The Academy Awards 2022 is in news today, not for the ceremony though. A violent altercation snatched the spotlight from winners this year. In front of the entire audience seated in the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and the ones watching the event live on their televisions Will Smith walked on the stage and slapped the event’s host Chris Rock. While some might feel Rock had it coming, should we make a hero out of Smith at all?
Comedian and Academy Awards 2022 host Chris Rock was in for a rude shock when he crassly joked about American actor and singer Jada Pinkett Smith’s hairstyle. Smith has been open about her struggles with alopecia, a condition in which people lose hair rapidly on their scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes. So, it wasn’t funny at all when Chris Rock said in front of the world audience that he is looking forward to seeing Jada Pinkett Smith in GI Jane II. He was taking a jibe at her buzzcut as a similar hairstyle had been sported by Demi Moore in the 1997 film GI Jane. Pinkett Smith was naturally appalled by the joke and could be seen rolling her eyes on camera.
Will Smith Chris Rock Academy Awards 2022 Incident:
Rock is known for making insensitive jokes on subjects like sexual assault, however, his Oscars joke was both disgraceful for the event and insulting to Smith. Actor Will Smith, who is married to Jada Pinkett Smith, was first seen laughing at Chris Rock’s jokes, but he then quickly got up from his seat and walked up to Rock on the stage. The unaware audience was still cheering and clapping. The theatre went silent when Smith planted a slap on Rock’s face. When Smith stepped down from the stage and settled in his seat, Rock still confused about what happened said, “Will Smith just smacked he sh-t out of me.” Smith was then heard shouting, “Keep my wife’s name out your f-cking mouth.” Watch it here.
The Internet is divided over Smith’s reaction to Rock’s joke. Couldn’t he have taken legal action? Do we romanticise violence in the name of gallantry behaviour among men? Isn’t it toxic for a man to beat another man for badmouthing his partner, and not letting her sort the matter on her own?
Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for a joke on his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s health condition- alopecia. Was the violent reaction called for?
It can feel nice to have a protective partner who is not afraid of fighting against the world for you. Since Jada Pinkett Smith has not yet released any statement about the same, many would assume that she would be proud of her husband at that moment. What if she is not? What if she didn’t want Will Smith to take that violent step against Chris Rock in order to call him out? One made a bad joke and the other smacked someone on the stage. Aren’t both Rock and Smith wrong in their conduct? Think of bar fights between men, one trying to violate a woman and another trying to protect that woman’s honour. The woman will hardly be impressed by the brawl as she does not need a bodyguard. She simply wants a space where she feels safe and respected.
If Will Smith had used his words instead of his hands, things would have been very different. If Smith had gone on stage and said that making jokes on people who suffer from alopecia is ableist and hurts the people who are already struggling with the condition, or if he has demanded Chris Rock to apologise to Jada Pinkett Smith, his wife and everyone else who share her struggles, he would be seen in a much better light. Not that Pinkett Smith needed him to stand up for her, she had already expressed her disagreement with the joke in her own way. Maybe rolling her eyes was enough reaction from her and she did not need her husband to physically assault Chris Rock for it?
Soon after the incident on stage, Will Smith was awarded the Best Actor award for his role in the film King Richard. He was seen crying during his acceptance speech and apologising to the Academy for his rash reaction. Not once in his speech did he express his regrets directly to Chris Rock, the man he had assaulted. Later, the Academy released a statement on social media, distancing itself from the incident. However, the fact remains that it let two culpable men off the hook, one for his inappropriate joke and another for violence. What kind of message does it send across to viewers?
Views expressed are the author’s own.