Well, that was exciting, wasn’t it? I’m sure no one watching the Oscars was thinking about their Academy Award ballots after Will Smith smacked Chris Rock in the face and then won the Best Actor trophy a half hour later. This event will certainly eclipse the whole La La Land/Moonlight mix-up that happened a few years ago as the most shocking thing that has ever occurred at the ceremony; at least until the next thing happens.
There are plenty of hot takes you can get about this incident from every single person on the internet, so let’s proceed with the winners (more on my personal reaction further down). These awards were all over the place; Dune won the most with six, and they were all technical except for Best Score. (Question: How does a film that is mostly CGI generated win Best Cinematography?) The Power of the Dog (which had been nominated for twelve and was considered the frontrunner for Best Picture) won only one for Jane Campion for Best Director (back-to-back women directors for two years!). The poor showing for TPOTD busted a lot of brackets—people voted for Kentucky and then the Cinderella story called CODA swept in and took Best Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Lin Manuel Miranda did not get his EGOT when that upstart Billie Eilish took Best Original Song for No Time to Die, and poor West Side Story only got one for Best Supporting Actress (Arian DeBose—but her acceptance speech was great).
I am a bit annoyed that after all my hard work of watching every movie nominated, no one really cares about who won (I imagine the winners feel that way, too). Thousands of people managed to produce some top-notch films in the middle of a global pandemic, and the only thing anyone wants to talk about is The Slap (#Twitternamedtrend).
I’m not going to take sides here, as I feel that both Chris Rock and Will Smith were in the wrong. This was a classic case of impulse control—I would guess that from Will’s perspective, it probably felt like it happened in slow motion. You can see him laugh at Chris Rock’s joke about Jada’s bald head and then catch site of his wife’s face and her reaction. Why storming up the runway and smacking the comedian was the only thing he could come up with, I don’t know; but there is some history of Chris Rock mocking Jada in the past. It’s also possible (probable?) that Rock did not know about Pinkett Smith’s medical condition that caused her hair loss. But why would he be making a joke about the wife of a nominee’s physical look in the first place? Talk about punching down.
And here is my personal take on the situation—and the fact that I am nervous about writing this gives you some insight about how Jada must have felt. I have dealt with alopecia since I was a teenager, and it is crushing to your self-esteem. My biggest fear has always been people mocking me for something I have no control over, and the idea of a comedian joking about her bald head in front of a global audience is the nightmare that anyone coping with this has probably had more than once. Will Smith hitting Chris Rock was the absolute worst way to deal with this; but he is probably hyper aware of how his wife feels about her hair loss and reacted without considering the consequences.
And the consequences are huge. To then win the award for Best Actor and make an acceptance speech where you once again make a huge faux pas by saying “Love makes you do crazy things”—which is a classic statement made by abusers everywhere as they protest they only hit “out of love”—was quite possibly the worst thing he could have said. Everything about this situation was terrible and no one came out looking good, but I imagine that shiny gold statue that will be sitting on Will Smith’s mantel is going to be a tainted reminder of what should have been a triumphant night.
I told you all to vote for Andrew Garfield!