On Monday morning, there was plenty of the usual post-Academy Awards talk, but few people were actually discussing CODA, which took home the Oscar for Best Picture. Rather it was actor Will Smith – who went on to win Best Actor for his role in King Richard – and his open-hand slap on the face of comedian Chris Rock that was the talk of Tinsel Town and beyond.
The incident occurred after Rock, who was introducing the award for Best Documentary, made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith – seated in the front row.
“Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see ya,” Rock quipped.
All seemed well, and Smith was even seen laughing, but Pinkett Smith was visually annoyed by the joke. The 50-year-old actress suffers from the autoimmune disorder alopecia, which attacks hair follicles, resulting in bald spots and hair loss.
Pinkett Smith has been candid of the issue on posts on Instagram.
As Rock continued with his introduction, Smith walked on the stage and smacked Rock. The pair then engaged in a brief exchange as Smith returned to his seat. Later after winning the award for Best Actor, Smith attempted to apologize for his actions, yet made no reference to Rock.
“Love will make you do crazy things,” Smith said, and added, “To do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile, you got to pretend like that’s okay.”
On Monday afternoon, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it had launched a formal review.
“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show,” a spokesperson for the organization said. “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.”
Social Media Reacted Hard
Both Will Smith and Chris Rock were trending throughout Monday, and even those who didn’t tune-in to Sunday’s ceremonies likely have seen the exchange, as clips have been widely shared across the social platforms. An uncensored clip from Australian TV had been seen nearly 37 million times by Monday afternoon.
Another clip – also uncensored – from Japanese TV was seen almost 54 million times.
Actor/comedian Michael Rapaport (@MichaelRapaport) used the event to promote his podcast, tweeting, “If Ben Affleck slapped Jerry Seinfeld what would happen?”
What was particularly noteworthy was also the reaction from so many on social media – with users siding with Rock while others suggested that Smith was simply defending his wife. Then there were plenty who attempted to analyze the videos, with more than a few arguing it was staged to create “Oscar drama.”
“Staged. SLO mo. Rock has feet spread, arms behind back, smiling and almost leans into it. Would you if a man was approaching an unpredictable way? No ‘what’s going on?’. The ‘hit’ is a side hand ‘chop’,” suggested @Tracydr12, who shared a slow-motion clip.
TV presenter Gillian McKeith (@GillianMcKeith) offered her own take, “Staged?”
A number of memes made the rounds that called back to Rock’s show Everybody hates Chris, as well as taking aim at the Smiths’ past marriage troubles.
Finally, another clip, from Fox’s Family Guy also made the rounds on Monday, poking fun at an event that wasn’t really all that funny.