Chris Rock Called Everyone Out For Hypocrisy. Did Anyone Notice?
In a day and age where Presidential primaries, MSNBC, and Fox News have made politics into entertainment, Chris Rock made America uncomfortable by making the Oscars political. For those blindsided by Chris Rock’s theme last night, large segments of black social media and social justice warriors called for Chris Rock to join Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Spike Lee, Roger Ross Williams, Ryan Coogler, and Ava DuVerney to boycott the Oscars by dropping out as host.
He rejected that call and used the platform for dialogue. If Chris Rock boycotted, it would have dramatically heightened awareness to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and the lack of black nominees, but as he pointed out time and time again throughout the night awareness isn’t enough. This morning the Washington Post’s Jessica Contrera went after Chris Rock for what she felt and others felt was a joke in poor taste about Asians while somehow also ignoring that there was a reference to Jewish people within the joke. What goes missing to Ms. Contrera and the rest of those offended is Chris Rock’s punch line. By pointing out that we are all aware of child labor but continue to use devices created in part by child labor, we’re as hypocritical as the Academy. The Academy leadership stated this week that there is a need for change and that they were aware of the issue of the lack of black nominees.
Rock’s cutting humor spared no one. Feminists were appalled at his joke about the “Ask Her More” movement while ignoring the underlying context of Rock’s humor. The same man who earlier pointed out that gender divisions in the acting category were utterly arbitrary and that an actor like Meryl Streep is not chasing any man also stated that asking about clothes is not inherently sexist. The red carpet is a conveyor belt of Hollywood’s elite where each interviewer generally gets under a minute to ask a question. The consuming public doesn’t care about men’s suits so interviewers end up asking questions not related to clothes, but the consuming public does care about the outfit of the female stars as illustrated by the thousands of magazines and websites dedicated to praising/critiquing outfits. Women are aware of the problem of the imbalanced questions, but consumption habits have not changed.
Even a small subtle joke came at the expense of the LGBTQ community, when Chris Rock refused to make a joke after Sam Smith won because Rock didn’t want to get in trouble. In a joke ignored by most, it surely wasn’t lost on comedians like Bill Maher and Adam Carolla who have pointed out in the past that the backlash from offending the LGBTQ community can be absurdly damaging. Rock was pushing the sensitivity buttons on everyone.
While white liberal Hollywood was the primary target of his opening dialogue, Rock pointed out how unemployed (presumably black) people asked him to quit a job hosting in solidarity with the boycotters. In a time where the middle class is struggling, Rock pointed out that as unfair as it was for Will Smith not to get a nomination for “Concussion” it was also unfair that Smith got paid millions for the disaster “Wild Wild West”. He went after the black community for not protesting before by reminding everyone that this isn’t the first time in Oscars history that black people weren’t nominated. Later in a joke missed by many, he went after conservative black woman Stacy Dash who has offended large segments of the black community by declaring her the director of minority outreach.
Truly great comedians are philosophers who use laughter to hide their knives. In his 30 year career, Chris Rock has always been an uncomfortable comedian who lives on the line by pointing out problems on both sides of any problem. He spent last night doing philosophy in front of the whole world by cutting everyone to bits. Perhaps, the public should heed his call that awareness is not enough and that changing ourselves is just as important.