The 94th Academy Awards are continuing to have unusually long-lasting effects, some of which are larger than others. For example, Will Smith is feeling the kind of fallout in his otherwise exemplary career that is causing movies to be canceled and presumably lots of jobs for behind-the-scenes, non-Will Smith famous people to also be canceled. In another example, Kenny Rock, the younger brother of comedian Chris Rock, wants to fight Smith in a celebrity boxing match. It could be argued that one of those effects is more important than the other, but the younger Rock seems firm in his challenge to the star of The Pursuit of Happyness. Let’s unpack this.
As we all know, at the recent Oscars ceremony, comedian Chris Rock was presenting the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Incidentally, that award went to the fantastic film Summer of Soul, which was accepted by filmmaker/musician/DJ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, David Dinerstein, and Robert Fyvolent. As part of his announcement as to the winner, Chris Rock cheerfully mischaracterized Joseph Patel (who is of South Asian descent) as one of “four white guys,” but notably Patel did not physically strike Rock for this inconsiderate joke at his expense. More famously, when Rock did make a joke at the expense of actor Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith walked on stage, struck Chris Rock across the face, and then proceeded to return to his seat and yell at the comic from there. About fifteen minutes later, Smith won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard.
Now, Chris Rock’s brother Kenny Rock has signed a deal for a boxing match with Damon Feldman, the founder of Official Celebrity Boxing. Previous matches for Feldman’s enterprise have included former Clinton Administration employee Paula Jones vs disgraced competitive figure skater Tonya Harding, former professional baseball player Jose Canseco vs former child actor Danny Bonaduce, and current Lindsay Lohan parent Michael Lohan vs former O.J. Simpson houseguest Kato Kaelin. Kenny Rock himself is an actor, and does not as of yet have an opponent lined up. He has stated he is willing to fight pretty much anyone, but would particularly like to fight the man who slapped his elder brother. As the younger Rock puts it, the violence at the award ceremony was less disturbing than the lack of respect that it showed for his sibling. Here are his specific words:
It eats at me watching it over and over again because you’ve seen a loved one being attacked and there’s nothing you can do about it. Every time I’m watching the videos, it’s like a rendition that just keeps going over and over in my head. My brother was no threat to him and you just had no respect for him at that moment. You just belittled him in front of millions of people that watch the show.
It is unlikely that Will Smith will respond to this challenge in the name of defending Chris Rock’s honor. For one thing, although it took a few days, he took to social media to extend an apology to Rock for his actions. For another, Smith then voluntarily resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, becoming one of only three people to ever do so. Finally, he has already been punished by the Academy with a ten-year ban from re-joining or participating in any of its events. And given that Will Smith went through reportedly inhumanly intense boxing training for the Michael Man Muhammed Ali biopic Ali, it is probably good for Kenny Rock that it is so unlikely.