Will Smith: Strong reactions in Ottawa to Oscars slap

Hollywood would normally be basking in the glow of the Oscar winners the day after, but the fallout from Will Smith slapping Chris Rock continues to dominate headlines.

“I don’t think one turns on the Oscars expecting someone to get punched in the head,” said Dan Shields with Yuk Yuk’s comedy club, adding the slap was uncalled for.

“This is Chris Rock. This is his job, to make fun of people,” he said.

Shields says sensitivity to jokes is a challenge faced by many comedians these days.

“It’s a problem now,” he said. “Mike Ward, whose joke about a disabled person went to the Supreme Court; Mike Bullard in Toronto–he’s a pretty insulting little guy–and then Derek Seguin, he’s going to say things that upset people. But that’s kind of what it’s about right? A lot of comedy clubs and universities are censoring comics.”

Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

“Jada, I love you. `G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it, all right?” Rock said, referencing the 1997 film G.I. Jane, in which Demi Moore shaved her head to portray a Navy Seal candidate.

Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she was diagnosed with alopecia, which leads to hair loss.

Smith stood up, walked on stage and slapped Rock, before sitting back down and swearing at Rock, telling him not to mention his wife’s name.

While some thought the joke was in poor taste, it has become a controversial topic. Many on social media widely condemned Smith’s violent response.

“Some people might be like, ‘Good for him!’ or ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe he did that!’” said Michael Gershuny with the mental health organization The Counselling Group. “We saw someone appear to be reacting out of lack of control.”

The Counselling Group runs anger management workshops. Gershuny says public figures like Smith reacting with this type of behaviour could leave a negative impact on those who look up to him.

After the ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shared its own statement saying it does not condone violence of any form and an official review is underway.

Smith won the best actor Oscar later that night. He apologized to Rock in an Instagram post Monday evening.

“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness,” he wrote.


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