Months after the slap heard around the world, actor Will Smith posted a public apology on Friday in the form of a slightly bizarre six-minute video on YouTube, during which he spoke about his assault of Chris Rock at the Academy Awards. After clarifying that Rock is not yet ready for him to reach out, Smith responded to several questions from his followers.
In a reaction video, licensed family therapist Georgia Dow examines Smith’s apology and breaks down what he does right, and the parts which come across as inauthentic. She praises him for not making excuses for the slap and owning up to it, but finds his stilted delivery curious.
“It’s robotic, it’s practiced, I don’t feel any emotions coming through,” she says. “I think, for Will, this is a defense mechanism… but I think it takes away from that genuineness we need to see.”
The biggest problem with the apology video, in Dow’s view, is that there is very little sense of any real remorse on Smith’s part for his actions at the Oscars. “For an apology to be good, it has to be sincere,” she says. However, she concedes that when Smith proceeds to apologize to Rock’s mother, that does appear “more heartfelt” and less staged.
“The audience for this apology doesn’t really seem to be Chris or his family,” she says. “It seems to be his fans. That’s who he’s talking to. It comes off more as a PR move than it is something that’s really genuine.”
Dow goes on to point out the “huge, stark difference” between the way Smith refers to Chris Rock, vs. the way he then addresses other groups in his apology, including the other Oscar nominees, and the fans who feel that he has let them down.
“I don’t think the apology has anything to do with Chris,” she says, questioning whether Smith feels bad for the wrong he did against Rock, or because of the repercussions that he is feeling in his personal and professional life. “Those are two huge differences in where you hold your accountability, and that’s really important when we’re trying to let people know that we’re working on changing.”
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues.
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