On March 27, 2022, it was a night when the world’s attention was focused on one place. But then, an unexpected situation occurred, and everyone was shocked. It was an unprecedented assault in history that happened at Academy Awards 2022. So let’s figure out what happened at the Academy Awards and who Will Smith and Chris Rock were involved in the incident.
What happened at the Academy Awards?
The Academy Awards is the most prestigious film awards ceremony in the United States. Most people often called as the ‘Oscar Awards.’ It is an award ceremony founded by prominent filmmakers members of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). They vote, select, and award Hollywood films of the years. Since Hollywood movies are influential worldwide, the film industry, the press, and show business in the world pay attention to the ceremony and nominators. The award category consists of 23 awards for the film's production, including the producers, the cast, and all other participants in the production of costumes and music. In 2020, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” won the Academy Awards for the first time as a non-English speaking film, which caused massive attention from the ceremony to the Korean public. Two years later, in 2022, an unprecedented situation occurred at the 94th awards ceremony. Will Smith, who won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, simply Best Actor Award, slapped comedian Chris Rock who was the host of the awards ceremony. The awards ceremony was a live show, so the media broadcasted the moment immediately, covering daily headlines other than any issue. While Chris Rock was hosting the ceremony, he joked about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved hair sitting right in front of the stage. Will Smith felt unpleasant, so he went up the stage and slapped Rock’s cheek powerfully. After Will’s unpredictable action, he returned to his seat and yelled at Rock in resentment. Under federal law, US broadcaster ABC muted audio, but the original video released by the international broadcaster spread online hits tens of millions of views.
Focus on Will Smith
‘Will Smith Junior’ is a prestigious American actor and hip-hop singer who has won Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and Grammy Awards formerly. He debuted as a hip-hop singer in the 1980s. He became a beloved desirable musician by Americans from children to adults, later becoming a famous movie star by filming Hollywood movies box office success. On March 27, 2022, at the 94th Academy Awards, Will Smith won the Best Actor Award, recognized as a living legend. However, he couldn’t resist the insult to his wife and committed an assault, which shocked the public greatly. The fact is that his wife, Jada Pinkett, suffered from alopecia and shaved her head. She showed up at the awards ceremony with a changed hairstyle to support her husband, who was nominated for best actor. However, as soon as she heard the offensive joke, her face hardened and expressed unpleasantness. Will Smith was sitting next to her, laughed at the joke at first, but soon realized the seriousness of the situation when he saw Jada rolling her eyes with a disagreeable expression and rushed to Chris Rock on the stage. After the assault, he even shed tears as he received his first Oscar for performing Richard in the movie “King Richard,” but violence stained his glory. Audiences and some film industry officials are split into two stances, criticizing him for committing an assault or cheering him on, saying, “It was an action to protect his family.” On March 28, Will Smith faced a backlash online and apologized to Rock and the Academy on his Instagram and Facebook. Smith says, “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.” He added, “I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees, and everyone watching around the world.” However, a few days later, on April 1, the Academy forced Will Smith to resign from his ten-year Academy membership and potentially expelled him from the Hollywood film industry. “The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr.Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards,” said AMPAS president David Rubin. “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision,” Smith replied in a succinct statement soon after AMPAS made their public announcement.
Focus on Chirs Rock
Christopher Julius Rock (also known as Chris Rock) is an American actor and comedian. He gained fame for his unrivaled black stand-up comedy, telling stories properly combining black slang. From the US premium cable channel HBO “Chris Rock Show,” he was developed as host of the show. Chris was chosen as the host of the 88th Academy Awards in 2016, and it was 11 years later, that the Academy was blamed as a ‘festival for Whites,’ which impacted social discrimination. At that time, he wore a white tuxedo as a master of black comedy that caricatures the issue of racism. But he faced a backlash causing controversy over Asians and sexual minorities ironically. He made fun of three Asian children on stage in suits and briefcases to help with the awards, “Let me introduce you to future great accountants,” and said, “If you don’t like my joke, tweet it, and of course, they made the smartphones,” using the stereotype that Asians are math professional and laborer. While Asians expressed displeasure with this, the public who are into various black comedies praised his sense that it was a statement revealing discrimination against Blacks and stereotypes about Asians. As such, his hosting of the Academy raised controversy several times. At the 94th Academy Awards, Chris Rock as host, referred to Will Smith’s wife Jada, saying, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see you.” G.I. Jane is a movie about a heroine played by Demi Moore with a shaved head, joking that Jada could be in the next film series, mentioning her shaved head. After the joke, Will Smith strode up to the stage, slapping Chris Rock on the cheek. The moment surprised every attendee in the hall, but Chris, who was slapped, continued the joke, saying, “That was a greatest night in the history of television.”
