After almost a year since the slap debacle at the Oscars, Chris Rock has finally appeared and clapped back. His latest Netflix Comedy special, titled ‘Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,’ isn’t just a return to the stage for the comedic genius but also plays into Netflix’s new experiment. The special was streamed live for audiences at home with a Netflix account and later edited and uploaded on the streamer. 

As expected, the infamous Will Smith and Chris Rock incident at last year’s Oscar ceremony serves as a great hook for people who were even remotely interested in seeing a reply. Rock, who had kept mum with not a single word said related to what transpired on the stage, kept teasing about a ‘certain rapper’ through the special before dropping the mike on Smith’s face.

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Selective Outrage is an angry comedy special. The jokes range from profound to self-serving, hilarious to offensive, genius to absolute flat, and desperate to schlock. Some of the jokes come straight from the boomer persona that Rock inhabits in the internet-frenzied world that he is trying to satirize, and for better or for worse, the comedic wouldn’t care, or will he? 

Here are a few controversial moments from Chris Rock: Selective Outrage that will definitely divide the viewers:

1. Rock’s dig on Cancel-culture

Dressed in all white, Rock begins his special by mentioning how ‘words hurt when you put them on a brick,’ referring to the slap for the first time. He then proceeds to take a dig at cancel culture, mixing up its potency with that of woke agenda. He mentions how some Twitter warriors sitting behind their keywords took his reputation to a toss when the slap happened. He carefully plants counterpoints before really saying offensive things. Rock said he is okay with people canceling others for social justice, but the selective outrage bothers him. 

While this section may feel like it’s trying to discredit much of what the movement has brought to the table, Rock maneuvers it by saying that some people are only woke about some shit and not others. He instances the section by giving examples of R. Kelly and Michael Jackson, both of who were essentially guilty of the same crime but were treated differently by the woke crowd.

2. The attention-seeking Meghan Markle

Rock also took pot-shots at Megahan Markle, who came on Oprah and talked about how she faced racism from the Royal Family. Rock did not hold back on saying how social media and everyone associated with the ‘obsession of the like button’ has retorted to being a victim. He went ahead and doubled down on his comment by saying what did Meghan expect from a family that made racism mainstream.

While these comments were directly not targeted at Markle, since this section failed to make a larger point, dragging her into the whole thing did not feel like a course correction in any way.

3. Inclusivity at The Kardashians’ abode is just more content for them

The Kardashians have been the bud of jokes for almost everyone in the comedic circuit. In fact, there have been times when the family has decidedly stepped in to get themselves trolled. This, however, did not stop Rock from throwing in some shade on the influencer family. Talking about the love people have for black people, he said that no one on earth loves black people more than The Kardashians, including fellow black people. His bigger point there was that the family is so hell-bent on following trends that their idea of inclusivity doesn’t really come from their hearts but from a sense of being woke in front of their followers. 

While unleashing this hypocrisy feels like a well-pointed dig, Rock goes further and turns the joke toward Caitlyn Jenner, who came out as a trans woman in 2015. To cushion the joke well, he keeps saying, ‘if my father was to become a woman,’ to cross-joke about how The Kardashian accepted Caitlyn because it was good content. This ill-timed joke makes Rock’s standup feel extremely transphobic. It is an ill-advised joke that reiterates a fact that we are all aware of, but since it comes at the cost of shaming an entire community, I don’t know if the point really comes across as funny in any way.

4. Abortion, Disneyland, and the lowest point of the comedy special

Somewhere in the midsection of the special, it feels like Rock has run out of jokes. The entire section about killing babies and his trip to Disneyland, leading to a lap dance from Minnie mouse, rigs in one bland joke after other. And even Rock is aware of it as he gleefully laughs at his own jokes – a style that he has lately acquired in most of his stand-up sets. 

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

This part begins with him comparing the situation in Ukraine to that of America. The disclaimer doesn’t ready you for his balancing act about where he stands on abortion – a right that has been snatched away from women in most American states. But that isn’t even half of the problem with the set; it is when he moves into the joke about his ‘spoiled’ daughter, signifying himself as some kind of mega-rich villain. The jokes don’t land at all, and the larger point or satire seems to fly away from him.

5. A half-baked dating set

At this point in the special, Rock starts to lose sight of the aim completely. This section has Rock talking about the dating scene, also leading us to the old and boring topic of why men date younger women.

The entire set can be summed up as a long-stretched filler that talks about pussy, shoes, and women asking men to fix things. The material feels so dated that it even doesn’t accurately fit into Rock’s own ‘selective outrage’ format. And somehow, it ends up more misogynistic than it should have been when Rock makes it all about himself, dumbing down all successful women by equating their success to their beauty.

6. The Will Smith Slap

The dating set, however, leads us into the finale of the special that most of us had checked in for. Rock still refers to Smith as a rapper, in spite of his having a successful career as an actor. This part of the set, in spite of many controversial edges, feels like a smart whiff on how to tackle the moment that happened one year ago. Rock devises the section by leading us into the smart ‘did it hurt?’ question and accepting how he never played the victim of the slap by dismissing any queries from the media for over a year. 

There are two sharp critics he lays bare in this knockout set – firstly, he refers to the difference in size between a much-more muscular Smith and himself, and secondly, he digs into Smith’s hypocrisy in that very moment on Oscar night. He talks about Smith’s selective outrage and goes on to nail the set by talking about the famous Jada Pinkett-Smith interview with Will Smith, where she clearly humiliated him on live television about cheating on him.

While mentioning the incident might erupt another controversial hell hole, it is used by Rock to insinuate Smith’s selective outrage, or even Jada’s inability to take a joke, when she literally made a joke of her husband on live television. The next part of the set is a little achy as Rock goes on to call Smith a ‘bitch’ half a dozen times. 

The tale of the rivalry between Jada Pinkett-Smith and Rock – goes back to the time when Will was not nominated for Concussion. The jokes centered around this make Rock fumble, which only makes this set more real than it actually is.

And while the set also has its set of controversial undertone – villainizing a woman to settle the score between two men; the mike drop – don’t fight in front of white people, seals the deal. 

Chris Rock: Selective Outrage (2023) Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Where to watch Chris Rock: Selective Outrage

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