The Slap Heard Around the World

Michaela William '24, Staff

     On March 27, when presenting the Oscar for “Best Documentary Feature”, Chris Rock made a joke poking fun at Jada Smith’s lack of hair.  The 57 year old comedian quipped, “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.”  The crowd erupted into laughter.  To everyone’s shock, Smith walked up onstage and slapped Rock across the face.  The audience, once boisterous, was shocked into a deafening silence.  After returning to the audience, Smith shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out your f— mouth!”, a remark censored in the U.S. broadcast.  Although the ceremony proceeded as usual, that slap soon became the star of the night.

     It is worth noting that Pinkett-Smith has been suffering from alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, often in small clumps.  The amount of hair loss is different in everyone.  Pinkett-Smith has been vocal about how this disease has been terrifying for her and how shaving her head has given her a sense of peace.  While it may seem like an innocuous disease, it is still not right to joke about someone’s medical condition.  We do not personally know how it is affecting Pinkett-Smith.  Upon first hearing the joke, Chadwick Boseman comes to mind.  During the summer of 2020, he had posted a video on Instagram.  Many people took to the internet to comment on his gaunt appearance.  Many called him “Crack Panther”.  A few months later, he passed away from cancer.  Even though alopecia is not lethal like cancer, we don’t know how it is affecting Pinkett-Smith.  Cracking jokes at the expense of someone’s appearance due to a medical condition is insensitive at best.  The Academy’s reaction to the whole debacle has been fascinating as well.  The Academy has banned Smith from attending the Oscars for 10 years.  This is quite shocking considering that it has awarded convicted rapists and abusers.  One such example is Roman Polanski.  On March 10, 1977, he faced six charges involving drugging and raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer.  To avoid imprisonment and possible deportation, Polanski fled to France and avoided visiting any countries that were likely to extradite him to the United States.  Yet, in 2003, Polanski won “Best Picture”.  At this point, he was still in France and had his Oscar mailed to him.  Although Polanski was expelled from the Academy in 2018, it was due to the public outcry of the MeToo Movement. 

     On that fateful night, Will Smith and Chris Rock inadvertently started meaningful dialogue about “jokes”, who finds them funny, and why, and most importantly, accountability.