Chris Rock crushed it
Chris Rock is the guy who once did a skit called “How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police,” which instructed black men they were unlikely to suffer police brutality if they minded their manners. Rock’s contrarian credentials are strong. Even so, his pointed, witty and thoughtful opening monologue at the Oscars was surprisingly rangy: Instead of picking one side or the other, he nailed both.
Rock did exactly what comics are supposed to do: wrap the truth in an irresistible joke. He made both smug white Hollywood liberals and angry black protesters look bad.
Advising the #OscarsSoWhite crowd, and prominent boycotters such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, that they needed a sense of perspective, Rock said, “Why this Oscars? It’s the 88th Academy Awards. Which means this whole no-black-nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times.”
All those other years, “Black people did not protest. And why? Because we had real things to protest at that time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who’s winning Best Cinematographer. When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about Best Documentary Foreign Short.”
In other words: This year’s Oscar hubbub is a fake controversy.
And in the grand scale of things, which is harder to believe — that Will Smith failed to get an Oscar nomination for “Concussion,” a so-so movie that flopped? Or that, as Rock pointed out, “Will Smith was paid 20 million for ‘Wild Wild West’?” The Smiths may not be the last people on Earth with genuine cause to complain about anything, but they’re pretty close.
Rock even worked in a hilarious, because completely accurate, dig at Jada’s acting skills: “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”
How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by the Oscars? Be so good, they have to nominate you. “Concussion” was not that good, and “Straight Outta Compton” and “Creed” were just solid genre movies, not true Oscar-caliber features.
It would have been easy for Rock to point out that the academy’s voters are old and white and out of touch, but that would have been letting them off too easy. Instead, he coined a useful phrase that deftly captured the combination of clubbiness and condescension that rules the academy: “Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like: ‘We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ ” Ouch.
Yet Rock also underlined the senselessness of boycotts when he pointed out that if he had resigned as host, the Oscars would have gone on anyway (and would have very easily found another black person to host).
Moreover, why should he pass up an opportunity for a great gig because of the armchair social-justice posturing of whiny losers? “How come,” asked Rock, “it’s only unemployed people who tell you to quit something?”