Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith at the Oscars

So What Happened Between Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars

The 94th Oscars went on with fanfare last night and while there weren’t too many surprise wins, that didn’t mean the ceremony was par for the course. One of the biggest moments of the night came when Will Smith seemingly took to the stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face.

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What many media outlets are calling “the slap heard round the world” at the Oscars emerged from Chris Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, which was in extremely poor taste, and Will Smith sticking up for his wife in a very public venue. (A brief while later, Smith would win the Best Actor Oscar for his work in King Richard.) During the ceremony, Rock was presenting awards and did a bit of a stand-up session in the process. Much like most award shows, it included poking fun at the celebrities within his sight, and one of them happened to be Jada Pinkett Smith.

The actress has, recently, been very open about her struggle with the hair loss condition alopecia and while Chris Rock might not have known at the time, he knows now of her struggle and he also knows that Will Smith will defend his wife no matter the situation. As many observers have pointed out, the topic of alopecia is a sensitive one for Black women—which Rock certainly should have been aware of, as he produced, narrated, and helped write the 2009 documentary film Black Hair. This also isn’t the first time he’s mocked Pinkett Smith at the Oscars, with Smith allegedly “still mad” about a Rock joke aimed at Pinkett Smith in 2016.

The “joke” stated that Pinkett Smith was getting ready to star in G.I. Jane 2, calling back to the film G.I. Jane where actress Demi Moore famously shaved her head. Had Jada not been so open and willing to share her health struggles, this may have landed differently, but you can see her reaction to the joke live, and she doesn’t seem to be too happy about it. So Will Smith marching on stage and slapping Chris Rock sent a clear message about what not to say about his wife. While American broadcasts censored some of Smith’s commentary, on broadcasts in other countries Smith can be heard saying clearly, “Keep my wife’s name out of your [expletive] mouth.”

The internet blew up in a massive way after the altercation, with some people questioning whether or not that was scripted and if anyone knew what was going on and, for the most part, it seems like the situation was completely impromptu on Smith’s part. What has since transpired online is a particularly egregious and high-profile example of how people talk about issues, especially those involving Black men and women, and it’s been a lot.

But focusing on a common refrain I’ve seen, there are quite a few people demanding that the Academy take away Will Smith’s Oscar for Best Actor he won shortly after the incident with Rock. To that I say: When they take away Roman Polanski’s Oscar and all the Oscars that Harvey Weinstein has and look at how they consistently award men like Mel Gibson, then we can have a conversation. Not a moment before. Did I mention accused predators Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey also still have Oscars? Oh, them too!

Twitter reacts

Outside of the awful behavior happening on Twitter from nearly everyone deciding that the world needs their hot takes on this, there have been some more light-hearted responses about the audience all trying to figure out what’s going on in the initial confusion thereafter.

This is a situation where everyone jumping in with their bad takes on Twitter is a poor reflection of their own biases and shouldn’t be dominating the conversation. If everyone could just save that tweet in drafts and log off, that would be great.

(image: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.