No More Jokes at the Oscars


Shireen Zada, Staff Writer


On the night of March 27th, Hollywood hosted some of its biggest stars for the 94th annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. Ceremony viewings were at an all-time low this year, going from 41 million viewers in 2010 to less than 10 million viewers in 2021/2022. This plummet in viewership is believed to be attributed to COVID and its implications on the film industry, and possibly because of a decline in live TV viewing amid an increase in streaming


The event began as it usually does, with our favorite actresses and actors all gathered on the red carpet, compliments circling around regarding their elegant fashion pieces. Contrary to popular opinion, I personally believed this year’s nominated films were entertaining. “Coda” won Best Picture, “Encanto” won Best Animated Picture, and Jessica Chastain earned Best Actress for her role in the film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Ariana Debose, who played Anita in “West Side Story”, was also the first openly queer actress of color to ever win an Oscar, as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. 


“Best Actor” was awarded to Will Smith for his film “King Richard”, where he played the father of Serena and Venus Williams. I did not watch Will Smith’s acceptance speech, or the entire last half of the show for that matter, because prior to this, I witnessed a rather horrendous moment that made me shut my TV off.  


The Academy Awards always have a few speakers to serve as a comedic bridge between topics, and to pick on some celebrities in the audience. The jokes told are usually pretty clever, getting lots of laughs without stepping too far over the line. 


Comedian Chris Rock appeared on stage to present the documentary film nominees, and began with a joke that did not go down too well with the Smiths. Rock said that he “couldn’t wait” to see Jada Pinkett Smith in “GI Jane 2”, as she shaved her head due to her hair loss from alopecia. It’s unclear whether Chris Rock knew about Jada’s condition, or if he thought that she was simply switching up her hairstyle. 


This comment led Will Smith to walk up on stage, hit Chris, and storm back to his seat. From his seat he screamed, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!” Chris seemed to be at a loss for words; shock clouded his usual witty comedian persona.


Some viewers think that this outburst was staged, but as someone who watched it live while the editors attempted to mute and cut footage, I can assure you that it wasn’t. It was a painfully surreal and embarrassing scene to witness. 


Shocked expressions filled the theater as audience members tried to process what they just had witnessed. This incident has left fans and viewers angry, confused, and divided. Most people on the internet are either enraged at or disappointed in Will. Some celebrities have voiced that Smith should face consequences for his violent reaction. Many condemned his actions as “unnecessary violence”, and said that they had lost all respect for the actor. Others feel that Will’s response was justified in that he was defending his wife against a cruel comment. 


The nature of this joke was certainly offensive as it mocked Jada’s illness, however I feel that Will’s reaction was shamefully out of line and inappropriate. The world loves Will Smith for his character and talent, and he is without a doubt a role model for a number of people. It was upsetting to see him act this way, especially at an event of such high prestige. 


Photos of the Smiths at the after party show Will having a great time after he won his award. People were angry at the Academy for carrying on like nothing happened, like Will Smith didn’t just assault someone on stage. 


According to The New York Post, Smith may be asked to hand back his award for violating the Academy’s code of conduct. From its official Twitter account, the Academy announced that it “does not condone violence of any form.” The Los Angeles Police Department has also confirmed that Chris Rock will not be pressing any charges against Smith. 


Will Smith recently expressed regret for his actions on his social media, apologizing to Chris Rock, the Academy, and the audience. He acknowledged that his behavior was “unacceptable and inexcusable”, signing it off with “I am a work in progress.”

I think that this apology is very insincere, considering that he did not look or seem the slightest bit apologetic that night. Smith didn’t even seem embarrassed, as he gave a motivational speech about how he’s a “vessel of love” who “protects the women in his life” upon accepting his award. He was then met with a standing ovation. 


During an interview with Gayle King, Jim Carrey shared his thoughts on this, calling Hollywood “spineless.” Carrey said that he was “sickened” by the standing ovation. A number of celebrities voiced similar opinions, and it is clear that people were truly disturbed by the incident. 


Will Smith is a talented actor, and it saddened me to see the star of some of my favorite films behave this way. I hope that his reckless actions won’t tarnish his career, yet there should be consequences for his aggressive display of immaturity and narcissism. 


The Oscar Awards are supposed to be a night to celebrate cinema and to recognize the hard work of those involved in the production of great films. Unfortunately, the ceremony was overshadowed by the awkwardness of Will Smith’s infantile outburst, and a few poor jokes.