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Side-by-Side: Was Chris Rock or Will Smith Right?

by Kyle Harper and Bailey Weber

Photo courtesy of People

In this issue, Bailey Weber and Kyle Harper debate who was in the right at the Oscars: Chris Rock or Will Smith?

It Was A “G.I. Jane” Joke

by Kyle Harper

Now that the meme of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock has finally started to wear off, it’s time to ask the question, who was in the right?

I’m going to start with this: Chris Rock could have told a different joke. In retrospect, maybe joking about a woman’s disease that she has no control over was not the best idea, especially given the grandiose stage of the Oscars. Rock could have done better.

However, I do not think that constitutes Will Smith’s response to the situation. 

I understand that an army of internet simps are going around on Twitter saying, “A mAn ShOuLd DeFeNd HiS wIfE aNy WaY tHaT hE cAn” are going to have a problem with this.

Sure, you should be able to defend your loved ones, but I think more appropriate ways to go about this. Everyone in this situation is an adult, and a simple conversation offstage could have been resolved. Smith could have even clapped back with a joke of his own. After all, he’s funny too!

Once you break into the area of physical assault, there’s really no going back. I genuinely don’t think that Rock meant any harm behind the joke, and that violence was not a sensible solution to this problem. 

The Oscars is the most prestigious award ceremony for film, and people have tarnished the event before by doing far less. In 2011, James Franco and Anne Hatehway blundered the showcase by being passive aggressive and awkward. If that can lead you to the hot seat, then full-on assault is going to have much steeper consequences. 

This is a weird situation where the ideas of stand-up comedy and reality blend for a unique moment. I think Rock could have been better in his onstage role, but I don’t think he deserved to be on Smith’s receiving end either.

Will Smith Defended His Wife… but at What Cost?

by Bailey Weber

It is very hard for me to make a case against Chris Rock here. However, Will Smith had a legitimate reason to get as angry as he did during the 2022 Academy Awards. Did it warrant the violence against Chris Rock, of course not. But Rock crossed the line one too many times. 

In 2016 Rock hosted the Academy Awards ceremony. This was the year that the Smith family decided to boycott the Oscars because of the lack of diversity in nominees. Rock made a joke, more focused on Jada Pinkett Smith, about her absence. 

“Jada said she’s not coming, protest. I was like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s going to boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” Rock said. 

This comment, although made years ago, most definitely affected Pinkett Smith back then. Roasts are always made during these ceremonies, but claiming someone was not invited when they most definitely were, is extremely rude. 

During the 2022 Academy Awards, Rock made the joke, “Jada, I love ya. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.” 

This joke was made because Pinkett Smith came to the awards with a shaved head, which made her look like Demi Moore from the original film. 

Pinkett Smith had a shaved head because she has been suffering from alopecia since at least 2018. Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes people to lose their hair. She has been public about her struggles with the disease.

There were many angles shown from the entire exchange. One of them showed Smith laughing at Rock’s joke while Pinkett Smith looked very angry. 

When Smith slapped Rock, I could understand why. It was a cruel joke against his wife, who has definitely struggled a lot behind closed doors. 

It is right to defend a loved one, but there is a time and place. This most definitely was not the time nor place.

However, I think it is okay that Smith got as angry as he did. The joke Rock made came off as him trying to be controversial, and not just a jab against a friend. Especially looking back on the joke from 2016, it seems like there is more that we don’t know. 

I think it is weird that he laughed and then got angry, but if his wife was upset, he needed to defend her. 

Live television can be fun sometimes, but seeing two friends fight without holding anything back just makes things awkward. 

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