Why Will Smith Slapped Chris Rock On Stage at the 2022 Oscars

The Oscars are always sure to bring some heat, drama and political statements, but things took an unexpected turn when Chris Rock was introducing the category for Best Documentary Feature at the 2022 ceremony.

As is tradition when a comedian takes the hosting stand at the Oscars, a few jokes about the celebs in the front row is a given. But one joke, that Rock made about Jada Pinkett Smith, didn’t sit well with her husband and Oscar-nominated actor, Will Smith.

Rock referred to Jada as “G.I. Jane” — a joke which was in reference to her shaven head. This distasteful joke didn’t sit right with Will Smith, who walked calmly up on stage and slapped Chris Rock across the face. Hard.

Was It a Stunt?

Many have understandably assumed the reaction was part of a skit. The slap sounded hard, but as Will Smith took his seat once again it became clear that all was not well.

Once seated, Smith yelled “KEEP MY WIFE’S NAME OUT OF YOUR F***ING MOUTH”, twice; the second time louder than the first. His facial expression, showing pure anger and rage, made it clear to viewers that this was no skit.

And if that reaction didn’t cement this moment as being unscripted, Rock’s reaction on stage was pure awkwardness. He stood, paralysed, unsure what to do. He looked to the left, seemingly off stage, gathered himself, and went straight to the nominees of Best Documentary Feature. Twitter immediately went nuts, with viewers reporting on the moment, debating whether or not it was scripted, and coming through with their reactions.

Although Rock’s “joke” was absolutely inappropriate, degrading a woman on a part of her body that she has no control over; Will Smith’s reaction was unwarranted. Violence is never okay, in any situation.

Do Chris Rock and Will Smith Have History?

Having worked together on Torrance Rises (1999), Will Smith and Chris Rock have always been known to be friendly acquaintances, having been photographed hanging out at basketball games and awards shows; often with Jada Pinkett Smith as well. 

Rock did mention both Will and Jada in an anti-racism monologue when he opened the 2016 Oscars. 

“Is Hollywood racist?” he asked. “You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist.” Rock qualified his comments by saying that the industry was not “burning cross racist … it’s a different type of racist”, reported The Guardian.

Of Jada choosing to not attend the event in 2016 as an act of protest, Rock said: “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties – I wasn’t invited!”

He added: “You get mad that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated” [for his role in Concussion]. “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20m to do Wild Wild West.”

So, frenemies, perhaps?

What Did Chris Rock’s Joke About Jada Pinkett Smith Mean?

Rock referred to Pinkett Smith as “G.I. Jane”, referencing her bald head, which is a signifying feature of G.I. Joe. Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia, has been extremely open about her hair loss journey.

“Look at this line right here,” Pinkett Smith said in a video she shared in December, pointing to her scalp. “Now this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide, so I thought I’d just share it so y’all not asking any questions—but you know, mama’s going to put some rhinestones in there, and I’m going to make me a little crown.”

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A post shared by Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapinkettsmith)

She’s also opened up about the insecurities losing her hair has brought up for her, through her infamous Facebook series, Red Table Talk.

It should be said, that this “joke” was totally out of line. It’s never okay to make a joke about a woman’s appearance, especially when it’s something we know that she struggles with. Losing your hair is not a desirable experience for anyone, and Pinkett Smith has done an amazing job championing that space, allowing people in similar positions to feel sexy, empowered and not alone. 

After this incident, Will Smith went on to win an Oscar for Best Actor, for his leading role in King Richard. Although being an important moment in history, with Smith being only the fifth black man to win an Oscar in the Best Actor category, we can’t help but feel that this otherwise inspiring moment, has been tarred by his actions towards Chris Rock.

Of course, we can understand the protection he must feel towards his wife, and the anger that would undoubtedly come with hearing someone disrespect her so publicly. However, that does not excuse his blatant display of violence. 

It’s unfortunate, that in a moment that shows progress, Smith’s own actions have taken us a step backwards. 

You can check out all our Oscars coverage here.

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