its meaning & impact seems so self-indulgent and hypocritical. We have so many other really worrisome events going on in the world. We do not have the right to forever treat him with scorn and anger. There, but for the grace of God, go I. Peace.
Part of the problem is that while we can forgive Will Smith and accept his apology, I'll find it difficult not to place an asterisk after his name. I won't be able to watch him perform without remembering that incident.
I'd hate it if I was judged for my worst moments, because I've had some bad ones. Yes, give the guy a break. It isn't like he was in the Trump administration.
I fully agree, and am so happy you chose to make all the distinctions you did in this piece. As ever, your finger is keenly on the pulse, allowing you to lead with wisdom, compassion, generosity and grace. Kareem, you are the BEST!
Kareem, as they say, to err is human, to forgive us divine. You certainly are that.
Inasmuch as I forgive human frailty, Will’s apology rang hollow. I do believe he is remorseful, but his video was empty and missed the point on many levels.
That slap impacted more than Chris Rock and his family, it negatively impacted us, the black community. We have all seen as part of our history, Hattie McDaniels’ Oscar acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, Sidney Poitier’s in 1963 and on and on.
Will’s moment of insanity will now forever be a part of that legacy, that history. In a day when we see all too often acts of violence perpetrated by young people, it brings into question Will’s violent rage against Chris Rock and what it represents to us.
Will would do better if his apology had been sincere and directed, too, to the broader community and in the acting roles he chooses going forward. Another gun glorification ‘Bad Boys’ film certainly is not the answer. His road to contrition will be a life long journey; one that will demonstrate a life devoted to the greater good of humanity.
I fully appreciated your piece today even if I was surprised by your conclusion. You are correct that one would hope there is always room for redemption although that cannelloni lead to the sale of indulgences…
I bc gave never met Will personally and always accepted his „nice“ guy persona until I saw him on an English Talkshow, Graham Norton, where a relatively unknown british comedian cracked a couple of typical English cutting jokes whereupon Will whipped around abd aggressively retorted „do you know who I am“ as if that made any difference. An apology is the first step, but I think the damage he has done as a role model requires more than a short video.
Fabulous post. I shared it on my Facebook Toby Neal Books page with the following:
I started following Kareem's blog after his post very articulately unpacking why Will Smith's "slap heard round the world" was so devastating a fall from grace.
Kareem put into words and captured nuances I never could have, and I was so impressed. Since then, I've continued to be impressed and read his postings every week, whether they are movie recommendations or political rants.
The man is brilliant.
I really enjoyed this chance to watch Will Smith's apology video, and read Kareem's graceful response to it.
As a white person, I often worry about being wrong in saying anything about POC. I am positionally an anti-racist but I still mess up in expressing that, and probably always will.
Kareem, and others like him, help me find words to support, advocate and improve my understanding.
Another reason I'm a Kareem fan: I waited on him at A Pacific Cafe in Kapaa back in the 1990s.
Okay, that's not entirely true...I was a lowly hostess at that fancy restaurant back then, so I didn't actually wait on him, Mike did. (Mike was the senior "important people" waiter.)
But I had to seat Kareem and his wife, and the place was hopping as it usually was, and I couldn't get them a good table--there simply weren't any.
I can still remember the heart-pounding anxiety I felt, scanning the busy open floor for a table to seat them at, as KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR towered over my hostess stand: a presence like a massive redwood tree: serene, lofty, and gracious.
They waited. I sweated.
They were nice. I was nervous as a horse with a yellowjacket on its butt.
I eventually found them a table on the aisle, so Kareem could extend his very long legs and be more comfortable, but otherwise, his table was terrible and I felt bad the whole time.
He never said a word and as far as I know, enjoyed the meal created by our fab chef, Jean-Marie Josselin.
So there ya have it. I'm a fan.
I also love Will Smith's acting, and with this apology, he's astounding, too.
Isn't life tough?
We all struggle and make mistakes, hopefully falling forward in the direction of growth. Extending grace to each other, not perfection, is what makes it all worthwhile.