Saturday, July 2, 2022

A Stale Moment for A Fresh Prince: A Perspective in TV & Movie Titles

Will Smith’s acceptance speech at 2022 Academy Awards.

*Day after day it has been gnawing at me. Should I add my voice to the chaos? Other than a cryptic message on Facebook, I have avoided commenting, but it keeps coming back to my mind. What is puzzling to me is that in one moment during the 2022’s Oscars when Will Smith swept the infamous slap, everything that he had ever done or stood for was obliterated for so many who witnessed it.  Wait, everything? Quickly THE FRESH PRINCE became an ENEMY OF THE STATE.

There was a RUSH to judgment, as he was only FORGIVEN by a few. How quickly we came for Will, but we held out for Bill, Cosby that is.  Judgment was withheld, while every conspiracy theory was put in place to give Mr. Cosby the benefit of the doubt and somehow hold respect for his great body of work and philanthropic contributions. We could not bear to think that the image of America’s favorite dad was scarred by wrongdoing.  Perhaps it was because those deeds were not performed on the world stage.

The ire for Will Smith was FAST & FURIOUS. To be clear, it was indeed a lapse in judgment. It was shocking and it was a momentary snap (albeit a slap) that sunk his reputation like the TITANIC and sent it to PERDITION.  But should the SCANDAL totally denigrate all that he has ever stood for? Will is the good guy who fights the BAD BOYS. Will is the underdog to root for in THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS as well as in his Oscar-winning role of KING RICHARD.

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Will Smith after the “slap” on Oscar night 2022.

But the shade prevails from the WILD WILD WEST and beyond.  Meanwhile, Chris Rock, who was on stage that night without a BODYGUARD, has received a reversal of virtuous fortune. Instead of EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, it seems that everybody loves Chris instead.  He took an ill aimed shot at humor using Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head as the inferred punch line.  Side note Chris: all bald women are beautiful but not all are bald by choice.

With comedy, almost anything is fair game but there is a very fine line when humor is at the expense of conditions that people cannot control.  For Chris Rock, that night Jada Pinkett-Smith was merely COLLATERAL BEAUTY.

Perhaps the audience on Oscar night gave Will a standing ovation because they had a “But for the grace of God, there go I” moment. Perhaps, as celebrities, they’ve endured all manner of meanspirited and reckless banter about themselves and their families and silently they wanted to physically retaliate but didn’t.  Perhaps they rendered grace for a guy who surely acted out of character and had a very public meltdown.  Our superhero proved that he was superhuman, fallible, and until now UNTOUCHABLE.

How would we have felt if instead of the slap, he succumbed to mounting pressure some other way and we woke up to unnerving headlines about Mr. Smith?  Is our empathy for mental health only induced by FATAL ATTRACTION? The painful irony is that the turn of events occurred when an unprecedented number of African Americans were involved in producing the industry’s most glorious night.  Will hit the highest and lowest point on the same night and went from hero to zero to those who spewed insults CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN.  Were we just waiting to find a reason to hate or lash out at the great guy who seems to have it all?

Will Smith hits a high and a low that he’ll never forget on Oscars night 2022.

This analogy is not to condone bad behavior but raise a question. I’ve seen celebrities celebrated for dishonoring women, promoting substance abuse, and for being real BAD BOYS FOR LIFE.  In recent years, I saw a political party excuse unprecedented occurrences of questionable behavior. Still members of this party stood firm and never disavowed their respect no matter how absurd the incidents.  They stood by their man, but for Will Smith, all it took was one slap.  Just one, and we’re done? He will face consequences, as he should but did he lose an industry family and a public that he never really had in the first place?

This is the tone of a LOVE JONES that for me has no POETIC JUSTICE for this husband, father, humanitarian & cool azz dude who overcame all obstacles and temptations, until now. As for me, I’ll remain in the process of GOODWILL HUNTING.

LaRita Shelby
LaRita Shelby

LaRita “Jazzy Rita” Shelby is a journalist, screenwriter & entertainer and V.P. of Business Development for Winner of MIMPA’S 2020 Entertainment Journalist of the Year Award & Proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho.  LaRita is the author of The Brand Beside the Brand and On My Father’s Side. She also has a Masters in Media & Communications Psychology from Touro University Worldwide. Chat, swap ideas & vision at

LaRita Shelby
LaRita "Jazzy Rita" Shelby is a broadcast media & marketing professional. She serves as VP of Business Development & Special Projects at Additionally she is an actress, singer/songwriter who has appeared on TV and in film. LaRita has an undergrad degree from LMU in Los Angeles and an M.A. in Media & Communications Psychology from Touro University Worldwide.




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