The Slap Heard ‘Round the World

Rafael A. Sarmiento
7 min readMar 28, 2022
Everybody hates Chris.

In a moment that usurped the cringe-inducing Moonlight/La La Land mix-up, the tone-deaf and self-indulgent George Clooney speech, and even the butchering of Idina Menzel’s name by John Travola, Will Smith went ahead and slapped Chris Rock in the face in front of millions of viewers. I feel pretty bad that the entire evening was dedicated to that moment, because I really enjoyed Coda and was glad a nice little movie like that won Best Picture.

But come on, who the fuck even cares about the Oscars anymore? They’re so irrelevant. Self-aggrandizing and sanctimonious snobs who pretend they decide what real cinema is, while historically ignoring women, minorities, and films outside of their typical liked genres. I wasn’t watching this year (I rarely do), but Twitter exploded when this happened and I got caught up just in time to see Will Smith win Best Actor just a half hour later. How awkward. The whole affair feels like something out of an Onion headline.

For those who are unaware, Chris Rock was presenting an award, and in the lead up, he cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness. He simply compared her to G.I. Jane, a Demi Moore film where Moore had shaved her head to look the part of a soldier. Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia (hair loss), so the joke was a little rude, but I wouldn’t say it was like she’s dying of cancer or something more dire. What really bothered me was that Chris Rock had produced and taken the reins on a film called Good Hair a few years ago, which explored the stigmas against and the struggles of black women and their hair in the United States, and then he proceeded to make that joke anyways. It was in poor taste. Jada rolled her eyes, and her husband, Will Smith, could be seen laughing for a moment. Rock wanted to quickly move on from it, and tried to get on with the show. It was just another lame Oscar joke, and the evening was already filled with them. But then, the unthinkable happened, and Will Smith lost his cool. Despite visibly laughing a moment ago, he strode up to the stage, strutted to Chris Rock, who was grinning at Smith, unsure of what was to come, and Will just gave him a loud and cold bitch slap, sitting back in his seat and screamed at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” Really weird to see infamously clean rapper Will Smith cuss out someone. Not very jiggy.

Rafael A. Sarmiento

I hold a BA in film and in history from UNM and MA in iMAES from USC. I’m not a pessimist, I’m correct. Follow me for troglodyte slaying 101.