Thank You, Will Smith

Credit: Getty Images

Thank you for responding in the affirmative to Mark Manson’s requirement that you be honest about who and what you are as a human being. That prologue makes your recent reaction at the Academy Awards to a joke by an emcee ̶ a comic hired for that purpose ̶ both understandable and prescient.

This gratitude in no way excuses your reaction to Chris Rock’s silly joke, but your willingness to get out of your chair, cross the Rubicon of national television and make a complete ass of yourself gives me permission to forgive myself for all those times when I absolutely insisted that my ego be put on trial in the court of public opinion, and then spending the rest of my life eating generous helpings of “crow” among my much smaller and more intimate audiences and witness to my growth in the public space.

Growing up in public is a taboo activity that, perhaps, ought to be made into the spectator sport that our present media incarnations use it as. Showing our collective asses in public as individuals is considered taboo, meanwhile our societies engage in this activity in the public sphere all the time and call it, “diplomacy.”

But there is nothing diplomatic about slapping the piss out of someone who bothers to give free publicity to your media-starved spouse in the form of satire and mocking, it is more like self-immolation. Rumor has it that Jada goaded Will Smith to tilt at this particular windmill, which is consistent with her increasingly controversial public persona. It is also consistent with the post-Alan-Alada-Phil-Donahue ethos of masculinity that, unknowingly, most forward-thinking American males have been burdened with. So we want to be real men for whom women respect and are attracted to, but we were raised by a variety of Gary Cooper impersonators who had two settings on their emotional knobs ̶ abject, indignant rage and stoic calm. In between exists the stuff of science fiction and fantasy where public ridicule, private exploration, media and publicity are about the only repose from silent retreats of meditation and public meltdowns.

My gratitude is to Will Smith not because he embarrassed himself or slapped the piss out of Chris Rock, but because he has made it more safe for me to risk learning more about this unknown, cavernous, unilluminated and terrifying space we refer to as, “Personhood for Dummies.” Gendered male edition.

Unlike Daniel Levinson’s groundbreaking research, however, we only have spectacular examples to educate us with tales of epic failure. And, in case you didn’t notice, Will Smith engaged in an epic failure on almost every socially acceptable milestone of personhood, but one: honesty. He really did not know what he did not know except to indulge his inflamed ego all the way to Calvary. Nailed to his cross he wailed in pain, signaling to males everywhere that the path to personhood as a man has been booby-trapped with martyrdom and Old Spice After Shave.

It beats Brylcreem, but not by much. We still use way more petroleum byproducts than we should, and we engage in back-handed misogyny far too often.

But thank you, Will. Hopefully I have learned your painful lesson*.

* If you could continue your “life partnership” with Jada by abandoning your current incarnation of this relationship all the way into an actual contented relationship with a healthy female of moderate ambition, I know I would be much happier for you.

And so would you.

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