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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

What Will Smith's Outburst Means For The Future of The Academy

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

After an eventful night at The Oscars, filled with great performances and historic wins, the only thing anyone seems to remember is the fateful moment where Will Smith got out of his front-row seat to slap Chris Rock across the face. Despite the fact that this event lasted no longer than two minutes, it could result in extreme consequences for those involved and might even result in a historic decision from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

Around two hours into the Academy Awards ceremony on the night of March 27th, Chris Rock stepped out on stage to present the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, which would be taken home by Summer of Soul. However, before the envelope could be opened, Rock began some stage banter like most presenters do. Unfortunately, it seems like he picked the wrong night to tell some "light jokes" and ended up crossing the line with the Smiths. Before presenting the award, Rock made a joke at Jada Pinkett Smith's expense, comparing her to Demi Moore's character in G.I. Jane, who famously sports a shaved head, and at first, it seemed like the joke went over just fine with the room. Confusion soon followed when the camera panned to Will laughing and Jada wearing a stern expression. Any speculation as to how the Smiths feel would soon be cleared up when Will Smith got out of his chair, walked up the stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face. While a wave of shock filled the theater, people still weren't sure if this interaction was scripted, but after Will Smith shouted "Keep my wife's name out your f***in' mouth!" it was obvious that this wasn't just part of the show. What might not be clear to everyone is that Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia, so a joke about her hair was taken as more of a personal attack rather than casual banter.

It was immediately clear just how appaled everyone in the audience was after Will Smith's outburst. Not only did the theater go quiet but anyone who was watching at home was left confused as to why their televisions had just gone silent. The only reason why so many people know what exactly happened is because of a Twitter video that was released of the Australian broadcast, where the encounter was not censored in any way. The video has amassed over half a million likes, not even 24 hours after the awards ceremony took place. Despite this downright unignorable event, Chris Rock went on with the show and presented the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature to Questlove for Summer of Soul.

Something that the majority of viewers might not be aware of is that using blatant profanity on live TV, especially a broadcast as popular as The Oscars has consequences much more serious than getting censored. Studios have the potential to get fined enormous sums of money if an F-bomb somehow makes its way onto a live broadcast. Perhaps the most dire is Will Smith potentially being forced to give back his Academy Award for Best Actor that he won on Sunday for his performance in King Richard. It turns out that by assaulting a presenter and using profanity on television are both violations of the Academy code of conduct. The Academy has never been forced to take back an award before despite the rules always being in place. It is unclear as of March 28th if the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will strip Will Smith of his title and his trophy.

In the mere minutes following the public brawl, people on social media immediately began taking sides between Will Smith and Chris Rock. Some argue that Smith had the right to defend his wife while others see his actions as unneccesary and downright unprofessional. It has barely been two days since the awards ceremony and conspiracy theories are already starting to pop up, stating that it was all an act to help get The Oscars better ratings, since last year marked an all-time low in terms of viewership.

Will Smith has since apologized for his outburst, both in his acceptance speech and on Instagram, and Chris Rock has revealed that he will not be pressing charges, however this event is still worth talking about because it raises so many interesting talking points about The Oscars and Hollywood itself. At the end of the day, violence truly doesn't solve anything, and is especially inappropriate as a response to what was intended to be a lighthearted joke on live television. Only time will tell if Will Smith will get to keep his Academy Award and how this public outburst will change censorship laws and The Oscars as a whole.

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