The Slap Heard Around the Entertainment World: A Breakdown on the Oscars Scandal

By J1 reporter Kyra McFadden

“Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me!” Comedian Chris Rock exclaimed to a live audience during the 94th annual Oscars award ceremony on March 27th, 2022. Actor and musician Will Smith trended on Twitter for more than 17 hours and not for what you may think. Rock and Smith made this Oscar’s the most viewed award ceremony ever.

As Rock walked downstage to announce the annual award for the best documentary, he began his set by poking fun at Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. Holding the unopened red envelope, Rock then freestyled the soon to be front cover news joke, “Jada, I love you – I can’t wait for GI Jane 2.”

Rock made a jab at actress Jada Pinkett Smith, referring to her shaved head as G.I. Jane. The camera then panned to Pinkett Smith, showing her clear disapproval of the joke, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. Seconds later, Smith is seen walking on stage and Rock is heard muttering an “uh-oh” before Smith saunters up to Rock and seemingly slaps him in the face.  

Although it was unclear whether Rock knew the circumstances or not, Pinkett Smith has been vocal about her Alopecia on social media. She opened up about her Alopecia after shaving her head with support from her daughter Willow Smith. Pinkett Smith has been struggling with severe hair loss since 2018 due to this disease.

Pinkett Smith recalls the first notice of her hair loss in a May 2018 episode of Red Table Talk saying, “It was terrifying when it first started.” She details the event saying, “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?’”

In December of 2021, the Matrix Revolutions actress made headline news with her decision to shave her head completely. Alopecia can be especially scary for women due to the societal value of a woman’s hair. Many women see their hair as an integral part of themselves so being forced to shave it can be traumatic. Knowing this can offer insight into why Pinkett Smith was offended by the joke.  

Smith returned to his seat and shouted at Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth!” Although the broadcast audio was muted in America, other countries such as Australia and Japan heard the uncensored audio. Many videos were shared on Twitter with this original audio. 

The Academy wanted to forcibly remove Smith from the show but Rock intervened. As per Rock’s request, Smith was allowed to stay for the remainder of the show. Rock also chose not to press charges with the LAPD. 

No later than 20 minutes after the incident, Smith received an Oscar for best actor as Richard Williams, father of famous tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard.” Smith gave an acceptance speech saying, “Art imitates life. I looked like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things,” Smith tearfully said, “Thank you. I hope the academy invites me back.”

Smith did not directly mention the slap in his speech but referred to it. He was later seen at the Vanity Fair Oscar party dancing and rapping along with his own song, “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.” 

Shortly after the Oscars had ended, Jaden Smith tweeted, “And That’s How We Do It.” It was not clear whether or not Jaden was referring to the slap, but many speculated so. 

Smith posted an apology on Instagram the following day stating, “I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.” Rock made a statement to the press saying he was “still processing the whole thing” and “will eventually talk about it.” 

Graphic by Tyler Raikar

On April 8, the Academy board slapped back by banning Smith from attending any Academy hosted award shows, in person or virtually, for 10 years. This decision came after a three hour long zoom call held by the board members. Smith is still eligible to be nominated and receive awards, however; Smith responded by saying, “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.” 

The Academy was originally set to meet April 18 to discuss the consequences of Smith’s actions; however, Smith resigned from the group saying he “betrayed the trust of the Academy,” which resulted in the meeting being pushed forwards. Those who resign from the Academy will no longer be able to vote for awards but will still be able to receive and attend the award ceremonies. 

People were quick to take the sides of Rock or Smith. Junior Payton Kincaid argues, “I just didn’t think Will should’ve approached the situation the way that he did. I think he could’ve waited until after the award show to tell Chris how he felt!” Like many others who took a stand with Rock, Kincaid felt that Smith shouldn’t have reacted the way he did on live television. 

Junior Lauren Larson agreed with Smith saying, “People take things way too far. Some things just aren’t really funny.” Larson mentioned that sometimes “comedians just go too far with their jokes.” Many others who agree with Smith’s actions felt they were justified because of Rock’s “distasteful joke.” 

Whether you chose the side of Rock: a comedian cracking a joke, or Smith: a husband protecting his wife’s name, most will agree that this Oscars was one to remember.

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