Another take on Jussie Smollett

One of the things that has perplexed me about the alleged Jussie Smollett hate crime, from the beginning, was how relatively nonviolent it was.  A fractured rib was the worst of it — not pleasant, but not severe.

I grew up in the South back in the fifties. I was just a kid, and my family didn't belong to the KKK or, to the best of my knowledge, know anyone who did.  But I heard stories, and the racists who were committing what have come to be called hate crimes were doing a whole lot more than punching a guy once or twice and calling him names.  Back in those terrible old days, a lynching involved actual lynching and death, not just a length of rope applied like a symbolic prop necklace.

I never heard of real racists throwing bleach on anyone, either.  I know of no reason to douse a non-white person with bleach.  It won't turn him white, obviously.  Alternatively, they might have urinated on the victim as a way to demean him.  But bleach?  Whatever for?  It makes no sense.  And if the crime was supposed to be spontaneous, it seems unlikely they would have had a bottle of bleach ready.

I don't know what Smollett's theory of the alleged crime was supposed to be.  Were these supposed to be total strangers?  Then how did they know he was gay?  Does he think racists are watching Empire and following the personal lives of the cast?  If this was hate, and if they recognized him, wouldn't they realize that facial damage would do him longer lasting harm, considering how Hollywood promotes beauty more than any other trait?  Yet his face, in particular, was only lightly damaged.

Maybe the theory is supposed to be that he was a target of convenience rather than attacked for who he is?  But if that's the case, then why, when Robin Roberts interviewed him, did he attribute the attack to his having "come hard against 45"?  It's not as though strangers would know his political ideology.  He's not that well known, despite campaigning with Kamala Harris.  Before the attack, I couldn't have recognized him.  Maybe this is an attempt to prove that there's no such thing as bad publicity?

So if two white guys, strangers, had walked by Smollett on the street, they might have seen him well enough to see that he is black.  Were they supposed to be out hunting a black guy to abuse, like a white-on-black version of the polar bear knockout game?  Two guys fueled by adrenaline, could easily have beaten Smollett to a bloody pulp.  I'm glad this didn't happen, but it seemed strange that they had a piece of rope and a bottle of bleach on hand for their "hate crime."

My theory of the crime is that Smollett isn't A-list and resents it, and he possibly also has political aspirations.  He wants to make a name for himself, so he wrote a script (possibly plagiarized).  Actor that he is, Smollett knew the location of the camera.  He had props (rope and bleach) to support the scene's action.  He had a few minor actors to be human props, careful to stay out of the star's way but making the attack look real, and they even had lines.  They were probably bundled up partly because of the cold but also because they needed to pass for white, and the video from even a black-and-white camera would have shown the difference.  The scene was acted out late at night so no one would interrupt or be a contrarian witness, and they had to do it in one take just in case someone unexpectedly came into frame.

And then the camera was facing the wrong way!

It might have been a video that could be used to promote the idea that racism is still common, despite being a micro-movie with a third-rate script and fourth-rate casting.  But Smollett blew it as a producer and director, and now he's in big trouble.

Image: Dominick D via Flickr.