Neither Chris Rock nor Will Smith were in the right at the Oscars
Assaulting someone is unacceptable, but that doesn’t make tasteless jokes tasteful
TRIGGER WARNING: This story is about, and contains video of, an act of assault. Reader discretion is advised.
At last night’s Academy Awards (colloquially called the Oscars), actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face after Rock made an offensive joke mocking Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair loss; Jada is Will Smith’s wife. According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Rock declined to press charges against Will.
YouTuber Jomboy did a video analysis of the incident:
This was perhaps the most infamous physical altercation to be broadcast on American broadcast network television outside of a combat sport or professional wrestling card since the Donnie Allison-Cale Yarborough fight after the finish of the 1979 Daytona 500. In a time where the COVID-19 pandemic still rages, and the Vladimir Putin regime in Russia is waging a barbaric and unjustified war against Ukraine, Will Smith slapping Chris Rock has upstaged serious world crises for the American people’s attention, which says a lot about the American people.
What happened at the Oscars last night was absolutely unacceptable, to put it mildly. As I see it, neither Chris Rock nor Will Smith are in the right. Rock shouldn’t have made offensive jokes about Jada, as anyone who is doing a stand-up comedy routine shouldn’t make jokes that deliberately insult someone who is in the physical audience. At the same time, Will shouldn’t have assaulted Rock. Will had every right to be upset at Rock’s tasteless attempt at humor, but that doesn’t justify assaulting him.
Will won the Best Actor award at the Oscars for his role in the movie King Richard, a sports docudrama based on the life of Richard Williams, the father of tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams. I don’t support stripping Will of his award. Sports stars who are convicted of even the most heinous crimes outside of competition are usually not stripped of championships and other awards earned in competition, and the same principle should apply in regard to winners of awards in the arts.