Now being deemed “the slap heard round the world,” Oscar night on Sunday evening was probably the most eventful Oscar ceremony there has ever been. Comedian Chris Rock, doing what hosts prior have done, made wisecracks at certain members of the audience during his monologue speech. Problems happened when he got to Will Smith, up for the Best Actor Award that evening, and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Chris Rock tried to make a joke about Jada being bald and said he couldn’t wait for her in the next GI Jane, alluding that this was her choice of a military-style haircut.
Unfortunately, what Chris Rock didn’t know, but definitely knows now is that Jada Pinkett Smith has been going through a battle that she has made public recently with alopecia, a health autoimmune disorder that causes premature balding in women. In an effort to begin to live with the disorder, she has shaved her hair very close to her head. From the look on Jada’s face and her eye-rolling expression, Jada did take offense to the joke made in bad taste. Will Smith, who originally smiled at the joke, proceeded to get out of his seat, walk up on stage to Chris Rock, and slap him, and then went back to his seat. What followed was censored in the United States but was unedited in other parts of the world. Will Smith began screaming obscenities at Chris Rock and yelling about him “not speaking his wife’s name,” as to say not speaking badly about his wife. Chris Rock appeared stunned and made the comment, “Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me.” Rock tried to finish up smoothly, but it ended up going to commercial break.
Shortly afterwards, Will Smith did indeed win Best Actor for his leading role in King Richard, the story of tennis-greats Venus and Serena William’s father. During his speech, he apologized to his family, fellow actors and the awards committee, but not to Chris Rock. “Love will make you do crazy things,” Smith said, adding, “To do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile, you got to pretend like that’s okay.” Reports say Will Smith and family continued on celebrating the evening during after-parties, showing him dancing with his Oscar to “Getting Jiggy with It.”
The following afternoon, Will Smith did issue a formal but indirect apology to Chris Rock through social media. In a Monday Instagram post, Smith wrote, “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. 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. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
At this time, Chris Rock does not want to press charges against Will Smith. He has also not formally responded to Will Smith’s apology. In the meantime, Will Smith’s win and behavior that evening are being reviewed by the academy, which he has voluntarily withdrawn his membership from. This means that his films can still be nominated, but he would not be attending or voting for the near future.