Move over La La Land, there’s a new controversy in town. The 94th Academy Awards on the 27th of March 2022 will go down in history as the Oscars where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. This award ceremony will forever be cemented in history as the most controversial. Many stars across Hollywood have come out vocalizing their dismay towards the King Richard actor and now Justice League star Harry Lennix has joined Smith’s detractors in a piece he published for Variety.
For those who have miraculously escaped the news of this latest Oscar scandal, the short version of the story is Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face in front of millions on live television. Why? Well, Chris Rock came up to present an award on the night and amongst a series of jokes, singled out Smith’s wife, Jada Pickett Smith. The joke in question singled out Smith’s bald look, a result of her alopecia condition. Whilst Will Smith at first seemed to find the joke amusing, things took a turn when he surged on stage to assault Chris Rock. The audience thought it was a bit at first, with Rock awkwardly laughing the incident off, but things turned sour when Will Smith returned to his seat and set off on an expletive-ridden tirade directed at Rock. It was a sorry affair that was made more bemusing when an hour later Will Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor. The actor cited the incident in his speech. Will Smith also referred to a path set to him by God as a reason for the incident. Cue applause from the crowd. The fallout from this incident is what made Harry Lennix (known as the Martian Manhunter in Zack Snyder’s Justice League) write his piece to Variety.
After the backlash from the event, Will Smith made a public statement apologizing to Chris Rock for the incident. Smith followed his story by stepping down as a member of the ‘Academy’ amidst an inquest that had begun into the incident. The result of that inquest was Will Smith has been prevented from attending the Oscars event for ten years. For the likes of Lennix, this is not good enough. In Harry Lennix’s opening remarks, the actor is scathing of the Academy’s punishment; “little more than an extended time out for a playground bully. It’s a toothless penalty that lays bare the shallowness of Hollywood morals.”
Harry Lennix goes on to say how Will Smith’s Oscars speech serves as a particularly troubling: “Of the many unsettling things said in the aftermath of the slap, the most galling to me was his reference to the influence of a higher power during his surreal acceptance speech after he won for his work in King Richard less than an hour after his act of violence.” In Harry Lennix’s mind, there is only one suitable solution to this sorry affair, Will Smith must return his Oscar: “At this point, the only person who can redeem the integrity of the Oscars is Smith himself. He needs to come to grips with the gravity of the offense he committed: slapping Rock, live on March 27 in front of millions on the Academy Awards stage. Smith needs to express-mail his golden trophy back to the Academy and publicly state something to the effect of: “Out of respect for the 94 years of honor conferred upon this award, I do not in good conscience feel worthy of being its custodian.”
Whether Will Smith will retain his Oscar is still up for debate. However, the actor has received punishments of a different kind in recent weeks following the slap debacle. The Oscar-winning actor has had projects either abandoned or put on halt because of his violent outburst. Among them is a Netflix feature film dubbed Fast and Loose, which has been put on hold indefinitely as a result of Smith’s actions. As well as this, it looks like Bad Boys 4 is shelved whilst the ‘slap’ incident blows over. It looks as if Will Smith’s career has hit the brakes as a result of his violent actions, whether this is enough to appease the likes of Harry Lennix remains to be seen.