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Will Smith – what was he thinking?

Will Smith. What was he thinking? Did he think? Or are we all mistaken? Did Will, Chris Rock, and the Oscar Academy pull a stupid publicity stunt?

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Will Smith. What was he thinking? Did he think? Or are we all mistaken? Did Will, Chris Rock, and the Oscar Academy pull a stupid publicity stunt?

What did Will Smith do?

Will Smith, of course, was at the Annual Awards Show of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Academy’s Nominating Committee nominated him for Best Actor, for his performance as the father of Serena and Venus Williams. You may or may not remember those two women as sisters who took the world of women’s tennis by storm. They started in the Nineties and are still going strong.

But last night he almost threw it all away – or did he?

This much we know, because Australian television recorded it and broadcast it, even though American television did not. Mr. Chris Rock, one of many Academy Award presenters, made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. She has lost her hair lately, because she suffers from alopecia. So Chris Rock saw fit to crack a tasteless joke about a hypothetical film that would carry the title G.I. Jane II – because men and women in the military usually opt for a “crew cut” or “skin cut.”

Well, Will Smith didn’t like that. So you can see him plainly walking down a ramp, onto the stage, and up to Chris Rock. Then he hauls off and slaps Chris Rock across the face, hard enough for the microphones to pick up.

Watch it here:

And when Chris Rock says,

I just make a G.I. Jane joke!

Will Smith says

Keep! My wife’s! Name! Out of your! [Foxtrotting!] Mouth!

Except that of course he doesn’t say “Foxtrotting.”

How is everyone reacting?

The Academy is mortified – or at least, they give that impression.

The Academy does not condone violence [in] any form.

Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.

What makes the embarrassment more acute, is that Will Smith went on to win as Best Actor for his performance as “King” Richard Williams. Read about it here, from the official winners’ list.

Let’s get one thing straight. The Academy membership decides those awards long before the show. Members vote on nominations that the Committee sends them. So someone was going to hand Will Smith one of those crusader knight statuettes (which bear the name of the “Uncle Oscar” of the Academy’s librarian and eventual executive director, Margaret Herrick) whether that temper outburst occurred – or not.

In fact, now we hear that Will Smith might lose that Oscar. The Academy does have a code of conduct, but they couch it in very vague terms. They revised their code of conduct after the open secret of the Casting Couch broke out. We will close the curtain of charity on that, as Mark Twain would say. But striking a fellow performer on a public stage, apparently lays him wide-open. The Academy could even throw him out for what he did.

All that to say: this is serious business. Will Smith knows this. So why do it?

Or did somebody put him up to it?

How famous is Will Smith?

Will Smith first came to your editor’s attention for his role in Roland Emmerich’s earth-invasion opera, Independence Day (1996). He played a Marine aviator. When aliens invade his country and world, he responds, as the whole world does, using the weapons he knows how to use. I highly recommend that film, actually – it shows people taking on a seemingly god-like enemy and winning.

But no Marine would be happy with the way Will Smith has been handling himself lately. He once slapped a male reporter who tried to kiss him on the mouth. Now that kind of thing is an assault in and of itself, but the law says that an adult does not answer a mild assault with a worse one. In fact the public record shows that this actor has a temper, and frequently loses it.

Is Will Smith “woke”? Apparently some users think that of him, and his wife.

More than that: four years ago, Maureen Callahan at the New York Post criticized Will and Jada both, for sharing entirely too much of their personal lives on Facebook.

Celebrity is dead.

Forget him – the Academy itself went woke bonkers that night

But if you want to talk about woke, look at how the Academy ran their show. They hired not one master of ceremonies, but three mistresses of ceremonies. That word mistresses is deliberate, because they made a big bally-hoo about it. They actually said,

This year the Academy hired three women to host, because it’s cheaper than hiring one man.

Andrew Bolt, commenting on the spectacle,

said this:

The Oscars ceremony today, dear God … the left’s new anti-white racism – you see it right there. Chinese academics write about it all the time – how we are tearing ourselves about with our race politics. Our gender wars, too. Our childish, self-obsessed, tribalist obsession with our identity.

You know, I can understand why Russia – and China too – thought the West would be a pushover.

And maybe he could understand why Russia and China would want to be civilizational states, and shut out all that nonsense from their borders.

Dan Wootton at The Daily Mail had even more scathing commentary. But he had something else: clear evidence that Hollywood does not care about decency.

Dan Wootton lays out evidence against Will Smith and the Academy

First: Will Smith was laughing at that GI Jane joke. Only then does he go up onto the stage.

Second: watch this footage Wootton captured from non-American networks.

What live TV director captures that moment so effectively? He has to switch cameras to pick it up. Something’s fishy there. That doesn’t happen by accident, no matter how astute a director is. Your editor saw a staged moment like that in a Perry Mason movie.

Third: Wootton quotes Chris Rock:

Wow! Will Smith just smacked the [Sierra] out of me!

Wootton then says this:

One could be forgiven for thinking you were watching an elaborately staged skit to begin with, given Rock’s casual reaction to Smith’s slap and his quick-witted retort.

Wootton then gets it wrong. As he sees it, when Will Smith screams at Chris Rock not once but twice, that says it was real. No, Mr. Wootton. That is the payoff from the setup of Will Smith’s behavior before the event. I am a novelist, and that’s how I know. Do you really think that was spontaneous? Hel-lo-ooooooo! Will Smith is an actor! He spends his waking life in a world of make-believe! That is how he makes his living! Worse than that, he and Chris Rock have a history together, going back years. Does anyone think the Academy didn’t know that when they asked Chris Rock to present Oscars at that show?

Setup and payoff

Let’s look at some other facts. The Oscars have been playing to a dwindling audience for years. Last year’s show drew fifty-eight percent fewer viewers than the year before last. The Academy has been losing viewers, and they knew that.

So they needed a big spectacle to revive their sagging ratings. Last night, they got it – beyond their wildest dreams. Or did they just dream? Again – look at the setup. It began with an introduction by Venus and Serena Williams, who figured in that biopic. They knew the score, because Will Smith was going to get the Best Actor award for playing their father. Not only that, but Beyoncé sang the theme song to the movie. (That song didn’t win the Oscar, only because someone wanted to remember the death of James Bond.) And then Chris Rock cracks that tasteless joke about a woman who lost her hair and can’t help it. Of course he was going to take a slap for that!

But Will Smith broke character – laughing at the joke. Then he remembered. And when he walked onto that stage, he had a camera conveniently following him. No accident, folks! In fact no one even tried to drag him out of there, which would have been right and proper.

And today we learn that Chris Rock will not file charges. He has a perfect right to. Why won’t he?

Because he, Will Smith, and the Academy all worked the whole thing out in advance.

About the image

The image TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 (cropped) by User TechCrunch on Flickr carries a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

UPDATE: Holy Backfires, Will Smith!

If, as your editor still suspects, Will Smith worked it out in advance at the behest of the Academy, then it has backfired, big-time. A groundswell of public and industry opinion is developing, to this effect: Will Smith has forfeited his win. Play these videos for a sampling:

Further update

Dave Hodges (The Common Sense Show) gives his perspective as a veteran with experience in hand-to-hand combat. According to him, even the slap was not real. In addition to which, viewership must have lain between 2020 and 2021, making these Oscars the second-lowest-rated in Academy history.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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