The Academy announced it is opening a formal review into Smith slapping Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards. “The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show," The Academy said in a statement. "We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.” But why wasn't any action taken during the ceremony? Variety reports that members of the Academy were in shock. "It’s evident from social media accounts and wide reports from inside the telecast that many attendees were dumfounded by the act, unsure if it was a bit between the two famous men or an intentional attack," reports Variety's Matt Donnelly, adding: "The Academy is a nonprofit organization ruled by bylaws, and sources say there appear to be no provisions addressing open-hand smacking across the face on the live show. Escorting Smith out of the ceremony was discussed, the source said, though by the time any substantive scenarios were imagined, he had already been called up to the podium to accept an Oscar for his turn in King Richard. The show ended shortly thereafter, as a joyous atmosphere turned sour." Donnelly also reports that producers worried about the "optics" of having security remove a beloved star. Donnelly adds that Chris Rock's joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair was, according to a source, "off the cuff, and not included in the script fed to him on teleprompters." As The New York Times points out, a five-page document on standards of conduct that accompanied today's statement spells out behavior the organization deems unacceptable. It prohibits “physical contact that is uninvited and, in the situation, inappropriate and unwelcome, or coercive sexual attention.” Also not allowed is “intimidation, stalking, abusive or threatening behavior, or bullying.” The Times' Nicole Sperling, Matt Stevens and Julia Jacobs report that "there were serious discussions about removing Mr. Smith from the theater, according to two industry officials with knowledge of the situation who were granted anonymity to describe internal deliberations. But time was short, because the best actor award, which Mr. Smith was heavily favored to win, was fast approaching, one noted — and stakeholders had varying opinions on how to proceed. There was also concern about further disrupting the live broadcast." Meanwhile, CNN's Chloe Melas reports there was a "heated" and "divided" meeting between members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences this morning. "The dozen members who met on their own volition and are being described as influential and recognizable members of the Academy, including actors and directors. The group does not have any disciplinary power, but they are considered high profile enough that the Board of Governor's for the Academy could be influenced in any response they may have," reports Melas. "Some people on the call said the Academy mishandled the incident with its initial tweet. Others feel that the situation was handled properly and no further steps should be taken."
ABC exec defends proceeding with the show, confirms Chris Rock's G.I. Jane joke was an ad-lib not in the script: “When you’re on the button, which I wasn’t but our our standards people were, I think you obviously go towards overcorrection than letting something get through,” said Robert Mills, who leads ABC's alternative programming, tells Variety of censoring The Slap incident. Mills says it was decided in the control room to keep on going: “We had heard that Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry had gone over to Will to kind of see what was going on and offer some counsel,” says Mills. “But you have to remember that you’re putting a live show on. Had this been something that was being pre-taped, we would have stopped down. Things would have been addressed. We would have seen what to do next. But here, you have to remember you’ve got a show to do. Obviously, this was something that was unfortunate, but it was not to a degree that you think, ‘Okay, we need to just stop the entire show.’ And the show just kind of went on.”
Producer Will Packer calls The Slap incident "a very painful moment for me": Last night, Packer was criticized for tweeting: “Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars.” In response to the criticism, he tweeted Monday: “Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don’t feel the need to elucidate that for you. But I also don’t mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels.”
Will Smith's slap tarnished a night of pride for Black Hollywood -- and his legacy: "Smith delivered a gift-wrapped present to conservatives dismissive of the Black Lives Matter movement and increasingly frustrated by the battle against systemic racism, from voting rights to critical race theory," says Greg Braxton. "It was easy to imagine Tucker Carlson watching the awards in his pajamas, leaping up and pointing to the screen: 'Look! White people aren’t hurting Black folks. It’s really Black-on-Black crime. Those people are beating up on each other.' Smith’s heroic stature inside and outside Black culture, and his carefully constructed persona as the patriarch of a celebrity family, only intensifies the fallout. And his actions have now placed his reputation in jeopardy. That is true whether you take Rock at his word — that he was making a G.I. Jane joke — or believe he crossed the line by coming for Pinkett Smith over a medical condition. You don’t need to justify Rock’s rhetoric to be mortified by Smith’s disproportionate response. Nor do you need to demand condemnation from the NAACP, investigation by the LAPD or expulsion from the academy to recognize the utter inappropriateness of a movie star assaulting an award presenter on national television."
There was an unreality to the Will Smith slap and its aftermath: "It was unsettling to see Smith accept his Oscar—shortly after being counseled by Denzel Washington and his publicist—and receive a standing ovation," says Sophie Gilbert. "It was strange to hear him claim the mantle of a protector, and compare himself to his character Richard Williams, 'a fierce defender of his family.' It was strange to watch him say he wanted to be 'a vessel for love' and 'an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern,' right after the most flagrant outburst of violence in Oscars history. It was odd to see him declaring that “love will make you do crazy things,” while his wife regally nodded, and to laugh his gleeful, barking Will Smith laugh, that laugh, the kind any casual moviegoer could identify with their eyes closed, right after saying that he hoped the Academy would have him back. It was eerie to learn that Smith and his family danced the rest of the night away at the Vanity Fair party, the triumphant star clutching his statuette. All of it felt a little like an exercise in entertainment-industry gaslighting. Did we really see what we thought we saw? Did it matter? Maybe not. Maybe the lines between reality and constructed entertainment have blurred beyond the point where they’re discernible anymore. Smith’s behavior was so extraordinary that it seemed, watching, as though he might be in crisis."
Why was it so hard to believe The Slap wasn't staged?: "For those of us watching a censored telecast, what we watched go down between Rock and Smith seemed just manipulated enough that it could be part of the time-honored tradition of staged bits engineered for virality at the Academy Awards," says Madison Malone Kircher, pointing out that last year viewers were led to believe that Glenn Close dancing to "Da Butt" during last year's ceremony was a spontaneous moment. Kircher adds: "As viewers, we’ve been primed to assume everything we’re seeing at these events is orchestrated. Rarely are moments at the Academy Awards raw or real. That’s by design. Maybe, maybe on a good year you’ll get a genuinely spontaneous outburst of emotion or a political diatribe that isn’t triangulated to serve one’s personal brand. More likely just a bleep or two when somebody curses live on air. But for the most part, you get canned jokes and cutaways to pretty people who are making precisely the staged faces people make when they know they are at risk of being on camera at any moment."