The Slap Heard Around the World

Written By Hayden Claborn, Entertainment Reviewer

Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Oscars 2022

“Is the television broken?” I asked my mom as we sat in a hotel room watching the 94th Academy Awards, a yearly tradition of ours, as the screen froze for what seemed to be 40 seconds. Both of us sat in confusion which continued for several more minutes. Was Will Smith slapping Chris Rock a bit? The answer: no. 

But frankly simply calling it a slap strikes me as odd because it should be called “assault”. That might come across as extremely charged language, however, it’s what Will Smith did. 

 It’s possible that an event like this–, a man going up on stage, committing assault, and then winning an Oscar– normalizes this kind of behavior. Obviously, the Academy can’t change the vote mid-ceremony, but they could have done something about it. 

The common defense of Smith is that Chris Rock made an offensive joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness (which is due to Alopecia). Should Chris have made that joke? No, but two wrongs don’t make a right. 

What made it all worse was Smith’s speech for winning Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams in King Richard. The speech was understandably very emotional as this was Smith’s third nomination for acting. However, lines like “That’s what I want to do, I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern” and “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said. But love will make you do crazy things…” come off at best as tone deaf and at worst outright offensive. As a many have pointed out, using love as a justification for violence is toxic. 
The real tragedy is that instead of talking about the historic wins of Troy Kotsur who is the second deaf actor to win an Oscar for Coda or Ariana DeBose being the first openly black queer person to win an Oscar for West Side Story, everyone is talking about Will Smith. Even if you don’t care about the Academy awards, these are moments worth celebrating. However the only thing that’ll be talked about is Will Smith assaulting Chris Rock. By making that choice, he made the night about himself.

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