Will Smith Slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars and Twitter Exploded

It was the slap heard around the world. During an otherwise pretty standard and uneventful Academy Awards ceremony, actor Will Smith stormed the stage to hit comedian Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith.

"Jada, can't wait for GI Jane 2," the comic said while announcing the nominees for the Best Documentary category, referring to the fact that Pinkett Smith was rocking a shaved head after losing her hair due to alopecia. (In the film G.I. Joe, Demi Moore wears a buzzcut hairstyle.)

While the crowd was laughing along with Rock's routine, some believed his joke to be in poor taste and at Pinkett's expense. Smith himself appeared to be laughing along with the joke from the audience at first, but the nature of his reaction swiftly shifted, and he marched up to the stage to deliver the slap.

"Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth," Smith could be heard shouting at Rock, before leaving the stage. Photos have since emerged of an emotional Smith being comforted and reassured offstage by fellow actors Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, and Bradley Cooper.

Smith then went on to win an Oscar in the Best Actor category for his performance in King Richard, in which he plays the father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams, and during his acceptance speech he took the opportunity to address his outburst.

"I want to apologise to the Academy. I want to apologise to my all my fellow nominees," he said. "Art imitates life... I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things."

Following Smith's public apology, Rock has declined to file a police report against the actor for assault, but the conflict rapidly found momentum and escalated online, with Twitter users galvanized by the unexpected, high-octane disruption to proceedings. Some thought that Smith was vindicated and proportional in his response to the joke, following the instinct to protect Pinkett, while others opined that violence is never the answer.

But for the most part, there were jokes and memes aplenty.

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