There were plenty of history-making moments at the 94th Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 27, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could not have anticipated all of them.
The most shocking moment of the night was the slap that Will Smith unloaded on Chris Rock after he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's close cropped haircut (presumably caused by a medical condition called alopecia) and the profanity that ensued as Smith returned to his seat. The surprising and tense exchange then turned surreal as Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in King Richard a few minutes later.Embed from Getty Images
Sophie Gilbert writes in The Atlantic, "It was unsettling to see Smith accept his Oscar—shortly after being counseled by Denzel Washington and his publicist—and receive a standing ovation." She also says it was strange to hear him claim to be a protector and a vessel for love "right after the most flagrant outburst of violence in Oscars history."
The Unreality of Will Smith's Oscar Slap (Sarah Gilbert - The Atlantic)
As Travis Andrews writes in his article "The Climax of Will Smith’s Radical-Vulnerability Era" for the Washington Post, "Will Smith, the once unflappable movie star, spent the past decade being drastically honest with the public. That may have ended with a slap."
The Climax of Will Smith's Radical-Vulnerability Era (Travis Andrews - The Washington Post)
On Monday, the Academy condemned Smith's actions and opened an official inquiry into the incident saying they "will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law."
Smith also issued an apology on Instagram, stating (in part), "My behavior at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress."
The Academy began "disciplinary proceedings" against Smith on Wednesday and revealed that he was asked to leave the show but refused to do so. According to a statement released after an emergency board of governors meeting, "The actor’s actions were in violation of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy." Smith could face suspension, expulsion or other sanctions if the board chooses to take action at its next scheduled meeting on April 18.
On Friday, Smith issued a statement resigning from the Academy and said that he will accept any additional consequences the Academy’s Board of Governors deems appropriate. He called his behavior "shocking, painful and inexcusable" and wrote, "The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy and deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”Embed from Getty Images
The Historic Wins
Although controversy surrounded this year's broadcast as the Academy decided to give out selected technical awards during an untelevised pre-show to save time and "the slap" captured most of the headlines from the evening, there were still some truly history-making accomplishments from the event.
These consequential achievements included a best supporting actress award for Ariana DeBose, the first openly queer woman of color to win in that category, and a best supporting actor Oscar for Troy Kutsur, the first deaf man to win an Academy Award for acting.Embed from Getty Images
And when the heartwarming drama, CODA, received the Oscar for Best Picture, it was also a first for a streaming service, Apple TV+, and for a film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.Embed from Getty Images
This VOX article from Emily St. James perfectly summarizes these historic wins.
Two Actors — and One Major Corporation — that Broke Boundaries at the 2022 Oscars (Emily St. James - VOX)