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.
will smith smacked a mf and won an oscar 10 minutes later that was some legendary shit
— nathan zed (@NathanZed) March 28, 2022
Just saw the Will Smith slap. Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) March 28, 2022
Normally the heckling comes before the hitting. Will Smith is an innovator. He’s changed the heckling game forever.
— Seán Burke (@SeanBurkeShow) March 28, 2022
Will Smith’s marriage open to everything except jokes pic.twitter.com/LEfBURn9Hg
— DanKatz🎈 (@StrawHatmac) March 28, 2022
Andrew Garfield texting the other Peter Parkers to see if Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in their universes too pic.twitter.com/HWaUWGMp28
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) March 28, 2022
— Jaat👑 (@bluntJaat_) March 28, 2022
SNL Writers and cast members looking at Will Smith slapping Chris Rock and thinking about how to make it not hilarious pic.twitter.com/n9pFq6l8cm
— CINEMENTALITY (@cinementality) March 28, 2022
New Will Smith film looks a bit shit pic.twitter.com/VSb2BZHuyk
— Lee 🇮🇹 x 🇺🇦 (@LStradomsky) March 28, 2022
Chris rock made the joke but Will Smith delivered the punchline pic.twitter.com/w8yF94zohd
— prapti (@prap_titi) March 28, 2022
people being like "haha will smith is fine with other men sleeping with jada but not fine with them insulting her" are the ones exposing their toxic masculinity because damn, so you can't conceive of a healthy open relationship where a man doesn't treat his wife like property??
— XIRAN 🌻 (@XiranJayZhao) March 28, 2022
— Jaat👑 (@bluntJaat_) March 28, 2022
As a 40something upper middle class white male who didn’t watch the oscars and only saw a clip of the Will Smith slap this morning, here are my thoughts on violence in the black community
— 💥 Nurse D, Troll Magnet (@Progressive_RN) March 28, 2022
Kevin Hart backstage rehearsing his Jada jokes when he saw Will Smith walking up the stage pic.twitter.com/ZGZFXNOFlV
— Hans L. Shipiki (@hanscuffed) March 28, 2022
— Vera⭐ (@LookingforVera) March 28, 2022
Thank you Will Smith for giving us this wonderful March 2022 meme 😆😂 pic.twitter.com/cdyE1LH7Q4
— ✫ // ᴴᵃᵐᶻᵃ ˢᵗᵃⁿ (@ImRealJOKER_) March 28, 2022
Will Smith’s publicist showing up to work the morning after the Oscars pic.twitter.com/rfVZbA9gIG
— Hayley (@somecallmehay) March 28, 2022
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