The world was shocked when, during the 94th Annual Academy Awards, Will Smith took to the stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock after a distasteful joke at the expense of Jada Pinkett Smith.
Just moments later, Smith went on to receive the best-actor Oscar for his role in King Richard, offering apologies to the Academy and fellow nominees.
Reactions were divided, with some believing Rock deserved it while others argued that violence at the Oscars was never justified.
On Monday, it was revealed that Oscar producers had seriously contemplated removing Smith from the event following the incident.
Although Chris Rock declined to press assault charges, the Academy may still take action, including the possible revocation of Smith’s Oscar.
The Academy’s official statement condemned Smith’s actions and announced a formal review of the situation in accordance with their bylaws and California law.
Following the event, the Academy tweeted a statement against violence without explicitly mentioning the Smith-Rock altercation.
In 2017, they had established an updated code of conduct in response to the #MeToo movement, asserting a zero-tolerance policy for abuse, harassment, or discrimination based on various factors, including gender, race, and religion.
How the Academy will handle Smith’s case remains uncertain, but there have been instances where Oscar recipients, such as Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, and Dudley Nichols, have refused or returned their awards.
It is essential to emphasize that violence should not be condoned or normalized.
However, it is worth noting that alleged sex offenders like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have not been asked to return their Oscars despite allegations of abuse.
Regarding violence at the Oscars, John Wayne was once restrained from confronting Indigenous actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather in 1973 after she discussed Hollywood’s offensive portrayals of her community while accepting Brando’s Oscar.
To date, no Oscar winner has ever had their award revoked by the Academy, although Harvey Weinstein was expelled in 2017 due to numerous sexual abuse allegations.
As for Smith, the world awaits the Academy’s decision, but the question remains: What message would it send if Smith, a Black man, had his Oscar removed while Polanski and Allen’s remained untouched?