On March 27, 2022, the world watched in stunned silence as Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage during the 94th Academy Awards. The unprecedented and shocking altercation was a moment that left an indelible mark on the annals of Oscars history. A year and a half following the startling incident, comedian and Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones told People that a deeply affected Rock turned to therapy alongside his daughters.
“That sh-t was humiliating. It really affected him,” Leslie Jones said. “People need to understand his daughters, his parents, saw that. He had to go to counseling with his daughters.”
Comedian Leslie Jones, months later, talks about how Chris Rock had to recover from Will Smith’s slap at the Oscars.
Leslie Jones added that she was extremely angry upon witnessing her longtime friend, Chris Rock, get slapped by Will Smith. She was so upset that she almost drove to the venue herself. Jones also expressed disappointment in Smith’s inability to take a joke during an event as prominent as the Oscars.
Chris Rock, while presenting the Oscar for Best Documentary, joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness despite her public battle with alopecia. Will Smith, after momentarily laughing, walked to the stage and slapped Rock in the face. He then returned to his seat, where he yelled profanities at Rock and demanded him to refrain from mentioning his wife’s name.
Leslie Jones told People that she believes Will Smith could have addressed the incident when he accepted his Oscar for Best Actor for his role in King Richard. She said she felt that Smith should have apologized to Chris Rock on the spot. Additionally, she expressed her belief that Smith might have considered refusing the award to acknowledge his wrongdoing.
“That sh-t was humiliating. It really affected him. People need to understand his daughters, his parents, saw that. He had to go to counseling with his daughters.”Leslie Jones on the impact of the slap on Chris Rock
While Will Smith received a standing ovation during his acceptance speech from those in attendance at the 94th Academy Awards, his altercation with Chris Rock cast a shadow over his achievement for many watching from home. Social media was quickly awash with criticism directed at the Bad Boys actor. As a result of the incident, the Academy banned Smith from his membership and events, including the Oscars, for ten years.
Following the notorious Oscar slap, Chris Rock avoided discussing it in interviews for months. Moreover, while Will Smith apologized, Rock didn’t accept it. A year later, Rock broached the subject in his Netflix special Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.
During the special, which was held at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore and was Netflix’s first-ever live broadcast, Chris Rock conveyed to the audience his perception of Will Smith’s behavior, suggesting that Smith displays selective outrage based on certain situations. Rock emphasized that those familiar with the intricacies of the situation are fully aware that he wasn’t involved in the underlying controversy. He further clarified that he was not entangled in any of the events leading up to the incident.
Chris Rock, as any comedian would do, took pain and suffering and turned it into an award-winning routine in his Netflix special, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.
The 94th Academy Awards will forever be marked not just by cinematic achievements but by an unforeseen clash of emotions displayed for the world to see. From Chris Rock’s subsequent introspection and therapy to the vocal criticisms and opinions of figures like Leslie Jones and the general public, the incident became a larger discourse on personal boundaries, accountability, and the implications of public actions. In an era dominated by digital discourse and constant connectivity, the Will Smith-Chris Rock altercation underscores the importance of empathy, understanding, and the enduring impact of our actions, even in the spotlight’s fleeting moment.