It’s the slap heard around the world and none of us saw it coming. Not even Will I’d bet. So far, the conversation has centered around Smith’s sensitivity to “just a joke” or Rock’s deserving of the
smackdown for his blatant disrespect of Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia; however, if you had happened to catch Will’s new self-titled autobiography, you’d know that it’s so much deeper than the clickbait provoking reactions being tossed around the world this Monday.
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The Demons that Haunt Us – the coward inside
We all know that Will Smith can take a joke because much of his career has been one. From Seven Pounds to Wild Wild West to Collateral Beauty, our boy from Philly has had his share of losses among his many wins. We also know this because anyone who has reached the heights of success and fame that he has achieved has had to endure more than most of us could fathom. The internal conflict that Chris Rock sparked on Sunday evening; however, had nothing to do with a “joke” and in fact, had little to do with Jada Pinkett Smith. This harmless “joke” thrashed at the most innocent parts of a younger Will Smith who, until the release of his autobiography, battled with a severe imposter syndrome complex painfully rooted in his endless submissions to cowardice: his inability to protect his abused mother, his inability to protect himself from extortion, his inability to protect his children from the expectations of the world and more.
Chivalry Died – the extramarital activities
In section two of Smith’s book, he describes his 25-year marriage to wife Jada, beginning with the first time they met. He graphically describes his desire to be the brave man, lover, father and friend who would provide an exuberant life and sweep his queen off her feet with lavish gestures. The outside world ate it up and viewed the Smith’s as the perfect family. Will admits though, that his ego allowed him to supplant a reality before his eyes that did not truly exist, while wife Jada suffered in silence. In 2020; however, the facade came tumbling down as musical artist August Alsina professed his love for Jada and disclosed details of their extramarital relationship to The Breakfast Club’s radio personality Angela Yee.
The Price of “Perfect”
As the Smith children ventured into Hollywood, Willow abrupt departure from the spotlight, Jaden Smith’s disastrous After Earth performance, along with an already failing marriage forced Will to question if any of the “perfection” that he had created around him meant anything at all. Spoiler alert! It didn’t. And thus began his journey of self-discovery, facing fears and living his truth in reality. On his journey, he began to root out his fears and obliterate them with great determined intention. From the closing end of Will Smith’s 432-page autobiography, I see the 2022 Oscar clash with comedian Chris Rock as just another challenge made and another challenge accepted.
I write this article for one reason actually and that is to discuss the idea of empathy. Every day, thanks to the blessing of the internet, we have access to the world in a way that our ancestors never imagined. We have the power to learn more of what we think we know and challenge ourselves to find out just how little we know; however, most often we’re on a mission to confirm our own beliefs. When I look at how pop culture pokes fun at this skirmish between two ridiculously wealthy men without thought of empathy it reminds me of how we do the same even on a local level. We form opinions that self soothe, we unleash our anger on the slow-driving idiot, we judge what others should have done and give no thought to the layers upon which what we see is built.
After reading Will Smith’s book and witnessing what happened at the Oscars, I felt empathy. Not acceptance, not dismissal, not pride, but rather an empathy. Such empathy is the first step toward solving some of our world’s biggest problems today.
P.S. Start with Will Smith’s book Will. It’s such a delight to live the story with him, especially if you listen to his audiobook narrated by the man himself. His attention to detail and determination to teach will likely act as a toolbelt for you as you face some of your life’s highest highs and lowest lows.