The relationship between Chris Rock and Pinkett Smith has never been easygoing. When Chris hosted the Oscars in 2016, Jada declared a boycott with several other celebrities due to the lack of diversity in nominees, ‘Oscars so White.’ Chris responds, “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited,” making fun of her action. After being slapped, Chris joked about the incident and said, “I’m OK, I have a whole show and I’m not talking about that until I get paid. Life is good. I got my hearing back.”
Lee Dong-jin, a movie columnist who is considered to have enhanced Korean movie reviews, made a comment about the situation, “I thought it was a script at first…so I felt very strange on the script, but as soon as hearing Will Smith’s cursing, I knew it was a real situation,” he said in surprise. “I always felt nervous whenever watching US awards ceremony. There are cultural differences between East and West, and the American shows have many abusive statements and strong jokes in public,” he said. “Even Chris Rock has a precedent. A few years ago, when he was a show host in 2016, he criticized the discrimination against black people and made remarks that discriminated against Asians. Since he dragged family in and laughed at them, there is a big difference in emotional insults when cursing to myself and family,” Lee expressed displeasure. As critic Lee said, most Korean media focused on the ‘cause’ of why Will Smith acted violently rather than on his assault. As Lee said, Chris has spoken out about racism as a black man, but ironically, he has been blaming Asians for making discriminatory remarks in public. People pointed out that his words and actions are contrary, even though he is a talkative comedian. In particular, his attitude at the authoritative awards ceremony was considered undesirable as the host. Similarly, in Korea, the public blamed hosts of awards ceremonies for their rude hosting. On December 30, 2015, former announcer Jun Hyun-moo, host of SBS Entertainment Awards, sarcastically asked Kang Ho-dong, nominated for the grand prize, “What did you achieve this year?” and Kang replied, “My hands are sweaty because I’m nervous.” Again, Jun said, “That's because you are fat,” intentionally rebuking him. Later on December 31, Jun posted an apology to the public on his Instagram, reflecting his careless attitude, saying, “I admit my mistakes, I couldn’t draw a distinct line between public and private matters, and being rude to close friend Kang and ignoring the public.” In this way, Korea and countries in the East were taught to be polite and distinguish between private and public, and it is a dignified attitude. In addition, in Korean society, people can endure insults against themselves but not family and refrain from each other. So, many Koreans were angry at Chris Rock, saying, “Can’t understand him insulting family, moreover, to a sick person.” British actress Jameela Jamil tweeted, "Will Smith said, “Not Today.” A man big enough to absolutely floor him, slapped him softly enough that Chris barely moved because he made fun of his wife’s alopecia on a world stage. Don’t say #protectBalckwomen for two years and then only condemn Will here. Come on…” supported Will Smith. Sharon Sone retweeted Jameela’s tweet and said, “I want to hear Chris Rock apologize to Jada Pinkett Smith,” defended Will Smith.
However, critic Lee added, “I understand that Will is angry because Chris demeans his wife. Even so, it’s wrong to use violence. Chris did insult him, but going up to the stage and slapping was a physical act of violence, and it’s impossible to happen. Mostly, the problem is basically between the three, not the public. Chris made it public first, but Will’s action was imprudent,” criticizing violence. Will can laugh off Chris, but he was outraged and made a mockery of it, and many criticized his behavior for even using violence. Jim Carrey, during a promotional interview for his returning movie “Super Sonic 2,” Jim Carrey explained he was ‘sickened’ about Will’s assault, blaming him as a ‘selfish man. Also, Jim said, “I was sickened. I was sickened by the standing ovation. I felt like Hollywood is just spineless en masse. And it really felt like this is a really clear indication that we’re not the cool club anymore.” Richard Williams, the real-life model of the movie “King Richard,” also made negative comments about Will, stating violence is never acceptable unless it’s self-defense. As such, most people in the film industry praised Chris Rock’s efforts and criticized Will’s assault. Also, in North America, where the stand-up comedy culture is developed, public opinion strongly supporting Chris’s remarks is not a big deal.
Will Smith and Chris Rock, does it matter to weigh their mistake? Their unmannerly attitude of not distinguishing between public and private affairs revealed their privacy. This incident turned into a mockery for all of them and revealed the bottom line of the film industry and the Hollywood world. Consuming someone as a subject of a comedy and using violence cannot be seen as desirable behavior. Since it was an award ceremony, what if they pleased each other with encouragement and praise?