Why Mental Health Professionals Should Evaluate Will Smith


Will Smith’s brazen attack on Chris Rock at the Oscars is telling. That is why mental health professionals need to evaluate his behavior. Image: Instagram

Will Smith’s brazen attack on comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars continues to be jarring for many people. Such a display of violence is telling, and that is why mental health professionals need to evaluate Will Smith’s behavior.


Since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on the Oscars stage, I have been asked many times what I think about the episode. My response was always, “Thank you, Chris Rock.” The follow-up question was always, “What do you mean. Thank you, Chris Rock?” Often, I shy away from continuing the conversations because of the unfathomable passion that dictates them. My feeling is that the situation could have been worse had Chris responded differently. Also, I think Will Smith’s behavior points to a larger problem. That is why mental health professionals must evaluate his mental acuity.

To understand Will’s behavior at the Oscars, it is best to start with an examination of the joke.

The G.I. Jane Joke

A lot has been said about the joke that got Chris Rock the dirty slap he got from Will Smith. Many keep mentioning Jada’s alopecia as if that was what the joke was about. Absolutely not! The joke was about her short haircut and how it looks like that of G.I. Jane in the movie of the same title.  

Did the G.I. Jane Joke Disparage Jada Pinkett Smith?

No, it did not. G.I. Jane, starring Demi Moore as Jordan O’Neil, is a movie about a female naval officer who succeeds in a patriarchal environment. Her struggles, determination, and survival proved that women are in no way less than men. The feminist undertone makes G.I. Jane a rallying cry for women fighting for gender equality.

Chris Rock’s G.I. Jane joke did not disparage Jada. Comparing her to G.I. Jane is putting her on the same pedestal as a hero who proved that women can hold their own in any profession. In fact, to be likened to G.I. Jane is to be a hero. By extension, it is possible to conclude that Chris Rock was advocating for Jada to be in the second G.I. Jane movie.  Perhaps he thinks she is good enough to play Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil.

All those linking Chris Rock’s joke to Jada’s alopecia need to take time to watch the video of the slap at the Oscar again. Even after Will slapped Chris Rock, he repeated several times that the joke was about G.I. Jane. “Wow, dude. It is a G.I. Jane joke,” he said repeatedly. This proves that Chris Rock had no ill will, pardon the pun, toward Jade or Will. His joke was not about alopecia but about an exceptional movie character who looks like Jada.

Displaced Aggression

Could Will slapping Chris be the case of displaced aggression? Perhaps it was. For a better part of the night, comedians poked fun at Jada and Will. Although the couple laughed at most of the jokes, a fit of anger could have been brewing inside Will because many of the jokes touched on Jada’s anomalous behaviors. Contributing to Will’s anger could be the various stories about Jada and her indiscretions that have dominated the news recently.  The humiliation of Will Smith on one of the episodes of the Red Table Talk, where he had to openly discuss his wife’s relationship with a younger man, could have also contributed to brewing rage within.

The cumulative effect of these strange experiences and the mortification they bring can be heart-shattering. Any man will be discomfited by a wife who demonstrates as many solecisms as Jada, especially if you are trying to do the right thing.  Will must have asked himself many questions about what he was doing wrong in his marriage. His bruised and diminishing ego must have forced him to question his own masculinity.  The question then becomes, “How do I redeem my masculinity?”

The Slap: An Explosion of Repressed Anger

When Chris Rock told his joke about Jada, Will found it funny at first. That was until Jada gave him the evil eye. Like a man trying to redeem himself or making an effort to reclaim his masculinity, Will got up from his chair and walked all the way to the stage, where he gave Chris a dirty slap on the face. Then he walked back to his seat and yelled, “Get my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.”

Will’s angry outburst telling Chris to stop talking about his wife seems to suggest that the trigger for the slap may be more than the joke told by Chris Rock. It is possible to conjecture that Will has had it for Chris for a long time, perhaps because of the last joke, he told about Jada not being invited to the Oscars several years ago. So, Will’s reaction to the G.I. Jane joke could be an explosion of repressed anger.

