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Will Smith open-palm slapped Chris Rock during last night’s 94th annual Oscars ceremony. While presenting the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Rock let a few jokes off at audience members as professional comedians are well known to do. Arriving at Jada Pinkett Smith, Rock said he couldn’t wait for the sequel of G.I. Jane to come out, comparing her to the titular character of the 1997 film who also has a close-shaven buzzcut.
While the joke was initially humored by the audience and her husband alike, Jada didn’t crack a smile once. Then Will suddenly appeared to have a change of heart before abruptly climbing the stage stairs and marching toward Rock to right-hand slap him.
Will Smith was out-of-pocket – but why?
Though Chris Rock’s joke was clearly meant in jest like all the others, Will walked like a fed-up husband who’s heard every whisper, rumor, and kee-kee at he or his wife’s expense over the years.
Perhaps there are only so many jokes about Tupac or August Alsina a man who had played Muhammad Ali can take before he takes a swing of his own. Perhaps Will’s slap was the residual effect of a soul-exposing memoir and tour last year, or maybe he and Chris have Hollywood beef juicier than an In-N-Out burger. Yet regardless, of the why. the what is far more damning. And what Will did was wrong.
Though understandably stunned, Rock kept the show moving before stating the obvious, “Will Smith just slapped the sh–out of me.”
You could hear a pin drop.
As the awkward audience watched in horror and confusion, Rock tried to explain that it was a joke but Bel-Air’s Slap-Happy Prince was not having it. Smith confidently strolled back to his seat next before shouting, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth!”
Jada Pinkett-Smith has lived with alopecia for years and as a result, her head is shaven. Maybe Rock knew this, maybe he didn’t. Yet what is certain is assaulting a comedian for telling a single joke sets a dangerous precedent.
Intruding on stage while a comedian performs at the Oscars is one thing, but consider the same premise at a hole-in-the-wall comedy club. If Smith and Rock weren’t globally recognized megastars dressed to the nines on “Hollywood’s biggest night” in front of a massive viewing audience, far more dangerous outcomes could occur.
So what had happened was…
Not even an hour later, Smith approached the stage to accept the Oscar for best actor for King Richard. In his tearful comments, Smith said Richard Williams was a “fierce defender of his family” and that he himself was “being called on” in his life “to love people and to protect people.”
Smith continued: “I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to my fellow nominees. … Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”
Smith exited the stage without acknowledging or apologizing to Rock.
Comedian Tiffany Haddish praised Will for sticking up for his wife and assuming the role of protector. Black women need protection. Full stop. The confirmation hearings of Ketanji Brown-Jackson were a week-long reminder of the blatant bias, character assassin attempts, and outright lies some in our society will hurl at a Black woman even as she is about to ascend to the highest court.
However, Rock’s remark about being bald shouldn’t have elicited such a quite literal heavy-handed response.
We’ve all heard of method-acting, but it appears Smith channeled Venus and Serena’s father to deliver a strike that shocked not only the eyes of the attendees and social media – but the law.
LAPD has since released a statement announcing Chris Rock would not press charges.