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Smith and Rock slap the Oscars into controversy

SAT. | 05-14-22 | OPINION

     While the Oscars are usually known as one of the most prestigious nights in modern culture, the award ceremony this year did not reflect that reputation. On Sunday, March 27, the Oscars were held to celebrate the most successful actors, actresses and directors in the United States as they do every year. However, one defining aspect made this year's Oscars different from any of the ones before it. That being the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith, charging the stage and slapping comedian Chris Rock. 

     The cause of the slap was a very questionable joke by Rock in which he spoke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The joke in question involved Rock stating he was excited to see Pinkett Smith star in “G.I. Jane 2,” a movie in which the lead actress has a shaved head. Normally this would be a lighthearted comment between peers, except for the fact that Pinkett Smith has been diagnosed with alopecia — a medical condition resulting in hair loss — which has publicly been a sore subject for her. The academy’s representatives went on to

Will Smith _ Chris Rock - Cecelia.png

Graphic by Cecelia Batton

say that the joke was not originally included in Rock’s speech and was unscripted. Neither Rock nor his representatives have come out to confirm if this is true, but it further goes to show that it shouldn’t have been said, especially in a setting such as the Oscars. 

     Initially, Smith was shown laughing at the joke and Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes. However, Smith subsequently walked onstage and struck Rock before returning to his seat. Later on Smith made a very noticeable comment from the audience to Rock about "keeping his wife’s name out of his f***ing mouth". While Rock, Smith and Pinkett Smith are all in the entertainment industry and are accustomed to receiving digs like that on a daily basis, a joke concerning Pinkett Smith’s medical condition should have been approved by her and her husband prior to the ceremony. 

     The reactions to this event have been mixed to say the least. Reviews ranged from those that thought Smith should have had his Oscar for Best Actor taken away, to those who praised Smith for standing up for his wife. From my perspective, I also cannot say whether I definitely support Smith’s decision or think he should be condemned because of it. On one hand, Smith was trying to defend his wife and rightfully believe that attacking her medical condition went too far, but on the other hand, physically harming someone is no way to go about things and could even be classified as assault. 

     Even though it was reported that Rock was not pressing any charges against Smith, I do think some consequences should be imposed on him. Not only was it against Oscar etiquette — it

could have been dangerous for others. Because of this, I think Smith should have been held accountable by the law or banned from attending the Oscars in the foreseeable future. Nobody, especially a movie star whose actions influence the public around the world, should be able to go around slapping people. 

     However, I am absolutely not in favor of Smith losing his Oscar because of it. Smith made a rash decision and that one instance should not be able to take away his hard and continuous work in his filmmaking. Smith even went on to apologize for it in his acceptance speech for Best Actor in which he said that a joke about his wife’s medical condition prompted him to react emotionally. Noticeably, Smith did not mention Rock at all in his apology, which I really cannot blame him for. 

     The slap could be classified as one of the most memorable instances in award ceremony history. Hopefully all can learn a lesson from this: acting in violence is never the best solution. Regardless, many will now remember this outburst as the slap heard around the world.

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