TRUE OPINION: A million hot takes have already been written about actor Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock in the face during the live telecast of the Academy Awards, but this hot take is the best one yet, writes Kieran Butler.
I like politics and I like musicals. Jesus Christ Superstar has been a favourite of mine for 40 years because of Tim Rice’s approach to telling the story of Jesus and Judas through the lens of the politics of the time. Playing Jesus in a stage production of Superstar was on my bucket list by the time I turned 12. I got to do it when I was 20. I was really good. I made girls cry when I sung Gethsemane. That is pretty much all you want to do when you’re 20.
I have recently fallen head over heels for Hamilton for much the same reason. I can’t listen to the song Unimaginable without crying. In years gone by, this would lead most men to question their sexuality. Ironically, my wife still claims that it was my love of musicals that sealed the deal. Who knew?
I have also practiced the art form of stand up comedy in my shitty career as a performing artist. It’s a dangerous job. I have been threatened with violence more than once. At least one person has taken a swing at me. I am quite certain it was a woman.
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I know the look I saw on Chris Rock’s face at the Oscars only too well. It’s terrifying when it happens, because you never quite expect it. Part of the job is to say the unsayable – if you are game enough to do so. To take risks. To possibly cause real offence. Patrice O’Neal is credited with saying that the best gigs are when 50% of the audience is genuinely horrified, and the rest are laughing their arses off.
Hamilton describes in detail the dueling process. It is the long lost art of settling the types of disputes that move men to violence. I should probably have written ‘people’ instead of ‘men’. Somewhere, out there, a feminist just sent me down for a hate crime. Women are just as capable as men of participating in a duel. Amirite ladies?
What Chris Rock was doing was roasting in the American tradition. Americans roast and they roast well. What makes a proper roast fun to watch is how close to the bone people are prepared to go. Not all of it is good. Some of it is downright cruel. It is part of a rich tradition.
On Oscar night, 2022, America changed the rules about roasting. Now, if you feel like it, you can punch anyone who roasts a little bit too hard and gets it wrong. If Will Smith’s wife were a man with a baldhead from cancer treatment, the idea of his wife walking onstage to slap a comedian who made a joke about it would be the subject of ridicule and derision. Says so much about this so called equality we keep being told feminism is all about, doesn’t it?
After crying about being a “vessel of love”, Will Smith has now apologised for assaulting Chris Rock. Who gives a fuck! Seems pretty hollow after he chose not to do it in the immediate aftermath. It was a coward’s slap. Rock actually leans forward to listen to what Smith might have had to say. He is completely blindsided.
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Despite Smith’s media managed statements to the contrary, the whole incident confirms that violence is exactly how most people really prefer to settle their differences. It is in our DNA.
I therefore submit that we bring back dueling. This would have presented Smith with the option of saying to Rock “I demand satisfaction. At sunrise on the morrow, let us take a boat to New Jersey, and, in accordance with the remaining nine duel commandments, settle this like gentlemen”. I have no doubt that Rock would have apologised on the spot.
Modern dueling must be done with dueling pistols similar to those used by Aaron Burr to shoot Alexander Hamilton. Considering the advances made by modern medicine, I doubt many people would spend more than a week in hospital as a result.
I am so convinced that we need to return this historical method of settling disputes between one another; I am adding it as a policy to my suite of policies when I run in the seat of Hawke at the upcoming Australian federal election.
“Most disputes die and no one shoots” – Lin Manuel Miranda