(Photo courtesy of Brian Snyder / Reuters) Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 94th academy awards.
If you tuned into the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, it’s probably safe to say that a disgruntled actor physically assaulting the host on live television was not on your bingo card for the night. However, at this point in 2022, is such a thing really outside the realm of possibility? The incident that occurred and the controversy that followed has been quite a ride – here are all the important details regarding what many are calling, the slap heard around the world.
Famed comedian Chris Rock has never been known to shy away from material that is delivered at the expense of others. So, when he went up on stage for a performance at the 94th Academy Awards, it was a relatively safe bet that people generally knew what to expect. He began doing what he does best, and for some time, had the entire building echoing with endless laughter. Eventually, he turned his focus to Jada Pinkett Smith, and delivered a one-liner that would fatefully reach the ears of millions. It became very clear that his wife being the butt of the joke did not sit well with Will Smith. Amidst the crowd’s reaction, he stepped up on stage, gave Chris one swift smack across the face, and sat back down – only to continue to curse him out on live television.
The event was shocking to the point where, for some time after it happened, many were convinced that the event was staged – for it was too outlandish and absurd to have been real. However, time would reveal that the slap, along with every emotion behind it, was indeed authentic, as were the passionate debates that followed. Many came to the side of Chris, believing Will’s reaction was petty and childish. Others argued that Will was justified in defending his wife. Twitter was in something of a civil war for the days following.
The day after the awards, Will Smith posted an apology for his actions on social media. Stating that he was regretful of his temperamental approach in dealing with the situation. It became clear that he was at least attempting to take responsibility for the incident and accept the consequences of his actions. In an unexpected addition to his reaction, however, Smith would announce his resignation from the Film Academy the following Friday. As a result of this, Will Smith will no longer be allowed to vote for the Oscars moving forward, though he is not disqualified from future nominations. Though the Academy claimed they asked him to leave the event, some sources have disputed this, and it is unclear if such a demand was actually made.
Though it may be understandable why Will was not pleased with the joke made by Rock, it cannot be understated that his reaction to the situation was horribly immature, and not how an adult should go about resolving conflict – especially when this adult has so many young fans who look to him as a role model due to his celebrity. Every bit of backlash he has and will receive for his horribly poor decision-making skills is much deserved. It is unfortunate that a wildly successful career will now carry with it the stain that this event will undoubtedly leave on his public image for years to come.
As for Chris, it should probably go without saying that his immediate reaction to what happened was a sign of class – no acts of physical retaliation, and no attempt to dwell on the matter for too long. There was an awards ceremony that evening, and Rock was not going to let the petulant demeanor of one person ruin the night for everyone. Though he very clearly wanted to deliver another punchline after, he kept his composure and moved on. His actions here are commendable, and unlike his assaulter, Rock’s handling of the situation should be looked up to by people everywhere as exemplary behavior. Many would say that he does bear some of the blame as a result of the joke he told, but this could not be more of a point of disagreement for many – he was a comedian, making jokes, and it was in no way his fault that someone decided to take them the wrong way.
In short, Will Smith should very much be subject to the backlash of people everywhere for his uncontrolled, instinctive rage. Chris Rock, on the other hand, dealt with the situation like the class act he has continually been. The real hope, though? Perhaps next year, no such incident will have to occur to begin with.