Leaving a mark: A wild night at the Oscars


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Morgan Luster

This past Oscars ceremony is never to be forgotten, as this night left its mark on television as Will Smith left his mark on Chris Rock’s face. Sadly, there was a bit more slapping than clapping than everyone had anticipated.

While I do not condone violence, I do believe that there is a line that comedians should not cross, especially when it comes to conditions that one can not control. Although it is a comic’s job to fill the place with laughter, it should not be at the expense of someone’s feelings.

On March 27, 2022, Chris Rock hosted the 94th annual Academy Awards, where events took an unpredicted turn. During a bit before presenting an award, Rock made an insensitive joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. In his joke, Rock said that he could not wait for a G.I. Jane movie starring the actress.

At first, it appeared as though the “Men in Black” star found the joke funny as he laughed it off. However, Smith then displayed his “Bad Boys” behavior by calmly walking on stage and slapping Rock right in the face.

According to CNN, in 2018 Pinkett Smith was diagnosed with alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. The “Set It Off” star has been open about her condition as she continuously shares her journey through her social media.

Following the physical altercation, Smith took his seat as he continued to curse at the host to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth. In spite of what had taken place, Rock kept his composure and continued with the show as the audience sat in awkward silence.

This unfortunate event created social media chaos, as many tried to figure out if this was staged or not. Eventually, everyone’s confusion dissolved as the quarrel was clearly deemed real.

Later that night, Smith received his first Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams, in the film “King Richard.” In his acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the academy and to his fellow nominees. Yet, Rock was not included in his apology.

These past couple years, the Smiths have been embroiled in much controversy involving sensitive topics, including their marriage, which has caused them to be the center of jokes, many done in poor taste. So, it is safe to say that Rock’s joke about Pinkett Smith’s condition might have been the last straw.

I am in no position to correct someone on how they should handle certain situations; however, there were a multitude of ways that this ill-fated event could have been avoided.

As a Black person, it is disheartening to see two prominent Black figures involved in such an unsuitable moment that distracts from a momentous night. While Rock’s joke can be perceived as triggering, both were in the wrong.

Repeatedly, Black women have been the targets of repulsive jokes as well as objects of derision. Seeing a Black man attempting to defend a Black woman, even if it was his wife, was right in spirit, but incorrect in action.

As humans, everyone is entitled to their emotions, but escalating the situation by getting physical can potentially make matters worse.