Will Smith’s slap smacks the internet and Augustana into a frenzy

Zach Blair

Last week, at the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, actor Will Smith shocked the internet with his slap heard ‘round the world. Even a week later, the viral event still has people talking. 

It all happened when Chris Rock, known for his stand-up comedy, went up to present the award for Best Documentary Feature. Rock took a jab at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, about starring in a sequel to G.I. Jane, a film that starred Demi Moore with a buzzcut as its protagonist. 

What Rock apparently didn’t know, though, was that Pinkett Smith recently publicly shared that she suffers from an autoimmune disease known as alopecia, which causes hair loss. 

Seeing his wife’s dismayed reaction to the crude joke, Smith swiftly walked up to the stage in what many onlookers probably thought would result in a friendly embrace between the two superstars. But we all know what happened next, and its reality is still hard to digest. 

Smith slapped Rock with a mighty swing and returned to his seat, where he proceeded to yell at Rock. 

I am still reeling with disbelief, having trouble trying to figure out why things transpired the way they did. It seemed the almost-perfect thing that could’ve happened at an event celebrating some of the world’s greatest stories, because it’d definitely make for a great movie scene one day. 

Since most of us here at Augustana are in our late teens or early twenties, we all share a common practice: going on social media to get news or entertainment. And this unexpected slap has been thriving with life on the internet, even within the few moments after it occurred. 

I know exactly where I was when it all went down at the Academy Awards. As per usual, me and my friends were just hanging out. After checking his phone at one point, my friend turned to me, a stunned look on his face, and said, “Yo, what just happened?” 

That initial shock has remained. Throughout the week, I’ve been trying to answer the question that my befuddled friend first posited to me, with many different people around campus. In instances like these, there always seems to be a side that needs to be taken, ‘cause everyone figures that you can’t be both for and against someone or something. 

Personally, I think that Will Smith was a little out of line with his actions. Yes, jokes directed at family may sometimes prompt one to stick up for those that they love, as Smith tearfully explained in his acceptance speech for Best Actor from his role in King Richard, but should it have gone this far? I’m going to have to say no. 

When what you’re doing is televised in front of millions of people, something like slapping a man across the face can’t go unexcused. Rock is someone who has made a career out of making jokes and making fun of people, so shouldn’t the possibility of his hurting someone’s feelings have been expected when he was asked to present an award?  

I stand in support of Smith’s slap for the sole reason that Rock made fun of a condition that Pinkett Smith has absolutely no control over. I’d say that that is crossing a line. Still, I do not think that Smith should have handled the situation with physical force. 

In the end, to me, what happened at this year’s awards ceremony was very shocking. I do think that it could’ve and should’ve gone another way, but what’s happened cannot be changed. And my only hope is that Smith and Rock can both forgive each other and proceed with their careers that have brought so much joy to so many people.