Jess Cagle
May 25, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

This issue is all about the summer’s most exciting entertainment, from Chris Nashawaty’s report on the new Spider-Man to Lynette Rice’s look at Aaron Sorkin’s new drama, The Newsroom. But in the meantime, is there anything more captivating than that viral video in which a Ukrainian reporter invades Will Smith’s personal space and kisses him repeatedly? Smith clearly wants to punch the guy, and some debate is raging about whether Smith overreacted to a man trying to kiss him, but the reaction itself is the most fascinating thing about it. You see genuine shock. You see Smith rise for a fight. You see his billion-dollar smile go dark, and then reboot in a matter of seconds. When you see stars get punked on red carpets, you get a glimpse of their true colors, but that’s not the only reason these YouTube moments give us a weird rush. I’ve always been struck by the disconnect between the way red carpets look on camera (Glamour! Excitement! Joy!) and the reality of being there on the ground. If you’re in the media, you’re squeezed among the hordes of your colleagues behind a frayed velvet rope or a cheap plastic hedge. If you’re a celebrity, you’re trying not to sweat despite the beating heat, the stressed-out handlers pushing and pulling you from one microphone to the next, and the pressure to look like you love it all. It’s a rather emasculating exercise whether you’re a renowned movie star or an obscure blogger, but there’s an unspoken understanding between them: We’re in this together and we’re lucky to be here. Despite the pressure, there’s a sense of camaraderie. The audience, of course, understands this too. So when you see someone disrupt the red-carpet ecosystem, you feel both delighted and embarrassed. More often than not, it’s the punker, and not the punkee, who comes off looking bad. After being squirted with water at a premiere in 2005, Tom Cruise calmly dressed down the offending reporter man to man; it made you think Cruise must be a good dad — and would have made an excellent junior high school teacher. When Sacha Baron Cohen dumped “ashes” on Ryan Seacrest at the Oscars, Seacrest came off as cool and smooth; Cohen just seemed desperate. We know that everyone’s got a job to do — even if they’re an ink-stained wretch or a spoiled star — and we respect the ones who do it well. And if The Avengers has taught us anything, it’s that space invaders are never as tough as they seem.

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