Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars has been the most widely discussed part of the biggest awards night in cinema. Comedians and celebrities too have weighed in on the incident, with actor-comedian Jim Carrey saying he was “sickened” to witness the assault of Rock and the response at the event.
It all began when Rock joked about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s shaved head, a consequence of her medical condition alopecia areata, and said, “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it, all right?” Smith went up on stage and took everyone by surprise by striking Rock on his face. He returned to his seat, and screamed, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
Soon, the incident started going viral on social media, with #WillAndChris trending on Twitter and most netizens objecting to Smith’s action. Although the Academy released a statement, shortly after, disapproving of the act, some social media users noted that the Oscar curators did not step up to do anything as it was happening.
Asked for his reaction to the incident during an interview on CBS Mornings, Carrey called Hollywood “spineless.” He said, “I was sickened by the standing ovation. It really felt like, ‘oh, this is a really clear indication that we are not the cool club anymore’.”
While Rock refused to file a complaint against Smith, Carrey said in Rock’s place, he would have filed a lawsuit for $200 million. “That insult is going to last a very long time. If you want to yell from the audience and show disapproval or say something on Twitter, that’s fine. But you do not have the right to walk up on stage and smack somebody in the face because they said words,” he added.
While Corden created a parody track, We Don’t Talk About Jada, to the tune of the song We Don’t Talk About Bruno from Encanto, Fallon said on his show, “America may be divided, but it was kind of nice for all of us to come together and say ‘holy crap’ at the same time.”
Colbert also addressed the incident and said that it is never acceptable to punch a comedian, adding, “If you really want to hurt a comedian, don’t laugh! That hurts way more than a punch, I promise you.”
Kimmel, on the other hand, said, “This was the Hollywood version of your drunk uncle starting a fight, ruining the wedding and then standing up and giving a long toast to the bride and groom.” He also noted that Smith was initially smiling at Rock’s joke, and added, “But then he must have looked over and saw that Jada was not amused and is like, ‘Uh oh, I better do something.'”
Actor Adam Sandler voiced his support for Rock on Twitter, and promoted the latter’s Chris Rock Ego Death World Tour, writing, “Can’t wait for this. Love you buddy!”
Actor Zoe Kravitz, who was last seen in The Batman, shared a photo of herself on Instagram and wrote, “Here’s a picture of my dress at the award show where we are apparently assaulting people on stage now.”
Former American basketball player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called out Smith for his actions, which, he said, “advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community.”
In a blogpost titled Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing, Abdul-Jabbar argued that contrary to defending his wife, “Smith’s slap was also a slap to women.” He added that by hitting Rock, Smith had “announced that his wife was incapable of defending herself — against words.”
The basketball player also noted that the incident will lead to the continued marginalisation of African-Americans and others through voter suppression campaigns.
While Smith did not mention Rock in his acceptance speech, when he apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees, he later addressed a statement to the comedian on Instagram. Apologising to Rock for his behaviour, which he admitted was “unacceptable and inexcusable,” he said that the joke about his wife’s medical condition was too much for him to bear and caused him to react emotionally.
Meanwhile, the Academy has scheduled a review meeting on Wednesday to discuss the appropriate action to be taken against Smith for his behaviour.