The 94th Academy Awards ceremony on March 28, stunned the world. Along with there being a lot of surprises and firsts, there was also the Will Smith slap. But you heard about that. Twitter erupted, netizens lost their cool and the slap became the most discussed topic with one user even going to say they wouldn’t have known that the Oscars had happened if it weren’t for the slap.
Why did Will Smith slap Chris Rock?
Veteran Comedian Chris Rock took to stage to present the award for the Best Documentary Feature. While at it, he made a joke about Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hairstyle and compared it to GI Jane (played by Demi Moore). This triggered Will Smith, who walked up to Chris and...slapped him.
For those unaware and wondering why a joke about a haircut would trigger Will, Jada suffers from a condition known as Alopecia, a kind of hair loss, and had been vocal about it on her talk show Red Table Talk, in 2018. She’d said, recounting her experience “It was terrifying when it first started. I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, oh my god, am I going bald?”
Later in 2021, she’d posted an Instagram video captioned “mama’s gonna have to take it down to the scalp so nobody thinks she got brain surgery or something. Me and this alopecia are going to be friends…period!.”
Cut back to the moment Will Smith slapped Chris Rock and then walked back to his seat, screaming “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth”.
What did Will Smith have to say?
The very same night, was one of the actor’s milestone ones as he won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in King Richard. In his speech, he apologised to The Academy, fellow nominees and everyone present that night, and later took to social media to issue an apology.
While Chris Rock has been condemned by netizens for what he said, many are of the opinion that the Will Smith slap was completely unwarranted.
Why are people criticising Will Smith’s slap?
The violent act isn’t something that people have taken kindly to. Following the slap, many comedians took to Twitter to condemn it. Kathy Griffin, an award-winning comedian tweeted “Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian. Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theatres.”
Nikki Glaser was not in favour of the Oscars choosing not to retaliate to the slap. She tweeted “Tonight’s Oscars proved that Hollywood is alive and well, still doing what it does best: protecting and celebrating disgusting behavior!”
Mark Hamill wrote “Stand-up comics are very adept at handling hecklers. Violent physical assault... not so much.”
In a deleted tweet, Judd Apatow said, “He could have killed him. That’s pure out of control rage and violence. They’ve heard a million jokes about them in the last three decades. They are not freshmen in the world of Hollywood and comedy. He lost his mind.”
Actor Jim Carrey too did not take well to the incident. He said to Gayle King on CBS Mornings, “I was sickened by the standing ovation. Hollywood is just spineless en masse and it really felt like this is a really clear indication that we aren’t in the cool club anymore. That video is going to be there forever, it’s going to be ubiquitous. That insult is going to last a very long time.”
Maintaining his stance on the issue, he went on to say that the behaviour was completely uncalled for. “You do not have the right to walk up on stage and smack somebody in the face ‘cause they said words. It came out of nowhere because Smith has something going on inside of him that’s frustrated. I wish him the best, I don’t have anything against Will Smith. ... But that was not a good moment.”
Writer-producer Marshall Herskovitz too tweeted “I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith. He disgraced our entire community tonight.”
While comedians are divided on how they feel about the slap, the actor's mother too was vocal about it. Will Smith's mom Carolyn Smith in an interview with 6abc, said, "He is a very even, people person. That's the first time I've ever seen him go off. First time in his lifetime... I've never seen him do that. I know how he works, how hard he works...I've been waiting and waiting and waiting. When I heard the name, I was just, 'Yes!'"
Jimmy Kimmel had something to say too
On his acclaimed show Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host praised how Chris Rock reacted to the slap, saying he wouldn’t have been able to show the same cool and calm. “A lot of my friends have been texting me asking what I would have done if I had been on stage. I would have run is what I would have done. The second I saw Will Smith get up out of the seat, I’d have been halfway to the Wetzel’s Pretzels, enjoying the samples in front of the store.”
While everyone has an opinion about this, can the actor face consequences for his actions?
What could be the consequences of Smith’s slap?
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences condemned the slap and launched an inquiry into the same. In a statement, they said “The Academy condemns the actions of Mr Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”
For those asking, the ‘possible consequences’ that Will’s action could cost him are expulsion or reprimanding in public or private or even a revocation of Academy Awards. What will happen remains to be seen.