In 2005, Chris Rock hosted the Oscars. That night, Sean Penn presented the Best Actress category, but his frowning face grew more serious with the “jokes” directed at his colleague, Jude Law.
“You want Tom Cruise, and all you get is Jude Law? Wait. It’s not the same thing, okay? Who is Jude Law? Why is he in every movie I’ve seen in the last four years? He’s in everything. Even the movies he’s not acting in – if you look at the credits, he made cupcakes or something. He’s in everything. He’s gay, he’s straight, he’s American, he’s British. Next year he will play Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a movie! If you don’t get a star, wait, ok?”, fired Chris in the opening monologue to an uncomfortable audience that didn’t find the slightest humor in the aggression toward the actor who wasn’t even present.
When Sean took the stage, before. talking about the nominees, he shot looking at Chris: “” Forgive my lack of humor, but Jude Law is one of our most talented actors”, he defended. Chris Rock shrugged. Because like Ricky Gervais, he loses his friend, but he doesn’t lose the joke.
Some point out that Chris’ rudeness about the high demand surrounding Jude Law in those years was not exaggerated. What he meant was not about artistic talent, but something that in Hollywood has greater weight: artistic power, something that time would have proven to be lacking in the English actor who never exploded at the box office to become a big star, like Will Smith, for example.
Being the focus of the joke is not pleasant and Jude himself admitted years later that he was hurt.
“At first I laughed because I didn’t think he knew who I was,” Jude said in an interview about that night. “So I got angry when his remarks, I felt, became more personal. My friends were livid. I was thrilled when Sean [Penn] came to my defense. As a celebrity, I know I’m fair game for a lot of things I don’t like, but [Chris] Rock crossed the line when he made his point and got his laugh, so apparently, he wouldn’t stop. It’s very unfortunate that I have five or six movies out at the same time. However, I had no control over it.”
Many years later, the tone of the hurt became even clearer.
““I will be very sincere. Chris Rock cursing me at the Oscars was upsetting. It felt like, ‘Fuck, am I that guy you make fun of?’ Obviously, I realized that a joke is a joke. Either way, it could have been anyone.”
In 2016, when he returned to lead the party, it was the year of the never-so-white Oscars, in which Chris was one of the rare black people present. In the opening, he attacked Jada Pinkett-Smith, who had suggested a boycott of the ceremony for lack of diversity.
“Jada said she’s not coming. I was like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Is Jada going to boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” People – apparently – laughed. And clearly, the hurt remained.
The “joke” about the actress’ shaved hair was improvised and very misinformed. Jada shared with the world that she suffers from Alopecia and that she chose to go bald by choice before her hair fell out completely. It was an act of courage more than vanity. But the fact that her statements have often been taken as gossip, especially when she opened up about the infidelities that were accepted by Will Smith – which were used on the same night for a joke by Regina Hall – seems to have pushed the star over the edge. Or rather, to lose the limit. First, Will laughed, even if it was forced, but when he saw that Jada didn’t like the joke, he decided to take satisfaction right then and there. For an unbeliever Chris Rock and an even more shocking world.
If Ricky Gervais had gone through this at the Golden Globes in 2012, it would have been less shocking. Which doesn’t mean Chris had the right to tease a woman for her hair (or lack thereof). In fact, making fun of women about any personal matter is wrong, period. It’s the problem with humor these days, but let them overcome the challenge. Chris certainly, as a man of his time, did not see the error. Will, as a man of his time, also doesn’t see the absurdity of having been the male going to defend the female with violence. Jada is very smart and able to defend herself. Don’t laugh or go there to put Chris in his place. But slap?
If everyone hated Chris, now the Prince of Bel-Air isn’t very popular either. And so he will be remembered forever: the actor who, on the night he won his Oscar, slapped a presenter who otherwise might have been forgotten in history, but will now never be erased. All wrong…