The 94th Academy Awards held at Dolby Theatre on 28th March 2022 might go down in history as one of the most remembered and talked about Academy Award Show. The audience and viewers at home took a Collective gasp when Will Smith walked up to the show host Chris Rock and slapped him right on the face. The comedian who made a GI Jane joke pointed at Will’s wife Jada clearly touched a nerve as Jada suffers from alopecia, a condition that triggers partial or complete baldness and about which she has been very vocal.
Will then proceeded to angrily tell Chris to “keep his wife’s name out of his f****g mouth” from his seat in the audience. Chris Rock, although visibly shocked, continued hosting the show and introduced the next nominees.
Following the social media backlash and statements of protest and condemnation from the actor’s unions and other celebrities, Will Smith posted an apology statement on his Instagram, saying:
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear, and I reacted emotionally.
I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line, and I was wrong. I am embarrassed, and my actions are not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness. “
— 𝐍𝐈𝐊𝐊𝐈 𝐆🎊 (@fabulous_nikki4) March 29, 2022
He further said:
“I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees, and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.
I am a work in progress.
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Although Will Smith accepts his mistake through his public apology, the incident itself was shocking for his fellow attendees, as was visible through the reaction images circulating online. While it was speculated whether Smith would be escorted out of the show or not, the actor remained in attendance and won the best actor award for his role in King Richard.
In an emotional acceptance speech, Will Smith seemed to give a rationale for his prior action and apologized to everyone but Chris Rock:
“I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees.’
Will Smith’s actions received mixed reviews from his peers. Janet Hubert, who starred alongside Will in Fresh Prince, said:
“Yes, there is only so much one can take…sometimes you have to slap back. Celebrate the win…nothing else matters. Both actions were incorrect, but Chris didn’t need to go there.”
Tiffany Hadish found Will Smiths’ gesture of defending his wife very touching:
“When I saw a Black man stand up for his wife, that meant so much to me.”
Niki Minaj took to Twitter and defended both Chris and Will by blaming the Oscar’s management for the unfortunate joke and by showing understanding of Will Smith’s anger.
However, Mia Farrow feels that it was no big deal:
“It was just a joke. Jokes are what Chris Rock does. Always has been edgy. This was a mild joke for him. And I love GI Jane.”
Rob Reiner even called out Will on his acceptance speech:
“Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology. There is no excuse for what he did. He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges. The excuses he made tonight were bullshit.”
Whichever way the stars might feel, Chris Rock so far has decided not to press any charges against Will Smith for his assault. An assault of this nature can land the perpetrator in jail for six months and a $100000 fine. Along with the legal repercussions, Will Smith could also face censure or fallout from his fellow stars. The Academy and SAG-AFTRA condemned Will Smith’s action and announced launching separate investigations into the matter, which may result in some consequences.
SAG-AFTRA, in their statement, said:
“Violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never appropriate, and the union condemns any such conduct. The incident involving Will Smith and Chris Rock at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable.”
Smith realizing the gravity of his actions, has since offered an apology statement via an Instagram post to Chris, the Academy, and his fellow peers, but whether Chris Rock will accept his apology or Smith will face any repercussions, the entire fiasco has made the world abuzz with replays of the incident.