The 2021 Oscars were one of the lowest-watched Oscars of all time. In order to bring in more viewers, ABC decided to cut eight awards from its live show and add in more entertainment. While they expected more viewers to tune into the awards show, they certainly weren’t expecting it to blow up the way it did. During the show, actor Will Smith — who played the Genie in Disney’s live-action Aladdin — walked up on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face. Rock had just made a joke targeting Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith also cursed at Rock, telling him to keep Smith’s wife’s name out of his mouth.
The Chris Rock slap shocked everyone, and it was quickly making the rounds on social media. People were torn on condemning Smith’s behavior — some thought Rock deserved it and others said Smith was displaying signs of toxic masculinity. This year’s Academy Award show has drawn so much attention that it may be even more talked about than the 2017 show — when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong Best Picture winner.
While ABC and Disney wanted people to tune in, they certainly did not want the show to be surrounded by controversy. Shortly after the slap heard round the world, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement that they do not condone violence of any sort. However, there was more going on backstage than anyone knew at the time.
According to sources who spoke to CNN:
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences leadership “strongly considered” removing Will Smith from the Oscars telecast Sunday night after the actor stormed the stage and slapped Chris Rock in the face, a source close to the situation tells CNN.
“Academy leadership strongly considered removing Will Smith from last night’s broadcast following the incident. There were immediate discussions but the Academy decision makers were seated in various spots in the Dolby Theater and couldn’t mobilize to make a decision before he won best actor,” the source said.
At least a dozen members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, met virtually on Monday morning to discuss a response to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during Sunday’s ceremony, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.
The meeting was described as “heated” and “divided.” There was no agreement on further action, according to the sources.
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.
The Academy has also said that they have launched an investigation into Smith’s conduct. If the Academy finds that Smith violated its code of conduct, it could choose to remove Smith as a member. As for Chris Rock, according to both the Los Angeles Police Department, he declined to file a police report or press charges against Smith for the assault.
Later in the evening, Smith won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role as Richard Williams in King Richard. He apologized to the Academy for his actions and said that he was very protective of his family. He never apologized to Rock or mentioned the comedian’s name.
While the Smith smack definitely is all most people are talking about, there were other light moments, including Disney winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for the hit movie, Encanto.