Will Smith

Two weeks ago, Will Smith struck Chris Rock across the face after Rock made a joke regarding the condition of Jada Smith's alopecia. As a result, the slap at the Academy Awards sparked the internet into two distinct camps with some defending Smith's defense of his wife and others condemning his use of violence against Rock for a joke.

Smith's decision to slap Rock, however, is simply symptomatic of a larger problem: the downfall of the American celebrity culture through idolization. Americans worship their celebrities, pouring billions of dollars and millions of hours of attention into absorbing their products, creating an ultra-rich elite believing there are entitled to the liberties that our culture gives them.

The slap is the culmination of that—the degradation of the American culture by those who believe they can restructure it, and demands that the culture detach itself from celebrity worship and turn again to reflecting the American people.

American celebrity worship is not a new phenomenon; Americans have always extolled the rich and famous within our society, but recently, American celebrities have used their platforms to virtue-signal and promote their individual platforms. No better opportunity has given American celebrities the chance to do this as the pandemic, but also no better opportunity has been given to highlight their hypocrisy. 

While Americans bore the brunt of the pandemic and working families suffered, according to Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times, celebrities bought tickets for $35,000 a piece to attend the Met Gala in September. While this lavish party occurred, a Black Lives Matter protest occurred outside of the gala and, according to Jameelah Nasheed with TeenVogue, "regular folk peacefully expressing their desire for a better America … were aggressively handled and arrested while being pulled away from the glitz and glam."

For the celebrities attending the Gala, these arrestees were the same people they constantly use their platform to advocate for. Beyond that, the people policing their party were the same organization they demanded be defunded in the name of the people being arrested. The irony is somehow lost upon our societal betters. Of course, this party also played host to some politicians as well, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and then mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio, both of whom vowed to stand with the BLM movement and back its agenda on a policy level. 

In addition to the societal elites proclaiming their political agendas as gospel to be consumed by everyday Americans, celebrities are using their platforms to promote degeneracy and toxic messages to the American people. Using Will Smith as an example, in his slapping of Chris Rock he is demonstrating that in responding to a joke he does not like, he is permitted to react violently. No non-celebrity person could do this. Smith, on the other hand, who, according to Michele Blood with Fox Business, has an estimated net worth of $350 million and has over 60 million followers on Instagram, was allowed take words as reasonable grounds for violence, regardless of occasion or their intention. Further, many Americans supported Smith in his reaction, a concerning trend in a country that ardently values free speech.

Smith turned the Academy Awards, intended to recognize the most talented in the film industry for their work, and transformed it into a narcissist spectacle with him as the center of attention. This is evident in his acceptance speech for Best Lead Actor. Smith said, "Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family ... In this business, you've got to be able to have people disrespecting you, and you've got to smile and you've got to pretend like that's OK." Will Smith took this opportunity to remind us that his fame makes him the victim in this situation, not the aggressor.

American celebrity worship needs to balance itself and restore faith in the culture. American celebrities have been permitted to dominate culture for too long, and it is time to restore American society by deflating their egos and returning to our values.

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