He had every right to be offended when Chris Rock made a crass gag about his wife Jada Pinkett’s hair when she suffers from alopecia. And he would have been hailed a hero if he’d walked onto the stage to say that such insults are unbecoming of the Academy Awards and the modern world.
But that Smith slapped Rock, and then used X-rated language to condemn the stand-up comedian, saw the ceremony become as tawdry as the build-up to a Las Vegas boxing bout when showbusiness should have been lauding the 53-year-old for his Oscar-winning portrayal of the tennis coach Richard Williams in King Richard.
As MPs like Tory backbencher Simon Hoare defend Smith, the actor’s actions raise uncomfortable issues which cannot be ignored on this side of the Atlantic. Domestic abuse is rife. Women are the victims of misogyny on a daily basis. There are children taking their own lives because of bullying. Yet, tragically, there will be impressionable young men who regard Smith as such a role model that they’re misguided enough to believe that his physical and verbal violence is acceptable. It is not. And the fact that, as a consequence, there will be school pupils who think that they, too, can replicate the actor’s behaviour against classmates is another reminder why youngsters need to be encouraged to look up to those male role models who have more self-control than Will Smith.
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