A slap heard around the world

Why Will Smith ruined his career in the crazieset moment in Oscar history

Asim Adhikary, Staff Writer

This year’s Oscars had a lot of firsts. The first deaf man to win an Academy Award. The first show to have three female hosts. And most importantly, it was the first time people actually talked about the Oscars. 

While presenting the award for best documentary, comedian Chris Rock poked fun at Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, saying, “Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2.” Not knowing the actress suffers from Alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss, Rock was unaware of what he had just said. 

At first, everything appeared normal. Actor and husband Will Smith’s first reaction was to chuckle at the joke. Until moments later, what seemed like out of nowhere,  Smith stormed on stage and slapped Rock across the face. Many people, including myself, thought this was all scripted. A bit for viewers at home to jump out of their seats and ask, “was that real?” Then, without warning, Smith started cursing out the comedian. Shouting, “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth!” it was then that everyone at home knew none of this was planned. 

Shortly afterward, Will Smith accepted his Oscar for Best Actor for his pivotal role in the movie “King Richard.” During the speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees for his previous actions, claiming he would do anything to protect his family. 

Once the show had ended, I raced to social media to find answers. What is the Academy going to do? Did Will Smith just end his career? How is Chris Rock going to clap back (pun intended)? Finally, after being consumed by everyone’s opinions, I went to sleep, curious to see how this would all play out. 

The following day many celebrities and online personalities had weighed in on the incident. Some found Smith’s actions acceptable and warranted, while others believed he was utterly wrong. I agree with the latter. 

Although Chris Rock’s joke was insensitive and unappealing, he was genuinely clueless about Jada’s circumstance. Chris’s brother told the Los Angeles Times: “The joke was funny. It wasn’t hilarious, but I know that if he knew that she had alopecia … he wouldn’t make a joke about that. But he didn’t know.”

Many people are unaware that the comedian struggles with a non-verbal learning disorder, which causes him to have difficulties with social skills and spatial concepts. This is why when Rock saw Smith charging at him on stage, his learning disorder impeded him from making a reaction before getting slapped. 

On the other hand, Will Smith reacted in quite possibly the worst way imaginable. He jeopardized his career and his reputation by going up on that stage. When asked by the Academy, he refused to exit the award show and had the audacity to not apologize to Rock during his acceptance speech. On top of that, after the show, the actor was seen at an after-party acting as if nothing had happened.

Will Smith is now banned from the Oscars ceremony for the next ten years but ironically can still be nominated and win an academy award. The actor said in a statement, “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”

Despite the backlash from the slap, the word around Hollywood is that the actor won’t face much damage to his prolific career. “It is only but a minor speed bump to Will Smith. He’s not kryptonite yet,” says one studio executive. 

Surprisingly, some good has come from this already infamous incident. Chris Rock’s tour sales saw a massive spike with numerous sold-out shows, and the Oscars expect more people to tune into next year’s awards. 

All in all, what took place at this year’s Oscars will notoriously be remembered as one of the most jaw-dropping moments in entertainment history.