Rockers Weigh in on Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars
It was the slap heard (and viewed) round the world as Chris Rock's joke at the expense of Jada Pinkett-Smith landed his face on the slapping end of Will Smith's hand at the Oscars Sunday night (March 27). The WTF just happened moment was made all the more confusing when the broadcast froze temporarily and sound cut out leaving viewers wondering if they saw they thought they saw. As you might expect, the moment generated plenty of commentary on social media, including some from musicians who offered their viewpoints on the incident.
For some background, Rock, a professional comedian and former Oscars host, came out to present an award but dropped a few jokes in the lead up to the presentation. One of them had the comedian pointing out Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith and commenting on Jada's close-cropped hair, saying that he couldn't wait to see her in G.I. Jane 2. That would be a reference to a film that famously starred Demi Moore as a military soldier who had shaved her head, a joke that did not appear to amuse Pinkett-Smith who has been open about having alopecia, a medical condition that leads to hair loss.
As Rock continued, Will Smith approached him on the stage, walked up and slapped him across the face with an open hand, then walked off as the television feed started to glitch. Video came back briefly with no sound, but a visible shot of Smith telling Rock, "Keep my wife's name out your fucking mouth." When audio and video returned, Rock responded that he was going to comply, then continued, "That was the ... greatest night in the history of television," before picking back up with his introduction of the Documentary Feature category he was there to present.
Smith would later return to the stage to accept the Best Actor Oscar, and while speaking of Richard Williams, the man he played in King Richard, he clearly was also addressing a loyalty to his own family in his acceptance speech. "Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world. I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people. And to be a river to my people. And I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and you’ve got be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s okay,” he stated. Later in the speech, he apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees but not Rock.
Uncensored footage aired on both Australian and Japanese TV, which can be viewed in tweets shared below.
For his actions at the ceremony, Smith received plenty of reaction on Twitter. Bad Wolves guitarist and podcast host Doc Coyle offered several different comments on the incident and the precedent that it set. "If all those celebs could get blow torched all those years by @rickygervais at the [Golden Globes] without slapping somebody, you’d think Will could control himself," stated Coyle.
"I imagine we will get a lot of takes from those who say people should stop being so sensitive about comedy & mean jokes but who also pro-vengeance & taking matter in your own hands. It will be confusing," he later added, pretty much predicting a lot of the conflicting social media takes on the incident.
Living Colour's Vernon Reid wasn't so quick to accept the apology that Smith gave during his acceptance speech. "Will apologized to the Academy, but not to Chris Rock, the Black Man he put his hands on, at THE OSCARS for telling a JOKE? Nah," he stated.
Body Count's Ice-T came at the situation with jokes. "The Fn Oscars got more HOOD than my Fn Concert last night… #Bars," later adding, "Well it is called a ‘Punchline’… I know. Another bad joke. Lol."
Testament's Alex Skolnick shared his surprise and displeasure for Smith's reaction to the Rock joke, while also commenting on it taking away from the Summer of Soul documentary win. "I missed #Oscars2022 & a whole lot apparently. Quick thought: Wasn’t he the “nice” rapper? Meanwhile “scary” rappers have great senses of humor, ie IceT & Snoop (his IG is LOL FUNNY). C’mon #WillSmith. You don’t have to like #ChrisRock ‘s joke but an ugly meltdown? Violence? Wtf?"
Danko Jones also shared his distaste for how "the slap" overshadowed what should have been a great Oscar moment and the irony of what was being saluted in that moment. "SUMMER OF SOUL is a documentary about an important musical event overshadowed by other musical moments deemed more important. Last night, SUMMER OF SOUL’s important Oscar win was overshadowed by another pretty disgusting Hollywood moment deemed more important.
"Yooooooo what the fuck!!!!," stated Myers, then adding, "How do you get people to watch a show no one has watched in 3 years ….1,2,3." He later observed, "Hollywood ….. which is a joke in itself ... Is now a place where you can’t make jokes ... As a comedian. Lol."
For KISS' Paul Stanley, he took exception to the tone in the room after the incident. "Wait... Chris Rock makes a bad joke about Jada Pinkett’s appearance. Will Smith walks onstage hits him in the face shouts out obscenities & later in tears accepts an Oscar saying, 'Love makes you do crazy things' to a STANDING OVATION?!?," he questioned, then adding, "WTF Hollywood. That’s not WOKE. That’s WEAK."
Lamb of God's Mark Morton spelled out exactly how he thought that argument could have ended — with an apology.
After the ceremony, it was reported by multiple outlets that Rock had declined to file charges against Smith over the incident.