Did you hear that joke about Jay-Z? Apparently, he does at last have an even 100 problems. This is funny, you see, because one of his most famous songs is about how he previously only had 99 problems, and because footage has emerged of him apparently being physically attacked by his sister-in-law.
In case you’ve not seen it yet, perhaps through having a life to lead, the video shows Jay, his wife Beyonce and her sister Solange in a lift, after the Met Gala party in New York last Monday. The grainy grey security film apparently shows a furious Solange throwing punches and kicks at her sister’s husband, and being restrained by a bodyguard. It appeared online yesterday, apparently leaked somehow to TMZ, and if nothing else, it’ll making you think twice about who’s watching you pick your nose in an otherwise empty lift.
The internet, nothing more than a series of tubes connecting billions of people who would all probably be quite upset to end up in a fistfight with their own sister-in-law, has really gone to town with the witticisms, meanwhile. And as any comedian worth their salt will know, harmless, good-natured public mockery of a delicate family drama played out with the full expectation of privacy is the highest form of wit. We all love to laugh, and there’s nothing funnier than turning to Twitter and as one declaring that Jay’s finally found his 100th problem.
Of course, there’s another slightly more troublesome element to all this levity. Because Solange is a rather dainty woman, and Jay-Z is a rather larger, more physical male presence, people seem somehow to feel empowered to consider the situation ridiculous rather than tragic. Now there’s a tightrope to tread here; the last thing I want to do is sound like a men’s rights activist, and claim that the double standard here is that Solange is getting away with violence a man couldn’t. It’s banally obvious that were the roles reversed, which clearly they’d never be, no one would be laughing, and those that were would even now be subjected to handwringing thinkpieces not dissimilar to this one.
So the problem isn’t that Jay couldn’t hit back – though there are many on the ugly side of the anti-feminist fraternity who’ll be angry at that as the status quo – it’s that we as a society don’t have the maturity to treat this kind of violence with seriousness. Instead of laughing at a family in turmoil, we should be angry that a private moment has been broadcast across the web, clearly without consent, simply because the participants are famous. Let’s be honest: most of the people chortling along at home will have themselves wanted to thump their relatives just as much as this; lord knows how much my own sister-in-law has, for instance. This sort of thing goes on all the time in all of our private lives, and each and every one of us would be mortified if our muck were to be mirthlessly raked over by five million people to 43 followers each. So instead of scrambling onto the banter bandwagon and rush-publishing your own Solange/Street Fighter meme, why not spare a thought for the humiliated and no doubt remorseful family at the centre of this thundercloud of idiocy.