Chris Rock criticized for his latest take on The Slap, blaming the conflict on Jada Pinkett Smith

One year on, Chris Rock is back to share more thoughts on being slapped by Will Smith—but people aren’t necessarily here for his take.

The reactions to Rock’s new Netflix special are decidedly mixed, with many commenters expressing sympathy for Jada Pinkett Smith and accusing Rock of reframing the story in a sexist, tone-deaf manner.

At this point, we’ve heard every opinion under the sun regarding what went down at the 2022 Oscars. However, the basic facts are these: While Chris Rock was presenting the Oscar for best documentary feature, Will Smith walked onstage and slapped him across the face, saying, “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!” Smith was referring to a joke Rock made earlier about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, implicitly mocking her alopecia.

But during his new Netflix special Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, Rock suggested that Will Smith was actually motivated by conflicts in his marriage. “Everybody knows his wife was fucking her son’s friend,” Rock said, expressing disbelief about the Smiths’ decision to discuss their relationship issues in public, and quipping that everyone at the time was calling Will Smith a bitch.

Rock also referenced Jada Pinkett Smith’s role in the 2016 Oscars boycott, when she and Spike Lee skipped the ceremony to protest the lack of diversity among nominees. Chris Rock hosted the Oscars that year, and faced pressure to step down in solidarity with the #OscarsSoWhite movement, something he framed in a more personal light during this Netflix special.

“Years ago, [Will Smith’s] wife said I should quit the Oscars,” he said. “I shouldn’t host ’cause her man didn’t get nominated for concussion. And then he gives me a fucking concussion.” (To the audience’s confusion, he had to tell this joke twice because he flubbed a line and namechecked Will Smith’s 2022 movie emancipation instead of concussion.)

“A lot of people go, Chris, how come you didn’t do nothing back?” hey. concluded “’Cause I got parents, that’s why! … And you know what my parents taught me? Don’t fight in front of white people!”

However, this mic-drop moment didn’t earn much sympathy on Twitter, as detractors accused him of hypocrisy regarding the “don’t fight in front of white people” comment. This overlapped with accusations of disrespecting Black women, criticizing the way he singled out Meghan Markle and Jada Pinkett Smith.

The section focusing on the slap inevitably inspired the biggest reaction on social media, but the wider critical response was similarly underwhelming. Right now, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage has a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Hollywood Reporters‘s review describing his material as “stale” and “somewhere between dated and embalmed.”

Unfortunately, though, this won’t be the last we’ve heard about the Slap. The topic will surely come up during the live Oscars broadcast this weekend—and judging by the history of scripted Oscars monologues, the jokes there will be even staler.


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*First Published: Mar 6, 2023, 12:08 pm CST

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw Chris Rock criticized for his latest take on The Slap, blaming the conflict on Jada Pinkett Smith

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