We remember the scene. Will Smith ascends the stage and pimp slaps Chris Rock. Let’s set aside what we now know about these two men in particular and the extenuating circumstances that have come to light since this slap heard round the world, and take it instead entirely at its initial face value.
Mr Rock, a comedian, made a joke in his routine at the expense of Mr Smith’s wife who was at his side in the audience. Mr Smith took offence and walloped Mr Rock. The immediate reaction of men everywhere was ‘He had it coming. You do not disrespect another man’s wife.’
Men understand that there are certain lines you do not cross without risking retribution at the hands of other men. This is part of an inborn code within men that both keeps men from killing each other and that allows them to work together. A code that all men who have lived to be thirty years of age outside of prison have successfully learned to obey. The fortunate ones were taught by their daddy when they were little bitty. The lesson would be brought home on the playground, and if that didn’t do the trick, well adolescence can be a hard master.
At its root is respect. A man will have it if he can. Namely, respect for his himself, his property, and those he loves. But a normal, emotionally sound man will have a particularly visceral reaction to the mistreatment of the females in his family with whom he has bonded, usually starting with his mother, then to include his sisters, his wife, and, perhaps most intensely, his daughters.
Men get it and women understand instinctively that this instinct in their men is the bedrock of their security on this fruitful and dangerous planet.
In that instant this slap reminded all men everywhere of this code, and for that reason alone it was good to see.
However, as usual, losing one’s cool rarely produces good fruit as I imagine Mr Smith will agree. He has after all apologised since to Mr Rock and I think rightly so. The real culprit was in the audience, and unlike most wives, was not worth the consideration. But that is another story.
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