Emancipation, Will Smith’s first major film after his Oscars slap fiasco, is finally set to hit theaters this weekend. But arguably, the question on everybody’s mind is whether or not Hollywood—and the audiences that make the movie business so lucrative—will be ready to embrace the King Richard star back into the fold.
It’s a sentiment that Smith himself said he “completely understands” and “respects;” he said as much during an interview in promotion for the film with Variety.
“I completely understand—if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” Smith explained. “My deepest concern is my team–Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career. The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team. At this point, that’s what I’m working for.”
He continued, “I’m hoping that the material—the power of the film, the timeliness of the story—I’m hoping that the good that can be done would open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”
Well said, Will. Well said.
At a time where celebrities and influential figures are so quick to label the consequences of their own actions—egregious or otherwise—as “cancel culture” wreaking havoc, it’s almost refreshing to see someone handle backlash this...graciously?
I mean, think about it: Will has apologized to Chris Rock and attempted to reach out to make amends, he’s apologized to his family, his wife, the Academy and to the general public. He took a break from social media and is really only popping out more because a movie he’d ALREADY BEEN WORKING ON has reached the final stages and he’s probably obligated to promote it. Aside from his initial post-Slap speech at the Oscars, he hasn’t made any more excuses for what he did and has owned up to his wrongdoing. And he’s gotten punished by the powers that be for the next 10 years.
So while I understand the burning question I posed at the beginning of this piece, I also can’t help but also wonder: When is someone allowed to move on from one negative moment in time? Are we all just the sum of our worst mistakes? Or is there room for redemption? Of course, I understand the notion that you can’t dictate how long it takes someone to get over something and heal. But let’s be clear: Will Smith harmed Chris Rock. He didn’t touch anyone else but him. If Chris Rock still isn’t over it, that’s his right.
But all this other grandstanding from folks in Hollywood who are highkey getting so much joy out of magnifying Smith’s one major misdeed and seeing the “fall” of a one of the industry’s brightest stars they probably were jealous of in the first place is starting to become very obvious and very played out. It’s also telling AF that some industry insiders have sooooo much smoke for Smith all while still being buddy-buddy and making excuses for other celebs who’ve done or been accused of categorically WORSE actions.
I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just grown tired of all The Slap talk. Maybe it’s naïve of me to feel fatigued. But maybe—just maybe—in the nine months it’s been since this whole fiasco took place, I’m just ready to move on from this and I’m waiting for Will Smith to be given the space to be able to move on from it, too.