Exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Oscars slams social media feeds

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Whitney Ervin, Features Editor

The day after the Oscars is usually filled with conversation about the awards, the elegant outfits, and the heartwarming acceptance speeches. It’s not unusual for the event to be the main topic of conversation the day after, but this year people are talking about the event for a different reason. 

In case you missed it on your morning social media scroll, actor Will Smith came on stage and attacked Chris Rock who was presenting an award. The outburst was the result of Rock making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s shaved head.

“Jada, I love ya. GI Jane 2, I can’t wait to see it,” Rock said, referencing the 1997 film starring Demi Moore in which Moore also sports a shaved head. 

Jada has been open about her struggles with Alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles resulting in baldness. She opened up in 2018 on her show “Red Table Talk” about how the experience of losing her hair by the handfuls was “terrifying.” Since deciding to shave her hair, she’s spoken on her show about how the decision has been freeing for her. 

It’s worth noting that initially, Smith was laughing at the joke but Jada was visibly upset by it. Moments later, Smith was on stage approaching Rock. At first, the audience was still laughing, seeming to think the whole thing was scripted until Smith struck Rock on the face. 

After returning to his seat, Smith continued to yell at Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.” 

Rock responded, “I will.” 

This exchange was cut from the US broadcast, but the full clip has gone viral due to other regions like Japan not cutting the clip from their own live broadcasts. This further pointed to the exchange not being scripted as it was originally believed.

Smith would later go on to win Best Actor for his performance in King Richard. He acknowledges the incident in his speech, noting that Richard Williams (who he portrays in King Richard) was a “fierce defender of his family.”

“I want to apologize to the academy. I want to apologize to all 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 said. It’s worth noting he did not apologize to Rock. 

Many have reacted to the incident on social media condemning the actor’s outburst. 

Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “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 bull****.”

Director and comedian Judd Apatow mirrored Reiner’s sentiments in a tweet saying, “He could have killed him. That’s pure out-of-control rage and violence. They’ve heard a million jokes about them in the last three decades. They are not freshmen in the world of Hollywood and comedy. He lost his mind.”

Many on social media seemed to believe the interaction was staged, however, the Academy’s response indicates otherwise. Shortly after the broadcast, they addressed the incident on Twitter saying they do not condone violence in any form. Today they released a statement addressing Smith’s actions and announcing how they have opened a review. 

“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”

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