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Fake Love, Fake War
"Defending your family" clearly doesn't mean what it used to.
Will Smith gave Chris Rock a slap on the face during the Oscars, and a few minutes later the Oscars gave Will Smith an award for Best Actor. I’d say it was a pretty equitable exchange. An event clearly on its cultural deathbed was gifted an unprecedented amount of bonus PR, and Smith got an Oscar.
I hesitate to even write this short post because this whole thing is going to be thinkpiece-d to death and the Internet is already too loud. The only point worth reflecting on, in my opinion, is the fact that Will Smith’s wife—the object of a mocking but comparably mild Chris Rock punchline—has bragged publicly about their “open marriage” and her relationships with other men. When Will says he, like the father of Venus and Serena Williams, is a fierce defender of his family, we have to ask out loud what the words “defender” and “family” mean nowadays. That Will would hit a man on live TV for the honor of his wife’s hair-loss and tolerate another man being intimate with said wife suggests the concept of honor itself has undergone a pretty radical transformation. It no longer refers to concrete realities, like marriage and family, but to self-esteem, the right to never be the butt of a joke.
This is why I don’t understand conservative sympathy for the slap. Certainly I think more men ought to be willing to fight for their wives. There’s a sickening amount of YouTube videos in which crowds of men watch women get torn to shreds, iPhones recording everything including male cowardice. The notion that all physical violence is inherently wicked and unjustified is a wrong one. But there’s something to be said for putting one’s own house in order before beating up on comedians. Will and Jada Smith are one of the most powerful and influential couples in America, and many people will see and try to imitate their consensual sexual nihilism. The conservatism I believe in says that the burden for this problem falls onto the husband. Nothing Chris Rock said or even could have said could ever dishonor Will Smith’s family as much as Will Smith’s own apathy toward his marriage.
Russell Moore once wrote an essay about young men who get addicted to video games and porn. The reason, Moore wrote, is that men are created to fight real battles and make real love. Games and porn entice men with the easy allure of “fake love and fake war.” That phrase seems appropriate here. The real dragon that needs to be slain is the one that you’re trying to make your pet. Better take all that pent up valor out on the court jester. Fake love, fake war.
Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais: we’re seeing a pattern here. Comedians have become the whistleblowers of elite decadence. Even in jest, they poke real holes in the illusory piousness of liberalism. Slap.