In a profile recently published by the Wall Street Journal, Zoë Kravitz reflected on the backlash she received after making a snarky little comment about Will Smith smacking the shit out of Chris Rock on live television, saying it's “a scary time to have an opinion or to say the wrong thing.”
And you know what? She’s right. Some of y’all lost your damn minds because of this.
Let's be honest: Someone getting slapped at the Academy Awards would, on its face, easily be the most shocking thing to happen at Hollywood’s annual navel-gazing banquet. But Will Smith doing the slapping takes this to a whole 'nother level. (Part of me is still not completely convinced it wasn’t some ill-advised publicity stunt.) It’s nowhere near the most shameful thing to happen at the Oscars; it can’t touch the disrespect Sacheen Littlefeather faced or the institutional racism to which Black and Brown artists have been subjected for decades. But, yeah, Will Smith slapping Chris Rock was absolutely bizarre.
There’s no legitimate reason to relentlessly harass someone online because they think it’s not cool to slap somebody.
However, almost everyone’s “take” on The Slap was unhinged. You can't really judge people for being triggered or shocked as a trauma response to violence. But in your heart of hearts, do you think that many people in the world actually care about a man slapping another man? Did anybody really think Will Smith could have killed Chris Rock with a slap? Did you really believe that, Judd?
At the end of the day, though, the people who made a game out of harassing those who expressed stupid or dissenting opinions about watching someone get slapped on TV (some of them were in person at the Dolby Theatre, too) were the biggest losers in the whole situation. There’s no legitimate reason to relentlessly harass someone online because they think it’s not cool to slap somebody.
The online mob culture is a beast that doesn’t know how to appropriately address its subjects. If it deems any act wrong, it strikes with a full bite of venom and its results could prove tragic—Constance Wu attempted suicide due to harassment she received after tweeting about not wanting to be on a TV show. The Bey Hive is so ugly Beyoncé probably don’t really like them all that much. If you become Twitter’s main character for any reason, folks will make your life hell. Targets of the vitriol could always just close the app and touch grass, I suppose, but that’s not the point—the psychological damage is already done. There are a lot of things we can do to make our miserable little lives a little better, but this ain’t it.
In the profile, Kravitz also added that one can’t "make controversial art or statements or thoughts or anything." This may sound a bit too anti cancel culture, but there's a fine line. Making a truly controversial film right now sounds like a stupid idea if you care about internet backlash because—justified or not—backlash will follow.