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By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Breaking down the Oscars moment that left Twitter reeling

Auden Yurman | Assistant Photo Editor
After Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, viewers took to social media to analyze and react to the incident.

What. Just. Happened.

Chris Rock stood still on the screen for a few seconds, the broadcast cut away and switched to Will Smith sitting in his seat yelling inaudibly at the stage. His lips read, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth.” Seconds later “What Just Happened” along with the actor and comedians’ names were trending on Twitter.

Smith got into more than just “one little fight” in West Philadelphia, making headlines last Sunday night after slapping comedian Chris Rock on stage at this year’s 94th Annual Academy Awards.

Often referred to as the biggest night in Hollywood, the ceremony was live-broadcasted on ABC before an audience of the world’s biggest celebrities and A-list actors awaiting their coveted Oscars win. But this year’s show elicited record-breaking views. The award show’s ratings increased by 58 percent from 2021, streaming to 16.6 million viewers, arguably because of the recent scandal.

In the seconds leading up to the altercation, just as Smith walked on stage, ABC cut the live broadcast sound, leaving viewers clueless as to what occurred next. But those watching in other parts of the world received the uncensored version of the broadcast, and after the video was released on Twitter, social media users went wild.

The uncensored broadcast shows Smith walking up to the stage and slapping Rock across the face after he made a joke about the hair of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Jada, I love you…G.I. Jane 2 – can’t wait to see it,” Rock said.

After what is now being referred to as “The Slap,” Smith walked back to his seat and yelled to the stage.

“Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth,” Smith said twice.

Rock went on to stumble through his introduction of the nominees for best documentary. His shocked and delayed reaction is causing some Twitter users to discuss his Non-Verbal Learning Disorder diagnosis, which he has spoken publicly about.

In the aftermath that followed, users took to social media to speculate about, react to, condemn and praise Smith’s actions.

Some users have supported Smith taking action to protect his wife. Rock’s joke commented on the short hairstyle Jada Pinkett Smith retains due to the star’s alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair loss, which she has spoken publicly about in recent years.

Jada Pinkett Smith can be seen rolling her eyes after the joke. Some viewers may have noticed live, and live video footage confirms that Will Smith laughed at the joke before he saw his wife’s reaction.

“To make a hair joke when Jada is suffering from Alopecia is really kind of gross,” social media personality Sean Garrette said in a tweet. “Especially to make a joke like that in a room full of her peers. You don’t know how that may trigger her.”

Anonymous sources “familiar with the Oscars ceremony” said in the film-centric publication ScreenRant that the joke seemed to be improvised as Rock did not tell it during rehearsals. It is unclear whether Rock knew about the star’s condition.

Others have pointed out that the slap overshadowed the most anticipated wins of the night like “CODA,” the first film with a predominantly deaf cast to win best picture and director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s win for best documentary “Summer of Soul,” which Rock announced directly after the altercation.

Critics also suggest the slap overshadowed Smith’s win for his portrayal of Richard Williams, father of tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams, in “King Richard.” Smith apologized for his actions in his acceptance speech for best actor in a leading role and mentioned he acted out of love.

Some people online have even speculated the altercation was staged to increase viewership since the award show’s ratings have seen a decline in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and possibly the public’s decreasing interest in the occasion.

Regardless of which opinion people subscribe to, both stars have addressed the scandal publicly. Will Smith issued a formal apology on Instagram Monday.

“My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable,” the post read. “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”

Rock commented on the situation Wednesday evening at the sold-out Boston show of his stand up comedy tour “Ego Death World Tour.” Ticket sales for the tour have skyrocketed with StubHub experiencing “more than 25x the daily sales for the past two days,” according to Forbes.

“I’m still kind of processing what happened,” Rock said to an audience while on stage.

In response to the altercation, The Academy has issued a statement condemning Smith’s actions – which violated its code of conduct – and is launching a full investigation. The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement after the show ended stating they were aware of the altercation, but Rock declined to file a police report. The public has questioned whether The Academy will retract Smith’s win and whether he will be invited back to the Oscars again.

But Will Smith officially resigned from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Friday and has already faced consequences like Netflix halting production of a new film he stars in.

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