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Front Page Talking Points

FOR THE WEEK OF APR 04, 2022

Actor Will Smith stirs wide-ranging discussions about his slap of Oscars host Chris Rock

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1.gifFind a quote in a column, article or reader letter that reflects your reaction to what happened. Why do you agree"

2.gifSummarize coverage of a different dispute or clash – local or international.

3.gifCan you spot an example of harmony, calmness or relaxation in a photo or news topic?

It's called the slap heard around the world. It happened, as you surely know, during the Academy Awards show in Los Angeles on March 27, and it remains a hot topic more than a week later. Shortly before winning a Best Actor award, Will Smith reacted dramatically to a tasteless wisecrack about his wife by Chris Rock, host of the globally televised live program. Smith walked on stage, slapped the astonished comedian and moments later cursed at him. The actor was angry at a joke about a bald Jada Pinkett Smith looking like she could star in "G.I. Jane 2." (Her hair was buzz-cut short because of a medical condition.) "There are no heroes in this story," comments Roxanne Gay, a New York Times columnist.

"Love will make you do crazy things," Smith said in his acceptance speech on the same stage. A day later, he apologized to Rock in an Instagram post ("I was out of line and I was wrong") and on Friday quit the film academy amid continued fallout. "I am heartbroken," he said in a statement and called his actions "shocking, painful and inexcusable." For his part, Rock said at the start of a Boston performance: "I'm still kinda processing what happened. At some point I'll talk about that." Smith’s wife said on Instagram: “This is a season of healing and I’m here for it."

Wide-ranging commentaries on TV, in publications and on social media focus on how Smith's outburst raises issues of male violence ("toxic masculinity"), sexism, race, privilege, role modeling and even the related topic of domestic violence because some abused women have heard phrases such as "love will make you do crazy things." In a New York Times podcast, columnist Roxanne Gay noted that "women can stand up for themselves. … I thought, who asked for his protection?" In the same discussion, opinion page colleague Charles Blow commented: "The masculine response to conflict and trouble cannot be violent. It is really a problem. ... When men use valor and chivalry as a shield to mask aggression, that we have to call that out . … That is not OK. That is not the way love is expressed."

Will Smith says: "A joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. . . . I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence." – A day after the slap

Motion Picture Academy says: "The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith. . . . We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences."

Columnist says: "Will Smith might have believed he was protecting his wife. But violence performed in the name of protecting wronged women only steals away the attention from where it belongs: on the wronged woman." – Monica Hesse, The Washington Post

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2022

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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

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