January 27, 2023
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Television producers, directors and performers do their very best to make sure everything goes right. They are especially vigilant on Oscar night because so many things can and do go wrong.

Once, the wrong film was named Best Picture and one group of actors and filmmakers had to be hustled off the stage to make way for another. Another time, an actress fell down while walking up the stairs to receive her award.

Often, actors turn the wrong way while exiting the stage and have to be guided safely off. Acceptance speeches have to be carefully monitored for profanity and the offending words cut. Award winners who outstay their welcome have to be silenced by loud music and mic cutoffs that clearly tell them it’s time to go.

Oscars Night 2022 had been carefully planned. Some technical awards were pre-taped so that the, perhaps, less exciting speeches would not take up valuable time.

But most of the ceremony was presented live.

Comedian Chris Rock in his role as presenter made a crack about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, involving her hairstyle. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, a condition which causes hair loss, and has chosen to wear an extremely close-cropped hairstyle.

“GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” Rock said.

Smith laughed. Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes. Smith stood up and marched toward the stage.

The home audience thought it was a set-up, that Rock and Smith would end up clowning. Even after Smith slapped Rock and walked back to his seat, it was unclear what had happened, especially since ABC television cut much of the verbal exchange that followed the attack.

“Oh, wow,” Rock said. “Will Smith just smacked the (bleep) out of me.”

For someone who had just been hit in the face on live television, Rock exhibited a measure of composure.

“That was – uh – greatest night in the history of television,” he said.

He went on to present the award for Best Documentary.

Later, Amy Schumer, one of the hosts, came back on.

“I’ve been getting out of that Spider-Man costume. Did I miss anything?” she asked innocently.

Well, yes.

But there’s more. Will Smith went on to win Best Actor for his role as Venus and Serena Williams’ father in “King Richard.” He made a teary acceptance speech, apologizing to the Motion Picture Academy and the audience.

The following day, he apologized to Chris Rock on Instagram.

Violence is an inappropriate response to almost everything. Self-defense might be an exception, but that was clearly not the case here. Rock crossed a line with his offensive remark about Pinkett Smith. Smith crossed a much bigger line by physically attacking him.

Some think Rock should have pressed charges, which he has not at this time. Others think Smith should have been removed from the venue, which, for whatever reason, he was not.

All in all, it was a terrible, disgusting, disgraceful moment.

But it was pretty good television.

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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