"These are now the times of our lives," says Wesley Morris of The Slap at the Oscars. "Anybody could snap, even a man who was once one of Earth’s most beloved humans, even a man who, before he left his seat and swung, was poised to enjoy one of the happiest nights of his 53 years by accepting an Oscar for his role in King Richard.” As Morris points out, "the source of Sunday night’s disruption is the winner of 10 individual Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards. And the shock was its disturbance of the Oscars routine, a routine that both Smith and Rock were familiar with, as a three-time nominee and a two-time host. The show wanted to settle back into its routine after Smith seemed to calm himself. That was shocking, too. The show just … went on. And yet it didn’t, not with the same disposable exuberance. Smith’s altercation with Rock occurred with an hour to go. And it began a journey through some strange entertainment prism of the Black male experience in this country. It was dominated by ’90s hip-hop stalwarts and capped by Tyler Perry, an artist whose movies the academy had never acknowledged but who lately tends to be on hand as a kind of dignitary. He kicked off the in memoriam segment with a tribute to Sidney Poitier, who died at the beginning of the year and whose enormous symbolic appeal Smith’s most evokes." Morris adds of Rock and Smith: "A lot of odds had to be beat for these men — raised poor, lower-middle-class — to converge in this strange moment, as affluent shapers of culture. But an arc on that circle has marred the whole. And I don’t think that it’s overdoing it to identify that blemish as a tragic drama."
Academy says Will Smith investigation "will take a few weeks" and that "appropriate action" will be taken: "To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith’s actions that transpired Sunday night," the Academy said in a letter to its members Tuesday night. "As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy’s Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith. As governed by California law regarding members of nonprofit organizations like the Academy, and set forth in our Standards of Conduct, this must follow an official process that will take a few weeks."
Will Smith's apology to Chris Rock isn't enough -- he needs to do a lot more to save face: "This was too dramatic an incident to turn the page that easily," says Andrew Wallenstein. "If crisis PR has taught us anything, digging out of a hole this deep will be a complicated, multistep affair, and Slapgate will be no exception." As Wallenstein points out, Smith's statement was probably written by "a team of flacks," but a "text statement doesn’t resonate the way hearing Smith talk directly would." Smith needs to speak out about the incident and also make it clear he has reached out to Rock. But, says Wallenstein, an appearance on TV, such as Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show or an Oprah Winfrey special, might not work.
There seems to be racial undertones in the reaction to Smith's Slap: "Most people agree the slap shouldn’t have happened," says Tayo Bero. "But there’s something that feels precious at best, and downright racist at worst, about white people’s reaction to the now-infamous smack. The Hollywood director Judd Apatow declared in a deleted tweet that Smith 'could have killed' Rock (seriously?), calling it “pure out of control rage and violence”. Apatow later confirmed he wasn’t even watching the show when he made the remarks. The radio host Howard Stern compared Smith to Donald Trump, while white women on Twitter somehow decided that Smith’s actions meant he must be beating his wife. It would seem that there’s a layer of hyper-violence that’s being projected on to Smith simply because he is a Black man who was defending his Black wife. While it’s justifiable – important, even – to interrogate his motives for delivering the slap (was this really all about defending his wife or more about his own ego?), it’s clear that the backlash against Smith is rooted in not just anti-Blackness, but respectability politics as well. It’s also not just about what Smith did; it’s where he did it and who was watching. Anyone who has been following these shows can see that Smith is being held up to much stricter standards than white men who have behaved just as badly or even worse in those settings."
Psychologists and experts on violence aren’t surprised by the strong emotions generated by the incident: “The complexity right now does center around the talks and discussions we’re having around race, gender and disability … and survivorship,” said Apryl Alexander, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver. “All of those things combined impacted the lens in which we saw this unfortunate event.” Alexander adds: “Oftentimes in our culture, violence is done behind doors. You don’t often see people, unless it’s like a bar fight or something like that, actually engage in that degree of hostility unless you have been a survivor yourself. So, I think for a lot of people that was very shocking to them, that this was such a public display on an international stage of aggression.”
Even O.J. Simpson is speaking out against Smith: “I think Will was wrong," he said in a Twitter video. "Look, I understood the feeling. In my life, I’ve been through a lot of crap, and I was raising two young kids, and every comedian in the country had an O.J. routine, and don’t think I wouldn’t wanna slap a couple of those guys....But it’s humor. I didn’t think (the joke) was all that egregious.”