Monday, May 21, 2012

Kissing to Be Clever (and Failing): Why I Secretly Wish Will Smith Had Slapped That Reporter Harder

Just when I was getting kind of bored with Will Smith and his all-around-swell-guy act (not that I think it's a total act), he goes and does something that reminds me why I used to occasionally sort of love him, before he started trotting out his offspring as the next generation's superstars-by-birthright.

All it took was a hit and near-kiss. They happened on the red carpet at the Men in Black 3 Moscow premiere on May 18, after Smith gamely greeted and hugged a male reporter, who apparently wanted more. The overzealous journalist tried for a kiss on the lips and got a smack across the face instead.

"He's lucky I didn't sucker punch him," Smith, trying to maintain a somewhat good-natured pose, said a few moments afterwards. Had he done that, I might actually consider going to see MIB 3. God knows, he would have had just cause.

As someone who has occasionally been the target of overly amorous men and women during my years as a sexual delicacy abroad, I feel Smith's pain, and I've wanted to respond in the same way once or twice. So I see no reason to justify his reaction, or wonder if he went too far (not that anyone is, but I'm just saying). If it had been his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, walking the red carpet in his shoes, not only would the smack have been immediately justified without question, but the reporter might have been led away in handcuffs, or at least escorted off the red carpet. (Then again Adrien Brody did have his way with Halle Berry when accepting his Best Actor Oscar for The Piano in 2003, and he got away with it -- or not, depending on what you think of his career since then.)

The big-picture question is this: Has the world become way too touchy-feely? I remember the days when a nice firm handshake would do when meeting anyone for the first time. Nowadays, if you are in Buenos Aires, you have to kiss total strangers on both cheeks upon arrival and departure. If you're at DJ Station in Bangkok, prepare to have your butt grabbed or your crotch fondled. I'm not sure how things are done in Russia, since I've never been there, but I've met a few Russians, and not once have I had to respond to unwanted advances from any of them.

Apparently, though, hugging superstars on the red carpet is perfectly acceptable there. Alright then. If Smith doesn't mind, neither do I. But trying to kiss them on the lips? In the case of this particular reporter, kissing celebrities -- both male and female -- is reportedly part of his red-carpet schtick, which implies that it's not necessarily acceptable, just funny. LOL!

I guess one could call this guy the Richard Dawson of the Russian media. But Dawson is so 30 years ago. Although PDA between total strangers is more acceptable today than it was in the '70s and '80s when Dawson was hosting Family Fued, could you imagine a game-show host in 2012 getting away with kissing every female contestant on the mouth? I cringed a little when guest celebrity panelist Patti LaBelle pecked a male contestant on the lips on and episode of The Marriage Ref that I recently saw, and she's Patti LaBelle.

As I watched the action at the MIB 3 premiere unfold on camera, I was reminded of Smith's refusal (at Denzel Washington's urging) not to kiss a male costar in his first big screen role as a gay grifter in the 1993 film Six Degrees of Separation. That said, I don't see this as a gay-straight thing. (Smith, incidentally, has publicly supported gay marriage.) It's a reporter-who-crossed-the-line thing. I imagine that a female reporter who pulled the same stunt would have had to deal with Jada, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Maybe it's time for me to find my inner Will/Jada. I've had people in Buenos Aires call me Will Smith in the past, or say I could be his brother (give them a break -- they're not accustomed to seeing black men in real life, and to them, there are probably, like, two of us), so the next time someone touches me in the wrong place, maybe I'll let them have it and blame it on Will.

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