In the recently conducted Oscar Awards ceremony, thousands of viewers across the globe witnessed a rather disturbing incident. The world reveres the Oscars for being one of the most prestigious award ceremonies. The Will Smith-Chris Rock Slap Gate made several jaws drop. Initially, some conspiracy theories assumed it to be a publicity stunt. However, it has come to light that this incident was, in fact, unplanned. It has polarised people worldwide: who was right and who was wrong?
What is the Will Smith Slap Gate?
The boundary between what is funny and what is not can be challenging to discern. Some things that seem humorous to one person may be offensive to another. The Will Smith Slap Gate episode that millions witnessed on the prestigious stage of Oscars 2022 is a testimony to this.
During the live television broadcast of the 94th Academy Awards on 27 March 2022, actor Will Smith walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face after he joked about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. Pinkett Smith had started shaving her charge in 2021, as she suffers from alopecia areata – a disease characterised by patchy baldness.
What caused the outburst of Will Smith?
According to an apology note issued by Will Smith, later on, he justified his outburst as an “emotional reaction” because it was a bit too much for him to bear a joke about his wife’s medical condition. His wife struggled with the autoimmune disease, alopecia areata, and it did not go down well with Smith when Chris Rock made fun of it. Smith confessed that his reaction was due to his protective instinct toward his wife. Many fans have applauded him for this.
It is not the first time Chris Rock has taken a dig at Jada Smith on the Oscars stage. In 2016, he had cracked a joke about Jada’s absence from the Oscars ceremony. Hence, the 27 March outburst may quite possibly have resulted from some past resentments – not solely due to that single joke.
The recent outburst by Will Smith and the emotional mob mentality of stardom
The emotional mob mentality is when a group of people become so emotionally invested in something or someone that they lose all sense of reason and objectivity. It can lead to them acting in harmful, destructive, or even dangerous ways.
There are several examples of the emotional mob mentality at work in the world of stardom. One of the most recent ones is the case of Smith’s outburst during the 2022 Academy Awards.
It has consequently divided the world: whether to back Chris Rock or condemn him for joking about Jada Pinkett Smith’s medical condition, and whether to criticise Will Smith for the violent act or condone his action, as he was simply standing up for his family.
Irrespective of who gets more votes, this is a largely unerasable chapter in both Rock and Smith’s lives – something that both might be wishing had never happened. Leaving behind the main issue, people have already begun dissecting their personal lives. Their marriages, their virtues as husbands, the nature of Smith and Rock’s off-screen relationship, Smith’s past anger outbursts, Rock’s past jokes – all is up for public scrutiny. This emotional mob mentality is bound to have caused much emotional stress.
How does social media exacerbate the issue: Will Smith Slap Gate
Undoubtedly, the biggest gainer of the Will Smith Slap Gate controversy is social media. This episode added the spice to what would otherwise have been a barrage of boring social media posts on who won what. It compounded its viewership manifold. All the social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – are flooded by memes around this incident. The genius minds behind these social media platforms worked overtime in sensationalising this “historic slap”.
In the United States, A.B.C., the official broadcaster, muted most of the encounter’s audio, per the federal censorship laws. However, several international broadcasters immediately posted uncensored audio and video footage across multiple online platforms. Within no time, these went viral. The frenzy on social media almost made it feel like this was a more significant issue than the Russia-Ukraine war!
When celebrities are in the news, social media often plays a role in amplifying or exacerbating the situation. In some cases, social media can be a positive force, providing a way for fans to connect with their favourite stars. But all too often, it is used as a platform to tear celebrities down.
While using social media, fans should remember that celebrities are real people with individual vices and virtues.
Some below-the-belt jokes by a celebrity about another celebrity can cause outbursts of laughter, but some things shouldn’t be joked about, though they are pretty entertaining. Specific topics are off-limits because they can be too personal, painful, or plain-old inappropriate. It is what happened in the case of the Will Smith-Chris Rock Slap Gate.
Later on, during the ceremony, Smith took to the stage to receive the award for the Best Actor. However, the earlier incident overshadowed his win. He apologised to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his outburst and Chris Rock a few days later, accepting that his conduct was inappropriate and unacceptable.
When celebrities engage in violence, it messages to their fans that this behaviour is acceptable. It can lead to more violence among fans and even inspire some to lash out at the celebrities themselves. Additionally, violence is damaging and traumatic, so stars need to set an excellent example by abstaining from it.
Condemning the incident, the Academy has banned Will Smith from attending any Academy event, including the Oscars, for the next ten years.