On Sunday, March 27, millions tuned in to watch The 94th Annual Academy Awards. What they expected to see was a night of glitz, glamour, and amazing performances. What they did not expect to see was Will Smith walk up onto the stage and smack comedian Chris Rock across the face. Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife — Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith smacked Rock, then walked back to his seat and yelled at Rock to keep Smith’s wife’s name out of his mouth.
The reaction to Smith’s slap was quick and divided. Some felt that Smith was in the right, as he was defending his wife. Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia — a medical condition that results in hair loss — and some viewers felt that Rock crossed a line. Others felt that Rock was simply a comedian who made a joke, and violence is never an acceptable response. Oscar hosts Amu Schumer and Wanda Sykes have both spoken out against the slap, saying that it was a traumatic thing to witness in person.
In response to Smith’s smack, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it was launching an investigation into Smith’s behavior. Smith is a member of the Academy and the investigation could result in suspension, or even expulsion, if his conduct is deemed to have violated the Academy’s Code of Conduct. However, Smith has just thrown a massive wrench into the investigation.
As of Friday evening, Will Smith resigned as a member of The Academy. Upon issuing his resignation, Smith made the following statement:
“My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home, I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film.”
Immediately following the Oscars slap, it was reported that Smith was asked to leave, but refused. Smith later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams in the movie King Richard. During his acceptance speech, Smith said that he was a fierce defender of his family. He apologized to the Academy, but did not apologize to Chris Rock until the next day.
The Academy was quick to respond to Smith’s resignation statement, saying:
“We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”
The Academy stating that they will continue their investigation could mean that Smith’s resignation is only the beginning. By resigning, it is possible that Smith could try to become a member in the future. However, should he be expelled from The Academy, that would mean that there is no way for him to become a member in the future.