Will Smith could have handled his anger differently. He could have gone backstage to talk to Chris about his feelings. I bet Chris would have apologized and explained that he meant no harm. Will Smith could also have complained to the organizers of the event, who would have done their job of talking to Chris and hooked both of them up for an afternoon beer session. Sadly, Will chose violence. Yes, in front of the whole world. What a calamity.

Weeping Hollow

When Will got his Oscars for best actor, he cried and said so many things, including that “Love will make you do crazy things.” Well, Mr. Will Smith, crazy things should not be a display of violence in front of the whole world. Here are some suggestions of the crazy things love can make you do.  One crazy thing could have been putting beautiful red rose petals on the Oscars hall floor as your wife walked in to prove your love. Another crazy thing could be buying ad time for millions of dollars during the Oscars presentations to sing love songs to your wife.  Injuring others because of love will land you where you least expect it, Mr. Smith.  

Will Smith Should Be Evaluated by Mental Health Professionals

Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals are probably poring over and evaluating Will Smith’s actions at the Oscars. Their focus will almost certainly be on three important factors. One is Will walking all the way from his seat to the stage to slap Chris Rock. The other is his outburst, “Get my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.” The last is the comment, “Love will make you do crazy things.”   

Why will these mental health professionals be looking at Will Smith’s actions at the Oscars? To find answers. Here are a few questions they are probably pondering:

  • 1. Does Will Smith have anger issues?
  • 2. Is this display of aggression an outlier or standard behavior?
  • 3. If he could display such violence before the world, what would he do when no one is watching?
  • 4. Is he a bully who picks on perceived vulnerable people?
  • 5. Has he displayed this sort of aggression before and what triggered it?
  • 6. Is this a standard behavior when he is under stress or pressure?
  • 7. How does he respond when things are not going his way or he feels slighted?

Thank You, Chris Rock

Now I must answer why I keep thanking Chris Rock. When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television, he was shocked but calm. He handled it in a way that was absolutely mature. Chris took the slap like a man and continued his act. It is not farfetched to imagine what could have happened had Chris gone after Will. Organizers of the Oscars would have stopped the show because of the commotion and guests running helter-skelter to escape the violence that would have ensued. 

The resulting pandemonium would have affirmed what a BBC commentator called the “A Black Moment at the Oscars.” The only reason the situation did not degenerate is because of Chris Rock. He conducted himself appropriately in such a dehumanizing situation. Unlike Will, he did not let his ego dictate his actions. He carried himself like a man secure in his masculinity.  That is why I keep saying thank you, Chris Rock.

Will Smith Can’t Wish Away the Oscars slap

Will Smith must be kicking himself now. He must be wondering what got into him and why he acted like an egomaniac in front of the whole world. The problem is that no matter how hard he tries, Will will never be able to wish the Oscars moment away. The Oscars slap is now a part of history, and those in the mental health industry will use it to teach clients how not to behave. Additionally, it will serve as a tool for teaching self-control and how to manage phony and toxic masculinity. Maybe it will be part of the teaching tools used to educate Will Smith about his behavior when he goes to therapy to learn how to control and manage stress and suppressed anger.

Although Will has apologized to the Academy and later to Chris, he has to live with the consequences of his action. Already, his movies and other projects have been put on ice because of his despicable behavior. He has also been barred from attending the Oscars or events organized by the Motion Picture Academy for 10 years. It is heartbreaking that this is happening to an actor I love at an important time in his career. Evidently, Will should have taken the wisdom imparted by Denzel Washington. Painfully, he did not. He was not careful enough, and he allowed the devil to get him at his highest moment.

Should mental health professionals evaluate Will Smith’s behavior at the Oscars? What do you think? Share your thoughts. Leave a comment.


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