Photo: Kirill Bichutsky/Netflix
On Saturday, Chris Rock’s much-hyped stand-up special aired live on Netflix to a significant amount of backlash. In the show, which is now available to watch on the platform in an edited form, he touched on abortion, gender dynamics, his children, Meghan Markle and, of course, getting punched on stage during last year’s Oscar ceremony.
The show has drawn criticism for being filled with misogyny, between Rock’s accusation that Markle was “complaining” about becoming king and his joke that the royal family’s concern about the skin color of her child was not racist but just a racist drama. “Some of the crap she went through wasn’t racism – it was just some in-laws,” he said, arguing that “even black people want to know how brown the baby is going to be. He did, however, acknowledge that the Windsors are ‘the organizations of racism.’
Others took issue with Rock’s flippant jokes about abortion, which he repeatedly compared to murdering children. “I think women should have the right to kill babies,” he said. “But let’s not get it twisted: It kills a baby. When I pay for an abortion, I’m asking for a dead baby.” Although he claimed to be pro-choice thanks to his “unconditional” love for his daughters and their reproductive rights, repeating dangerously common pro-life rhetoric did little to help his cause.
During the last ten minutes of the show, Rock vented what sounds like a good deal of lingering resentment about last year’s Academy Awards, where Will Smith, as you may already be aware, punched him on stage after Rock made a joke about Sure Pinkett Smith’s baldness. head. Over the past year, while Smith has repeatedly publicly apologized for his behavior and Pinkett Smith has diplomatically said she hopes they reconcile, Rock has been working through his thoughts on the incident in sets — neither of which, as far as we know, has including expressing remorse for making a black woman’s hair his joke.
At first, Rock Smith and Pinkett criticized Smith for publishing the messy details of her affair with musician August Alsina, who is 21 years her junior and friends with her son Jaden. “I had no entanglements,” Rock said, appearing to suggest that Smith took out his own anger on his wife for cheating on him by punching Rock at the Oscars six years after the affair. “Everybody in the world called him a bitch,” he said, referring to the fallout from the 2020 interview in which Alsina confirmed he and Pinkett Smith were in a relationship. “They called his wife a predator. And who does he beat? Me.”
Rock also claimed that Pinkett Smith had started a feud with him in 2016 when she boycotted the Academy Awards, which Rock hosted, due to the lack of diversity in the nominations (Smith was among the many people of color left out after his much-praised starring role in Concussion). Several major Hollywood figures, including the Smiths, Spike Lee and Michael Moore, boycotted the Academy Awards that year over its largely white slate of nominees, and many celebrities publicly called for Rock to step down as host. For some reason, Rock specifically targeted Pinkett Smith at the time—his opening monologue that year included the quip “Sure boycotting the Oscars is like boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”
And he’s not done. “Will Smith practices selective rage,” he said Saturday night, referring to the name of the special. “Years ago, my wife told me to quit the Oscars because her husband wasn’t nominated for Concussion. And then her husband gives me a concussion.” He essentially argued that Pinkett Smith criticizing his choice to host in 2016 justified making a joke about her hair last year, adding: “She starts it, I finish it. Nobody picks this bitch.”
Needless to say, Rock’s choice to take a jab at Pinkett Smith again, without ever acknowledging why his joke about her alopecia may have been insensitive in the first place, was not well received. Eight months ago, she called Rock an “intelligent, capable” man who she hoped would make things right with her husband. Last weekend he called her a bitch.