Will Smith’s safe, sterile return to IG is a reminder of how shocking The Slap was

His first posts after apologizing for the slap are charming nonsequiturs — which is just how he’s always liked it.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Will Smith attends the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and...
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Will Smith has apologized for The Slap twice since that infamous March night at the Oscars, both through a written statement and, on July 29, in a videotaped apology released on YouTube and Instagram. The evening that saw the Hollywood superstar put hands on Chris Rock for joking about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hairstyle provided one of the biggest moments in pop culture this year, but after loads of jokes and discourse around the incident, the public was ready to move on. It appears that Will feels the same way, as he’s finally returned to social media with the considered, manicured presentation that has made him such a superstar for so long.

On Sunday, Smith made his first two posts since the apology. The first was a viral video of a baby gorilla playfully poking at a full-grown gorilla, as the adult swats the child away. He captioned the post, “Me trying to get back on social media.” It has received almost two million likes and over 55,000 comments, most of which were people being amused. The second post this weekend was of Smith anxiously trying to get a surprise tarantula out of his house. “Posting this from a Holiday Inn,” he wrote as the caption.

His two new posts continue the same social media persona that has made him such a universal follow when he first joined Instagram in 2017 — and what has made him such an accessible superstar since the late 80s and early 90s. Will Smith has built a reputation as a safe, charming celebrity, taking on family-friendly roles — with a few mildly edgy ones — that lend themselves to blockbuster success. He’s put years into becoming a household name, and he usually avoids the daring projects that put that status in jeopardy. His social media presence has been the same: professional and sterile, as if his posts were created in a lab and fastidiously run through focus groups arriving on his page. Most celebrities use their social media in similarly rehearsed ways, but Will Smith brings a different level of hygienic care to nearly anything he attaches his name to.

It’s a reminder of just how stunning The Slap actually was. The celebrity who has obsessively rehearsed every move was finally fed up enough to deliver a genuinely off-the-cuff reaction and deal with the consequences. It’s wild to think that just a few months ago, Smith assaulted a beloved comedian on one of the most watched stages in entertainment, and now we’re back to silly videos. It begs the question of how impactful The Slap will be long-term. He’s been banned from attending the Oscars or any other Academy events or programs for ten years, but if he continues on as usual with his public persona and happens to make another hit movie, how much will that ban really matter?

“There’s no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. It hurts me psychologically and emotionally that I didn’t live up to people’s image of me,” Smith said in his apology video. If these new posts are any indication, he’s dedicated to building that image back up brick by brick.