Will Smith was the star of the show at the Oscars this year for the wrong reasons after he assaulted comedian, Chris Rock, over a joke he made towards his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, while presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature.
The incident wasn’t a comedic skit meant to make the audience laugh, it was a confusing and shameful attempt to belittle a comedian for doing his job. Every award show has presenters who are comedians, their purpose is to make jokes regarding the event or the celebrities in attendance, it’s not an uncommon practice.
Smith will not be remembered for his portrayal of Richard Williams, father of the iconic tennis duo Venus and Serena Williams, on the day he won the academy award for Best Actor. Instead, he will be remembered for a decision that shocked millions of people worldwide.
It was a selfish decision for Smith to take the spotlight not only off of the Williams family, but other award winners of the night. No one is going to remember that Troy Kotsur was the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar for his supporting role in “Coda” or Jessica Chastain winning her first Oscar for Best Actress in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”.
Defending one’s wife’s honor doesn’t mean violence is the only answer. The male ego is very fragile, it doesn’t take a lot to feel disrespected and act on that feeling, but there are many ways that this situation could’ve been handled. Speaking in private seems to be the most logical, maybe having Denzel Washington serve as a mediator for Smith and Rock could put an end to this controversy.
To know Smith was not escorted out following the incident shows a lack of judgment by those who run the ceremony, not because he was wrong for defending his wife but for violating guidelines that come with live television. For example, the Academy’s code of standards wants its members to uphold the values set in place and it is believed that Smith’s actions could fall under “compromising the integrity” of the Academy, which can allow the board to suspend or expel him for the violation.
Alongside the assault, a verbal exchange between Rock and Smith was caught live only on Japanese and Australian television channels, luckily both versions made it to Twitter and have garnered hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets with about 97 million views in the first three days.
By far one of the most bizarre and contradicting events of the night was when Smith was announced as the winner for Best Actor. His speech talked about how love can make you do crazy things and then made comparisons of himself to Richard Williams in the way he was “a fierce defender of his family”. This was shortly after slapping Chris Rock on live television, so the timing of it is very ironic.
Taking away his award has been a topic of conversation online, which doesn’t make sense because what happened shouldn’t take away from his beautiful portrayal of Richard Williams. There has been a history of the Oscars not taking away awards from other celebrities who have had various allegations that don’t align with the prestigiousness of the awards. One of the more prominent figures is Harvey Weinstein, who won an Oscar in 1998 for Best Picture, but was later found guilty of committing a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape in March 2020.
Regardless of what side people are on, there are two things that are true, the joke made could be considered tasteless and Smith’s reaction could be considered an overreaction.
Both Smith and Rock are iconic and deserve to be celebrated for the impact they’ve made during their careers. Although it seems unlikely at this moment, hopefully there is a solution to this problem in the form of a private conversation.