The Oscars Controversy

Kate Hicks, Junior Editor

While Timothee Chalamet’s shirtless red carpet look and best picture-winner CODA have Oscar viewers talking, nothing amounts to the backlash and controversial opinions surrounding the infamous G-I Jane joke directed towards Jada Pinkett Smith. Chris Rock, an adored comedian known for his edgy humor, pushed the boundaries of social acceptance too far this Sunday at the Oscars. His debatable behavior has fans asking, when does dark humor become offensive?

As a host and award presenter, Rock spoke directly to the audience several times; however, when he addressed Jada Pinkett Smith, his jokes no longer seemed to land. Jada, a wife and mother coping with the struggles of Alopecia, an autoimmune disease causing hair loss, was the target of one of Rock’s jokes. Referencing G-I Jane, a 1997 film featuring a bald female protagonist, he called out, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2 — can’t wait to see it, alright!” Initially, both Will Smith and Jada seemed receptive and humored by the joke, yet Jada’s polite laughter was silenced when she began to roll her eyes and scowl back at Rock. 

While Rock’s joke was ableist and offensive, Smith’s behavior was completely unwarranted, as he approached the stage and shockingly struck Rock across his face. The Academy Awards muted the audio shortly thereafter, however audio sources show that Will Smith attacked Rock verbally as well as physically. His thunderous voice seemed to echo across the room as he shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out of your (redacted) mouth!” 

Opinions towards Smith’s behavior are quite divided, yet surprisingly many people have sided with him. In defense of Smith, one twitter user states, “Some things deserve a repercussion. Not everything is a joke and peoples appearances ESPECIALLY coming from an autoimmune disease is NOT okay.” Others argue that racism plays a role in the altercation, with one user stating, “Black women deserve to be defended. Especially by their husbands. You don’t get to define what defense looks like. #TeamWillSmith.” While some people side with Smith, it seems like the public opinion on this affair leans more towards Rock’s defense, with celebrities such as Zoe Kravitz and Amy Schumer coming to his defense. 

Regardless of anonymous twitter opinions, it seems apparent that both parties acted out of line. Rock’s joke may have pushed the boundaries too far, yet Smith’s choice to resort to violence is incredibly inappropriate, especially on national television with a young audience watching. Violence did not appear to be the answer in this circumstance, even if Smith was defending his wife’s honor, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences  seems to agree. It has recently been publicized that the Academy asked Smith to leave due to his inexcusable behavior, thus it is safe to say that this dramatic display of toxic masculinity was highly inappropriate. The Oscars, a once dying award show, will definitely gain more traction as G-I Jane is crowned the most controversial film of the Academy Awards.