(News4usonline) – The irrelevance of the Academy Awards and its struggles to maintain an audience has been on a steady decline that had culminated in the show’s lowest viewership last year with 9.85 million watching the telecast.
Although on Sunday, the 94th edition of the Oscars ceremony was televised at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, there was hardly a reason to stay tuned to watch the generic and boring broadcast of the Hollywood elite passing golden statues to each other.
However, that changed after comedian Chris Rock, before presenting the award for Best Documentary feature, made reference to actor Will Smith’s wife Jada’s shaved head by saying “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2’ can’t wait to see it.”
This prompted the Academy Award-nominated actor (at the time) to leave his seat, walk to the stage and slap Rock in the face who then returned to his seat and shouted, “keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth.”
The confused audience, most likely thinking this was a stunt, soon realized, along with the rest of the viewers at home, this was not a performance, but an actual assault.
Unfortunately, this moment took away from the ceremony’s nominees and winners as the awkward moment lingered throughout the rest of the broadcast. The Academy Awards became the most relevant it has ever been, but for the wrong reasons.
The reaction from Smith was completely unnecessary and problematic as it showcased the immense ego of a person who thought it was okay to disrupt a massive worldwide televised event with his emotional tantrum. This idea that his actions were made with good intentions for defending his wife is utterly reprehensible.
Regardless of the quality of the joke (which was tame in my opinion), Rock is one of the most established comedians of this generation and has a record of provoking and poking fun at celebrities in his act. His easy observation does not warrant being assaulted on global television.
The issue is not with Rock’s joke, but with Will and Jada’s insecure egos. Will can be seen laughing at the joke prior to Jada’s cold stare that she gave him showing her reluctance to comedy at her expense. Despite the notion that Jada is dealing with alopecia ( a medical disorder that causes hair loss and patchy baldness), this does not constitute the actions of physical violence and could have been handled off-air with an email or private conversation.
This also leads to a situation where comedians and other presenters in the future will have a hesitancy to speak about Smith and his family due to repercussions from the family or the Academy, which is a form of censorship. When we lose the ability to speak freely, then we lose our constitutional rights to the first amendment.
Of course, words can cause emotional damage and freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences, but to flaunt violence as restitution is dangerous. This is not a call to become more insensitive to those around you, but to think before reacting.
I myself and others did not know that Jada was suffering from her medical condition, and it is possible that Rock did not know it as well. The comment did not seem aggressive, but a basic observation on a hairstyle that crossed an invisible line that no one could see.
Jada has been reportedly open about her condition, but like most, I do not subscribe to her newsletter and thought her haircut was a personal choice.
What makes the situation more awkward is that Smith won the award for Best Actor and called himself a “vessel of love” and “a keeper of peace” in his acceptance speech which felt completely tone-deaf. Will has since apologized to Rock for his actions, but this seems like a forced ploy established by a public relations team to keep Smith looking more personable after his Academy Award victory.
Smith’s reaction also showcases the incredible privilege he has as an elite celebrity as he was able to stay at the venue and was not charged with a crime after the incident. While people condemned his actions, others like Tiffany Haddish, told people magazine that the slap “was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their wives.”
The fantasy of men using violence to protect their women is not only misogynistic but feeds into the narrative of toxic masculinity that is still prevalent in our society.
However, Smith is not above making jokes at other people’s expense as a video has resurfaced from 1991 of him making fun of Arsenio Hall’s band member with alopecia and claiming “these are jokes.”
I hope Will has learned his lesson and takes his own advice to remember that the person who uses their head will always defeat the person who tries to use their hands. The more you know, I guess.
Featured Image: Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith during the live ABC telecast of the 94th Oscars® at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, March 27, 2022. Photo credit: Al Seib / A.M.P.A.S.