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Will Smith’s Tragic Lesson

Will Smith
Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage
Baratunde Thurston
March 28, 2022

Chris Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s lack of hair wasn’t a very good joke—dumb, lazy, and given that she has alopecia, cruel. Will Smith’s violent response to that joke—the slap, the “take my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth”—was far worse. And given some key biographical details of Smith’s own early experiences, it’s even more devastating. 

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been very open about the difficulties and ultimately the openness of their marriage. (Who knows what really goes on in their marriage, by the way—all marriages have their own unique codes, after all.) What surprised me most, though, is that harrowing physical violence loomed large in Smith’s childhood, and has self-admittedly lingered over his psyche.