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The Slap that Was Heard Around the World

This article was originally submitted on the 4th April

It’s hard to think of a greater example of car crash television than what the world collectively witnessed at this most recent Oscars award show. The event is, of course, no stranger to controversy and incompetence: you may recall the Moonlight/La La Land debacle, or when John Travolta hilariously mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name as ‘Adele Dazeem’. However, what transpired at this 94th iteration is an entirely different beast altogether, one that has sparked fierce debate and drawn eyes upon the Oscars once more, the show arguably having lost its spark until this controversy reignited it.

The mood following ‘the slap’ that Will Smith gave Chris Rock after his joke at Smith’s wife Jada’s expense was tentative – a collective holding of breath if you will. Many probably assumed it was part of the show – it’s evident from the stilted laughter that this is what was assumed in the room at the time – but polite chuckles quickly turned to stunned silence after Will’s impassioned cry for Rock to ‘keep [his] wife’s name out [his] f***ing mouth’. Of course, come the next day, the usual characters swiftly took to their keyboards to frame the slap within whatever political issue is near and dear to their heart. Some think that this is an affront against free speech – will comedians need to wear boxing gloves and gum shields at their next gigs, now that the audience has discovered violence is a method to express their disapproval? On the other end of the spectrum, Will Smith is being lauded as a hero – he stood up for his wife, defending her honour against a cruel joke that targeted her and the condition she suffers from: Smith is a true gentleman, doing ‘god’s work’, albeit with his open palm.

Whatever you want to take away from it, it is ultimately hard to defend violence of any kind, and while outside of the plush walls of the Dolby Theatre it isn’t unlikely that if you mock somebody’s partner you may get a swift slap to the face, it is the fact something like this happened at The Oscars™ that’s drawn us to view the video of Will and Chris nearly 100 million times. If anything this is a reminder that celebrities are only people, who make mistakes and get offended. Smith was probably overdue his Oscar, perhaps not for his performance in King Richard, but certainly he is a competent actor who has worked very hard. However, his win, and all of the other wins that night for that matter, are going to be overshadowed by the slap heard around the world.

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Rock’s joke wasn’t all that funny, and Smith’s reaction wasn’t all that cool, but ultimately, this is the most anyone has cared about the Oscars in years, and while it appears to be unscripted, you wouldn’t be blamed for buying into the conspiracy that it was all a stunt for ratings. In lieu of all this, I henceforth propose that we do away with the whole pretence of giving out awards based on which films the Academy liked, and instead enter our favourite celebrities into a ‘Hunger Games’ style battle royale, all of them duking it out for cultural relevance – at least make ‘best smacktor’ a regular category going forward. 

Image courtesy of Eme Freethinker via Wikimedia Commons.