- Awards -Why Is The Response To Will Smith's Actions & Kanye's So Different?
Just hours before the kickoff to the 2022 Oscars, paparazzi caught Kanye West and Kim Kardashian side by side to watch their son Saint’s soccer game. Gleefully taking pictures of his son on the field, this Kanye is a stark contrast to the one who spent weeks harassing his ex-wife and her new beau Pete Davidson on social media. This simple image of a successful co-parenting outing gave us hope that the, mostly one-sided, public feud from Kanye may finally be over.
A peaceful Sunday in Hollywood at last – or so we thought.
Roughly two and half hours into the Oscars, Chris Rock came to the stage to present Best Documentary Feature and made a joke at Jada Pinkett Smith’s expense saying “Jada I love you, G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see you,” clearly in reference to Jada’s shaven head.
Though Will Smith initially laughed at the joke, Jada remained stone-faced and was clearly not happy, most likely because she has recently opened up about her alopecia diagnosis, which causes hair loss. Will, noticing his wife's discontent, stormed the stage and smacked Chris with a force so violent, it stunned the comedian and left him nearly speechless – as it did every member of the in-person audience and those at home. Will returned to his seat and yelled to Chris a warning, "KEEP MY WIFE'S NAME OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MOUTH!"
Not too long after the slap heard around the world, Will won his first Oscar for Best Actor. Twenty years since his first nomination, he is only the fifth Black actor to win the award, and the first in 16 years. All things worthy of the standing ovation he received. However, those achievements, much like the rest of the show, were overshadowed by the unexpected violent act we had all just witnessed.
In his acceptance speech, the first statement from Will’s mouth was “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” clearly making a comparison between the Williams’ sisters father whom he portrayed in the film and himself, for his actions that evening. He went on to say he wants to be a vessel for love, which online critics took issue with.
How did Will Smith, one of the “nice guys” of Hollywood, end up the perpetrator of an act we assume could come from someone like Kanye, whose online behavior was deemed “so concerning” that he was barred from attending the Grammys, even though he has five nominations? And why is the response to Will, who was all action and Kanye who has been all talk, so different?
Both Will and Kanye claim their actions were done purely out of love for their family. Kanye repeatedly made claims that he wasn't allowed to see his children and, only through his persistent posting online, was he able to prove this. Will stated in his acceptance speech that “love will make you do crazy things.”
When Kanye stormed the VMAs stage in 2009 to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, though nothing violent occurred, he was immediately chastised by his peers. He was boo’d, given dirty looks and supposedly, Pink cursed him out when he returned to his seat.
Will, on the other hand, was given consoling and calming counsel by his peers, Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry. He was allowed to return to his seat to receive his award and standing ovation. During his acceptance speech, he apologized for his behavior to everyone – except Chris.
Chris has poked fun at Jada and Will several times over the past six years, dating back to his 2016 Oscars hosting gig, when he made a joke about Jada boycotting the Oscars, saying she wasn’t even invited; Chris also cracked on Will for getting paid $20 million for the movie Wild Wild West. And over the years, the comedian has made some online jabs about Will and his ex-wife’s relationship. That said, even all of these instances still don’t seem to add up to wanting to violently slap someone during a live telecast in front of millions.
Much like Pete Davidson is the easy target for Kanye to take out his frustrations with, well, everything, it seems that Chris represented a build up of all the jokes surrounding Will and his wife, ever since the Red Table Talk where we learned of Jada’s “entanglements” with a man named August.
Constant online jokes about their marriage, Jada’s love of Tupac, and rumors of them being in an open marriage... perhaps all of that finally got under Will’s skin. Even earlier in the evening, the host Regina Hall made a joke alluding to their marriage as one with a “hall pass.”
Was all this resentment bubbling at the surface the entire time and Chris's comment happened to be the cause for it to finally boil over? And if so, does that make it "understandable"?
The public seems to be split on their response – to some, Will was justified in his actions to stand up for his wife, others were horrified by the entitlement of a rich person lashing out and facing no consequences.
Chris Rock has declined to press charges, which Will should be thankful for. Will should also be thankful for his supporters, whom, if Kanye had stormed the Grammys stage and slapped a comedian making jokes about his family, might not be as sympathetic.