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The slap seen and heard around the world…CAN WE TALK ABOUT?WILL SMITH AT THE OSCARSUNPACKING THE IMPLICATIONS OF ‘THAT’ MOMENT…TIM COLEMAN @FATSCOLEMANAt the 94th Academy Awards in March, Will Smith made Oscar history, but not in a good way. Shortly before the Fresh Prince picked up Best Actor for biopic King Richard, he shocked audiences worldwide by striding onstage and slapping host Chris Rock across the face for making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
At the 94th Academy Awards in March, Will Smith made Oscar history, but not in a good way. Shortly before the Fresh Prince picked up Best Actor for biopic King Richard, he shocked audiences worldwide by striding onstage and slapping host Chris Rock across the face for making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Jada, I love you,” said Rock moments earlier, “G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.” A reference to her shaved head, it was a cheap shot (according to reports, Rock was unaware that Pinkett Smith has alopecia, a medical condition causing hair loss) but one which Smith is seen initially laughing at, even as Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes. However, moments later Smith struck Rock before shouting, “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!” with showrunners scrambling to cut the audio. The damage had been done, however: both to the ceremony, and Smith’s reputation. “ ‘THE INCIDENT OVERSHADOWED THE REST OF THE EVENING’ ”The incident overshadowed the rest of the evening. In his acceptance speech Smith apologised to the Academy and fellow nominees (though notably not Rock), claiming that “love will make you do crazy things”, but most agreed his actions were totally unacceptable.
In the days following, the Academy claimed Smith had been asked to leave and the actor refused (though this has since been contested by reports in the trades). Smith went on to make further apologies, both to Oscar bosses and ultimately Rock himself, before resigning from the Academy as it continued its disciplinary investigations (as TF goes to press, Smith has been banned from attending Oscars ceremonies for 10 years). Rock has yet to formally comment on the incident and has so far declined to press charges – though ticket sales for his comedy tour Ego Death have reportedly spiked.
Others were not so reserved. Jim Carrey said he was “sickened” that Smith still received a standing ovation, while others pointed to wider problems with the Oscars, such as the introduction of a fan-favourite award when eight established categories were pre-recorded, thus robbing winners of the recognition they deserved. What the long-term fallout of all this will be for both Smith and the Academy is unclear, but one thing’s for sure: the 2022 Oscars will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.