The story of The Slap continues as the Academy is dragging its feet on doing anything and Chris Rock returns to work on the theater circuit, performing at the Wilbur Theater where he was greeted with a standing ovation and some guy trying to start a “F-ck Will Smith” chant. (Rock’s ticket sales have skyrocketed since Sunday night.) Rock says he’s still “processing” the incident and may speak about it later but he seems to be doing OK and his show is doing better than ever.
But wait, there’s more! Because The Slap has dominated so much of The Discourse this week, we’ve lost sight of another tasteless thing Rock said on Sunday night when he announced the winners of Best Documentary Feature. Rock announced the winners as, “Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson and four white guys,” except one, three producers joined Questlove on stage, not four, and THEY WEREN’T ALL WHITE. Rock’s ad lib marginalizes producer Joseph Monish Patel, who is of South Asian descent.
In a Twitter thread yesterday (that has since been deleted because you can imagine the ugliness that he ended up receiving) Patel elaborated on this thoughts – per Variety:
“The reason that makes me SO SO VERY ANGRY is because I was so proud to be one of a handful of South Asians to have ever won an Oscar in the history of the award,” Patel wrote in a Twitter thread airing his frustrations on Wednesday evening. “I was ecstatic that I was the 3RD South Asian to win that night – after Riz [Ahmed] and Aneil Karia won earlier in the night for [best live action short winner] ‘The Long Goodbye.’ Three South Asians winning on the same night – that’s never happened before! And it’s meaningful! It’s history!”
“I got back home to New York last night and saw the ceremony on my DVR and didn’t have the stomach to watch it,” Patel continues. “I probably never will. Thank you, Chris – You absolute f-cking dick.”
“I think what Will did was selfish,” Patel wrote. “It robbed the category of its moment. It robbed the other excellent and amazing films of their moment to be acknowledged in what was a STRONG year for docs. And it robbed Summer of Soul and our team of our moment. Of a loud, enthusiastic cheer for a celebrated film.”
“I never need a statue to tell me how nice I am – but it sure helps. And what both Will AND Chris did really stained what should have been a beautiful moment for us,” Patel’s thread concludes. “Also it goes without saying I speak for me and me alone. Not Ahmir [Questlove] and not our coproducers.”
Again, Chris Rock should not have been slapped and it was wrong of Will Smith to slap him. But that also doesn’t make him the hero of the hour just because he got on with the show after Smith struck him.
As for the Academy, they won’t decide on a course of action until APRIL 18. They’re following bylaws and a fifteen-day “notice of a vote” for Smith, but that’s too long. That’s WAY too long. Sometimes, situations are actually quite dire and require swift response before they get any further out of hand, but at this point, it’s like the Academy are firefighters trained to fight fires by letting the building burn completely down first. This is why I don’t quite believe their ever-evolving story about how they reacted in the moment on Sunday night. First, it was “borderline impossible” to make a decision on the spot Sunday night, but then Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and president David Rubin met backstage with the Academy’s spokesperson and Smith’s publicist, but that resulted in no action. Now, the story is that they asked Smith to leave but he refused and oops all Crunchberries, the show went on like nothing happened.
One element of this rather fluid accounting of events that tracks is Smith’s publicist being involved at some point, as she was spotted talking to Smith during a commercial break.
I just don’t know if I believe they actually asked Smith to leave. Because if you DID make that decision, why wouldn’t you carry it out? The Oscars are CRAWLING with security. It’s not like it would have been difficult to arrange to escort Smith from the theater (off camera), unless you’re so totally craven the thought of upsetting a movie star is paralyzing. This entire story would have unfolded differently if we weren’t left with the image of Smith, an hour after hitting Chris Rock on stage, collecting an Oscar to thunderous applause. It’s that juxtaposition that’s at the heart of a lot of the ongoing strife, and it’s the reason the Academy is probably going to wildly overreact now—or rather, on April 18—because no matter how they say it went down in the moment, at the end of the night they did nothing, and the Oscars carried on like normal except for how everyone was still reeling from what happened.
I fully believe the time for the Academy to act was then, in the moments after everyone realized Rock and Smith weren’t doing a bit. That’s why I’ve said they should have cut the feed, to buy themselves the time to organize their response, because there needed to be a response in the moment. But now? Chris Rock has declined to press charges. And the furor around Smith continues to have racial overtones and some people are WAY too excited to see the downfall of a beloved Black icon. Every day the Academy waits to react, is another day that furor builds, and their response starts being measured not against the events that actually occurred, but the public clamouring for “justice”.
The likeliest outcome and arguably most measured option on the table is some kind of suspension of Smith’s membership in the Academy. Traditionally, he would be invited to the 2023 Oscars to present Best Actress, perhaps he will be barred from that opportunity. Maybe he’ll be barred from any Academy-related activities for the next year, too. And maybe he’ll have to pay some kind of fine, or be asked to donate to, say, the Actors Home assisted living facility supporting retired actors. I don’t think they’ll take back his Oscar, because they’ve never taken back anyone’s Oscar—except for a snafu in 1969 in which an ineligible film won Best Documentary—not even Harvey Weinstein’s, and he’s a convicted rapist.
In their statement regarding their pending disciplinary action, the Academy apologized to Chris Rock, as well as the Oscars’ viewers, guests, and nominees. To date, no one has apologized to Jada Pinkett Smith.