The slap heard ’round the world

Everything there is to know about the Will Smith v. Chris Rock fiasco


Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Actor Will Smith smacks Stand-Up Comedian Chris Rock after insensitive joke concerning his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair loss.

Normally when people ask what happened at the Oscars, they are asking about performers, nominees and red carpet looks.  However, this year’s ceremony had viewers wondering if they were tuned into the Oscars or a WWE Smackdown.  

On March 27, 2022, the 94th Annual Academy Awards commenced. Less than 24 hours after the event, the 2022 Oscars were trending on various social media platforms.  

Will Smith, American actor, rapper, film producer, and author, enacted physical violence on the American stand-up comedian and Academy Awards host, Chris Rock, after Rock made an insensitive joke about actress, Jada Pinkett-Smith. 

“Jada, I love ya, G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” Rock jokes. 

To many, Rock’s comment may come off as a seemingly innocent joke. However, unlike the audience, Rock had no idea what was coming next. Let’s dig a little deeper into why this “joke” is deemed insensitive by the masses.  

G.I. Jane is a 1997 film about the first woman to join the U.S. Navy SEALS. Through a new program to integrate women, Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil (Demi Moore), chosen for her femininity, was the first candidate. O’Neil is presupposed to give up or be unable to handle the harsh treatment/atmosphere however she perseveres through a mentally and physically grueling training program. In her training, she noticed that she was being given ‘female’ treatment, sleeping in different quarters, easier workouts, and even a different haircut. As she did not want to be treated differently, she asked to be in the room with the men, be given the same workouts, and she even shaved her head. 

This distinctive characteristic is what fueled Rock’s insensitive joke at Jada Pinkett-Smith who suffers from a disease commonly known as alopecia areata. Alopecia, or alopecia areata, is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s hair follicles causing sudden hair loss usually in circular patterns. 

Although Pinkett-Smith has been explorative with her hair before, this is not a matter of choice but a genuine medical disease that she has previously opened up about. While both Pinkett-Smith and O’Neil have shaved their heads as a representation of female empowerment, Rock’s remark about the acttresses lack of hair was inappropriate and uncalled for. 

“It was a G.I. Jane joke,” Rock stated after the award ceremony filled with both laughs and looks of dismay from  Pinkett-Smith.

This was not the first time Rock has hosted the Oscars, nor the first time he has joked about Pinkett-Smith. 

Prior to the 88th Academy Awards, Pinkett-Smith announced that she was ‘boycotting’ the Oscars as ‘no persons of color were nominated’ in any major acting categories. During his opening monologue, Rock reveled about her non-attendance.

“Jada said she’s not coming. I was like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s going to boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited,” Rock joked. 

During the 2022 Oscars, viewers were able to catch a glimpse of Jada and Will’s reaction following Rock’s G.I. Jane remark. Pinkett-Smith is shown laughing at the joke for around three seconds followed by a look of dismay as she realizes Rock’s intent. Simultaneously, Smith is seen momentarily laughing before the camera pans away from the couple and back to the host on-stage. 

Seconds later, viewers are able to hear Rock’s confusion followed by Smith’s vicious strike. Attendants as well as watchers were in astonishment trying to figure out whether or not what they had witnessed was staged. 

“Keep my wife’s name out your f-ing mouth,” Smith roared twice after fixing his suit and  walking back to his seat. 

However, while the joke about her hair was indeed insensitive, why was violence and foul language Smith’s reaction? 

Smith and Pinkett-Smith’s marriage has been a bit questionable to the public since July 2020 when it was revealed that Pinkett-Smith had been previously involved in an entanglement with August Alsina. Many theorize that this discovery might have further fueled Smith’s attack on Rock simply because he was trying to defend his wife and salvage his marriage. 

Pinkett-Smith has also stated in the past, “if you love me, you should know… if you love me, you should read my mind.”

While this may have been about sex, it was also a big part of what Pinkett-Smith expects from her husband. Thus, this might have translated to him as a masculine thing as he needs to be able to stick up for her. Although, Smith may have originally found the joke funny, it is believed that the realization of the joke’s damage to Jada may have sparked his violent response. Since, we are unable to debunk what happened after the camera panned away from the couple, all that is left is to speculate. 

Most of the stars in Hollywood are now left in disarray, whether to support or oppose Smith’s actions. Some stars like Lamar Odom see the action as justified because Smith was simply protecting his wife. Other stars like Jim Carrey and Zoë Kravitz view it as assault. A plethora of stars are upset as they feel as though their triumphs of both being nominated or winning an Oscar, have been overshadowed by Will’s rashness.

Violence, however, is never the answer. Nevertheless, poking fun at a known medical condition is ill-mannered and inappropriate. 

Rock has recently admitted that his joke was in poor taste as he waived his right to file a police report, according to a Los Angeles Police Department. Now a new question arises. What happens to Smith’s Oscar? After all, he did win Best Actor. Since then, Smith has apologized, but does this mean he will have to return his Oscar award? Will he be banned from future attendance? The world may never know.