Prince versus Rock
As noted, even though Will Smith slapped Chris Rock it was Rock who remained alpha in this situation. This was because Rock was unfazed by the entire event, by the time Smith was back in his seat Rock beamed away and seemed to be a totally unconcerned cheeky-chappy—Smith, on the other hand, looked undignified; and later he had to post an insincere apology for the outburst. So Rock displayed amused mastery, the quintessential alpha trait, while Smith had to be satisfied with pity from his narcissistic supply.
The names reveal all: Will Smith is “the Fresh Prince”—the fresh prince of sweet, hazy Bel-Air. Smith is the pampered princeling whereas Rock is, well, “the rock”—in this case the rock slipped into a pair of tights that will be used to clunk you on the head and steal your girl from under you. In status terms, Smith is higher status; he belongs to a very storied club: he is an A-list Hollywood celebrity—he has more range than a mere comedian. As a prince, he has a certain dignity—an expectation that things will just “be so”, doors will open for him and he will be respected; and this was why it was quite a scene to see Smith’s dignity ruffled and one reason why his response was so weak. Smith’s career has been “protected” for decades; he works on sets closed off from the public, and has done so right back to his early success with Fresh Prince in the early 1990s. Smith is not used to raw confrontation, there is no raw confrontation in Bel-Air.
Rock made his career as a stand-up comedian. Go to a stand-up comedy club: it’s a beer cellar. In his early days, as with all comedians, Rock was undoubtedly not funny; for many nights he had to stand before a drunk and often belligerent room and endure the humiliation that comes when nobody laughs, when they throw beer bottles, and when they sneer and mock you. This early baptism of fire accounts for why he could react with ne’er a blink to Smith’s slap; he retained amused mastery because he has been through the worst on stage and nothing can faze him.
For many people, the thought that they will stand before a room of people and be mocked is the worst thing they can imagine. Rock has been through this experience and brazened it out—Smith’s slap was nothing; even as an experienced comedian he probably has irate people from the audience he mocked venture on stage to challenge him—he has seen it all. He is a rock; and he can easily deal with a pampered prince.
However, the comedian is still not as high status in general—even if he can display alpha mastery in many situations. Comedians debase themselves for laughs; they do things like stick a trumpet in their ass and play it with their farts. Sure, they can brazen any situation out but even compared to a relatively weak man, like France’s Macron, they will never have the self-respect required for real power. Rock is a saucy fellow, to get Shakespearean—yet you could never take him seriously, with his big goggly eyes—and he lacks even Smith’s relative dignity. He is also quite a short man—shorter than Smith—and perhaps is pugnacious to compensate for it.
So far as wits go, Smith is probably more intelligent; his mother has a degree and his father was in the Air Force—later he was a “refrigeration engineer” (though for all I know that means he defrosted the meat locker in the local Safeway). Smith’s parents were divorced and this partly explains his narcissistic feminine response to Rock’s provocation: “I have been hurt (mommy), everybody feel sorry for me (mommy, fix it)—look at the bad man.” Smith’s career as an actor and his position as a pampered top-level performer contributed, but at base he was feminised by his mother and so his retaliation against Rock was feminine. A man less indulged by his mother would not look to someone else to fix it (the whole wide world, in Smith’s case)—as women do—and would either make some subtle plan to get even or forget about it.
Rock’s family is more working class, though his mother was a teacher—apparently this is not uncommon in black American families; intelligence aside, the women can be more placid and together than the men. Rock’s father was probably an alcoholic: Rock has a paternal half-brother who died from alcoholism, and his father died from a stomach ulcer—drink is the probable cause. Unlike Smith, whose father was also an alcoholic, Rock’s parents were not separated; so his father was involved in his formation. As with Richard Pryor, the comedian-alcoholic is a common type and for the reasons listed above: the comic abases himself for laughs; just like the alcoholic who turns up to a friend’s party, gets drunk, and then wakes up the next morning to answer the phone: “What the fuck were you thinking last night, Chris!? Do you have no consideration for anyone!?” “Wha-at…what did I do?” After he has been informed, the alcoholic heads over to the fridge to drink away the shame and remorse—the cycle starts over again…
Comedians live this exhibitionism-remorse cycle on stage; so for an alcoholic’s son to become a comedian is no surprise—and for him to engage in socially deviant behaviour, such as adultery, and then to sadistically torment the cuckold is no surprise either; and you have to consider quite what alco-sadism-shame cycle Rock’s father was on with his children before he died—the imprint remains.
So these two men constitute an unhappy spectacle taken together, their heredity—given the alcoholism in their families—seems to be poor; both men are feminised narcissists, Smith ruined by his mother and Rock by his father—with Hollywood there to finish the job. Overall: “Exterminate the brutes, Mistah Kurtz!”