There’s no gun seen pointed at his head in the apology Will Smith released on YouTube last week. But there might as well have been one offscreen considering the production comes across as forced as a hostage video.
Don’t get me wrong: There was nothing offensive about what Smith said in his 5-minute-and-44-second monologue. And the Oscar-winning actor deserves credit for saying anything at all considering his silence was starting to get conspicuous.
Where Smith’s error lies is not in where it’s only natural to focus—the substance of his remarks—but in the style with which he delivers those remarks. The cardinal sin Smith commits here is even evident before he’s uttered a single sentence.
What’s most striking at the outset of the video is the decision to not have Smith verbally begin the video himself. Instead, the opening image displays the following text: “It’s been a minute. Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and personal work . You asked a lot of fair questions that I wanted to take some time to answer.”
Well, here’s a simple question Smith doesn’t answer: Wouldn’t it have been more effective if he actually spoke those words on camera, rather than dispensing with any kind of opening remarks and just launching into answering a question rather abruptly?
By relying on introductory text instead of speaking the words, Smith conveys he can’t bring himself to eat humble pie. Some PR wordsmith-ing has to do that for him.
Because of this the video gets off on the wrong foot, with Smith projecting a “let’s get this over with” kinda vibe—exactly the vibe an apology should never give off. One can only imagine the kind of arm-twisting necessary for him to cooperate.
In addition, the video is structured in such an odd format, a cherrypicked selection of questions from unnamed inquisitors to which he responds. It’s such an obvious way of pushing forward a distinct set of talking points that prevents any sense of sincerity from coming across.
Then there’s the oddly stilted manner in which Smith reads aloud the very first question, “Why didn’t you apologize to Chris Rock in your acceptance speech,” as if he’s unfamiliar with the English language. It’s the kind of thing that’s meant for the cutting-room floor as a bad take, yet it leads the video.