Simple Complicated Assault
We do not operate in a vacuum. Our actions as Black people, whether fair or not, have ramifications across our full diaspora. It’s always bigger than you! I represent a legacy that has a significant impact on our culture. This was an unforced error of mind-blowing proportions. No one wins, the culture loses. Profound sadness.
Last night’s assault on Chris Rock by Will Smith will reverberate for decades. Progress is a continuum that is unduly influenced by celebrity and wealth. As a Black man, it was painful and heartbreaking to see Will Smith choose to take that long walk up to Chris Rock, assault him, then take a long walk back and continue to be verbally aggressive, hyperbolic, and foul. Every step represented an off-ramp, an off-ramp for sanity, an off-ramp for respect, and an off-ramp for all of Will’s fans to see this icon do the right thing. Decisions have consequences, some seen but most are not. Allow me to dive into the unseen and the profoundly unfortunate. A dive into the numbers.
Hollywood is a $200 billion Industry
Will Smith has an estimated net worth of $400 million. Chris Rock has an estimated net worth of $100 million. Combined it’s a half a billion dollars in value. These are no longer individuals, they are institutions. Institutions that employ hundreds of people.
So in one swoop, Will’s slap immediately impacted Chris and Will’s families and employees, the 3,400 people inside the Dolby Theatre, the 15.36 million viewers watching live, the tens of millions of viewers watching replays online. Now it’s a top international news story with billions of viewers.
Among those billions of eyeballs are plenty of Hollywood decision-makers, film insurance professionals, and film financiers. The cost to insure Will Smith immediately went up, even higher if he is charged with assault, battery, or both.
For a film with a budget of $100 million, cast insurance typically costs $350,000 for 10-12 people.
Insurance is great at mitigating risk. Injury on set is covered under “standard or covered peril.” However, “problem actors” can require additional add ons like, “incarceration insurance, absentee insurance, and mental health insurance”.
This can drive costs from $350,000 to $700,000 to $1 million per 10-12 cast members.
The problem is, like all insurance, the algorithms are secret and internal. So theoretically, it could cost more to insure a Black man or Black woman. Just like a red sports car is more expensive than other colors to insure. The impact of that one unhinged moment will have ramifications for decades to come.
Hollywood has been hard on Black people. Current generations are supposed to make it not easy but easier for the next. Sidney Poitier made it easier for Denzel and Denzel made it easier for Will. The next generation just got denied that generational goodwill. Again, this is not undue weight on an individual but on an iconic institution. An institution that is well-oiled with handlers for every need. Inside that protective bubble of Hollywood elite that protection bubble steps back assuming institutions will behave. And when they don’t they impact other institutions which impacts commerce which impacts behavior for future decision makers. Parameters and protocols will change. The Will S. protocol is being drafted as we speak. Actions have reactions that typically are massively larger than perceived.
But that’s just dollars and cents. What about the emotional impact? Stealing one’s joy. That math is infinite too.
Let’s start with the core and move out. Richard Williams, Venus and Serena, and the entire Williams family. You threw their father under the bus to justify your outrageous behavior. Their moment was infinitely blighted by your actions.
First-time Black producer Will Packer and his team brought together new elements showcasing and including Black culture — DJ D Nice, Robert Glasper, Shelia E, a Black choir, all of the Black ushers and facilitators, Black music, Black culture, Questlove, Attica, and all of the other docs.
So many peoples’ lives were negatively impacted by one man’s actions. We can and must do better. This was not keeping it 100, you lost those rights once you became an institution. So apologize to Philadelphia and Baltimore because you dragged them down too. You can’t be Fortune 500 by day and keepin’ it 100 by night.
I hope Will gets the help he so clearly needs. Nothing but gratitude and respect for Chris Rock. An institution I still rock with.
With deep clarity,
When the smoke clears, and the hyperactive adults with spinner wheels leave the room, can we retreat to the furthest corner of dignity and thank Chris Rock? What an example of class, priorities, and professionalism. Rock’s response was everything I could ever hope for if I was ever put into such a profoundly embarrassing situation. A true Masterclass in professionalism. In Will Smith’s selfish and emotional overreaction, Chris Rock’s demeanor and recovery spoke volumes. In that premature and unhinged moment, Will managed to squander so many people’s pursuit of happiness. The best documentary category was marred as was the rest of the event — Will Packer’s all-Black production team, oh, and Black people all over the world.
A Masterclass in class:
Chris gets paid to clown, to tell jokes and if we’re being honest that joke was benign. Cue all of the recently minted experts on Alopecia now that they moved on from their mastery of Covid and virology. Note: GI Jane was a kick-ass glamor symbol who rocked the hell out of her bald head and physical fitness, played by Demi Moore at the height of her career. The joke, regardless of diagnosis, was typical fodder and folly for the occasion. Alopecia is not terminal cancer. It’s preposterous to assume everyone is aware of your diagnosis. I consume copious amounts of news yet was completely unaware of Jada’s condition. Jada is a beautiful, fashion-forward queen. She looked amazing last night. In fact, the GI Jane references to me seemed complimentary. I saw and enjoyed the film. A point I think Rock himself was making when he was bewildered and referenced it was a damn GI Jane joke. The Hollywood elite are significantly out of touch with the folks who pay to watch their films. The roast-like aspect of the show is intended to humanize not deeply offend. The impact is that the roastee can rise above the jabs and showcase their humility and sense of humor. The Smiths have attended countless Oscars yet behaved like they never got the memo. So now the Academy must decide what to do. Black folks behaving badly and now white folks have to lean in. A true shame of surreal proportions.
Chris Rock everybody, a masterclass in dignity, mindfulness, and perspective.
Thank you, Chris, I love and appreciate you.
Your friend, fan, and brother,