Sunday night, the 94th Academy Awards were held in Hollywood, California. It's a night for the stars to come and celebrate; celebrate this year's films themselves, but also the people that have come before them. This was supposed to be a particularly special night at The Oscars. We have all been locked down with COVID for the most part over the last two years. People are just starting to go back to the movies again.
Instead, the only thing anyone is talking about is what happened with about an hour left in the show. Comedian Chris Rock was on stage and made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith being bald, referencing a role in the film GI Jane 2. Seconds later, Will Smith walks onto the stage and directly up to Chris Rock then slaps him across the face. He then takes his seat like nothing happened before screaming at the top of his lungs for all to hear “Do not put my wife's name in your fu**ing mouth… do not put my wife's name in your fu**ing mouth.”
Of course, that part was edited out live in the United States. But internationally, the unedited version is everywhere.
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock pic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 28, 2022
Obviously, The Academy Awards have never really had a moment quite like this. But to make matters much worse, approximately a half hour later, Will Smith won the first Oscar of his acting career. It's a career that spans three decades, having earned three nominations.
Smith then walked onto the stage, broke down in tears talking excessively about how he is a savior. He wants to be the vessel for peace and safety. Yes, in the middle of his speech, he quickly apologized to the Academy and the his fellow nominees. But then he got right back to his speech. Mind you, thirty minutes ago, he literally assaulted someone on the stage.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith had a poignant takeaway from the whole thing.
If @willsmith seriously did that — and he wins the OSCAR — he just stained the greatest moment of his career. You cannot do that S$&@!!Especially as a BLACK MAN, in that position, to ANOTHER BLACK MAN(@chrisrock) on THAT STAGE. If this was not a joke, Will won’t live this down!!!
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) March 28, 2022
Smith brings up a good point. Tonight was going to be the biggest night of Will Smith's entire career, if not his life. Instead, he will forever be remembered for his violent outburst on stage. He will not be remembered for being only the fifth black man ever to win Best Actor in a Leading Role, joining Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Forrest Whitaker.
For a lot of people, that stage more than anywhere else in the world, embodies white privilege. Black people have struggled for so long to gain equality in this country. Not only to be treated equally, but to also be thought of as equals. There is still so far to go. Smith did not do the people before him, the black actors before him, justice. If anything, he continued to propel a stereotype on the biggest stage imaginable.
Yet, he still had the gaul to go out there and weep, claiming to be the savior of so many. He preached safety and peace endlessly. The irony of the speech can't possibly be lost on him, can it? Maybe that's why Smith was crying so hard. Maybe he realized that, but it was too late to change his pre-planned speech. But he knew inside that he ruined it. He ruined any chance of ever being thought of as the person that he described in his speech.
I'm not even saying Smith is not that person. Personally, I have been a huge fan of his most of my life. I grew up watching “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and have followed his career closely over the years. I've seen almost all of his films. But even I cannot help but think less of him after tonight. It truly is a shame, for so many people.