By Jasmine Kim
The “slap heard around the world” left America in shock as the country witnessed a moment that would permanently be written into the history of The Academy Awards.
The altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock was followed by confusion from the audience. Just a few seconds earlier, Smith had been laughing at the comedian’s jokes. That is until Rock said, “Jada I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2’ can’t wait to see it,” while presenting the Oscar for best documentary. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, has always been very open about her fight against alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.
She was seen visibly rolling her eyes at the joke before her husband took action and stepped on stage to slap Rock across the face. It wasn’t until Smith’s outraged voice broke the silence that the audience realized it was not staged.
Up until this moment, the biggest headline was that “The Power of the Dog” was completely shut out throughout the night. With 12 nominations, the movie was expected to win Best Picture but was knocked out by the picture that was tied for the lowest number of nominations, “CODA,” which premiered at a film festival as an independent film before being purchased for distribution on a streaming service.
“The Power of the Dog” secured only one award that night as Jane Campion won Best Director, which was a huge accomplishment since she was only the third woman to receive this award.
Then, the slap stole the spotlight.
The physical assault overshadowed the moment for “CODA” as the first predominantly deaf cast to win the top award at the Oscars. In addition to Best Picture, the film also took home Best Adapted Screenplay for Sian Heder and Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kutsor.
Not only did this affect other awards, but with a single slap, Will Smith’s win for best actor from his role in “King Richard” was also undermined. Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a statement that Smith refused when asked to leave, many sources claim there was confusion in the way the situation was handled. As a result, Smith remained at the Oscars and went on stage to receive his award.
In his acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and the audience, but noticeably, Rock was not mentioned. “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said in his speech. He continued with, “Love makes you do crazy things,” in reference to his actions while offering an explanation.
A day later, the Academy announced that it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against the actor. Although Smith resigned from the Academy, its president David Rubin said in a statement that the group “will continue to move forward with [its] disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of [its] next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”
This matter will definitely not rest with the closing credits of the Oscar broadcast. Will Smith publicly apologized to Chris Rock on Instagram and expressed hopes of eventually being invited back. However, Smith was banned from the Oscars and other events hosted by the Academy for the next ten years.
As the YouTube video of the altercation went viral with 50 million views in a single day, viewers had a lot to say about the incident. All in all, now it is up to Hollywood and the public to decide how Will Smith’s 30 years of approachable and dedicated movie star charisma will be affected as a result.