Everybody Hates Chris? What Happened at this Years’ Oscars
It was the slap heard around the world, or at least seen by a couple of million people through their screens. What had been seen as a dying award show for the past several years, the Oscars was blessed with a moment of pure spontaneity that, out of touch, milquetoast producers couldn’t even dream of concocting. Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock at this year’s Oscars was truly a strange occurrence, and it brought upon it a storm of takes, whether warranted or not. The next few hours, and even days after the slap, a plethora of celebs, media figures, that one guy on Twitter, your grandma, basically anyone who needed their opinion heard shotgun blasted them out for the world to see-which added nothing of substance.
In my personal opinion, it was extremely funny. An immensely wealthy and powerful Hollywood mainstay slapped Chris Rock, which is funny. Yes, hitting people is bad, and you shouldn’t slap someone because you feel insulted. However, the joke may have been in poor taste, and making fun of somebody for something they have no control over is usually a low blow. Chris Rock is a better comedian than that, but still, it’s not something to get slapped over.
Getting slapped was the best punchline to his joke, and his stunned response is followed by Will Smith yelling, as the audience realizes that it wasn’t a bit, is just a chef’s kiss. Award shows have always been a self-congratulatory, meaningless celebration of oneself. So, to have that fall apart live on television is truly a spectacle. This will be a tiny blip on Will Smith and Chris Rock’s career, a humorous event to reminisce and have a quick chuckle remembering. It’s absurd that some are seriously thinking of blackballing Will Smith from Hollywood. Far worse and far more detestable people have been awarded an Oscar, and their awards were never taken away. Yet an out-of-touch and a bit delusional celebrity slaps somebody, and that’s enough to have him never appear in anything ever again is quite pathetic.
Since the Oscars are the place to soapbox, please indulge me as I do the same. While this slap might be the most controversial scene since the best picture was given to the wrong movie, it’s far from the first. In 1973, at the 45th annual Academy Awards, Marlon Brando refused the Oscar for best actor for the Godfather, instead, Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead to give a speech. It was only the second time in history that an actor had refused an award at the Oscars.
Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist and actress, advocated for Hollywood to no longer depict Native Americans negatively in film, along with shedding a spotlight on the ongoing protests at Wounded Knee by AIM. She was only given 60 seconds to deliver her speech, which she had to improvise as Brando’s would go over the time, and if Littlefeather were to extend past those 60 seconds, she would have been forcefully removed. Brando’s full speech was later posted by the press, including the New York Times. Her speech was also met with boos from the crowd, and John Wayne was reportedly so furious at her speech that he had to be physically restrained as he wanted to drag Littlefeather off the stage.
John Wayne was a notorious racist among the Hollywood elite. In a 1971 interview with Playboy, he says, “I believe in white supremacy…” The interview also contained another quote from Wayne justifying the idea of manifest destiny and that Native Americans were “selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.” A common sentiment from the era, a justification of essentially a genocide of indigenous peoples. Sacheen Littlefeather made history while appearing in place of Marlon Brando and advocating for the civil rights of Native Americans.
The Oscars pretend to be a place for progressive politics, yet when actual progressive ideals or civil rights are being argued for, the façade is lifted- like when Michael Moore won an Oscar in 2003 and used his time to protest the war in Iraq. He too was met with a crowd full of boos and was quickly played off the stage for giving a political statement that was deemed too extreme for a country so adamant on war at the time. In the end, Moore was right. The Iraq war was built upon lies and over 200,000 Iraqi civilians were killed because the Bush administration wanted another war. The Academy is happy to carry forward the status-quo, to parrot the rich elites’ neoliberal outlook on the world, yet when that is questioned or criticized it is rather swiftly shut down and booed.
Back to the slap, it’s absurd that Will Smith’s current and future projects have been put on hold. Again, Hollywood was more than happy having Harvey Weinstein run the show for decades and people like Roman Polanski or Jared Leto continue to get work and be well respected in their fields. No matter your opinion on this incident, it shouldn’t be a career derailer for Will Smith. The Academy should have some introspection on what their broadcast wants to be. If it is so against any real opinions or emotions then why put on such a display?
(Written by Sean Duffy: Content Writer for VotingSmarter)