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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

The Slap Heard 'round Hollywood

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

You know what I'm talking about. On March 27, 2022, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was filled to the brim with stars for the Academy Awards Part 94. All the presenters were talking about how they were going to be "nice" this year.

"It's been a tough couple of years. We just want to be nice and have a good time."

Who wants Hollywood's biggest night to be "nice?"

Then, moments after what was basically a "Yo mama" or "She so fat" joke, Will Smith took the stage and slapped the taste out of Chris Rock's mouth.

What just happened?

Did we just have an honest to celluloid Hollywood moment like when that hippie steaked across the stage during David Niven's introduction for Elizabeth Taylor in 1974, or that time in 1989 when Goldie tried to trick Kurt into marrying her in front of everyone?

It was high drama! It was bold thrills! It was pure Hollywood spectacle! This moment had hundreds of millions of views within hours. The entire world heard that slap.

Then the dialogue that followed. "Keep my wife's name out yo fucking mouth!" That is some tough ass Truck Turner shit right there. "Keep my wife's name out yo fucking mouth!" That is good writing, and in the hands of a pro like Will Smith, he sold it, man.

If you watch the video, it all beings as some good natured, cruel Hollywood ribbing. Because it's more fun to treat everyone like they're at a Dean Martin roast. Chris Rock made Jada Pinkett Smith the butt of a bald joke. Jada's hair loss is related to alopecia areata, and she didn't think Chris's joke was funny.

When you watch you'll notice Will Smith laughing along with the crowd. Jada was not amused. Next thing we know, Big Willie is on stage and slapping Chris across the mouth.

Is this real? I honestly don't know. When I watched the video it made me uneasy and a little sick to my stomach. What is going on? All day I thought about it, and now I doubt it.

It probably doesn't help that I just watched Capricorn One over the weekend, so my mind is ripe for conspiracy theories, but part of me suspects this was staged. I mean, come on. Who gets up and slaps a presenter at the Academy Awards? Haven't there been plenty of presenters in the past more deserving of a slap across the gums than Rock?

The more I think about it the more I believe it was planned. Scripted even. Who watches the Academy Awards anymore? Viewership has dropped drastically. More people probably still rent movies from Red Box machines than watch the Academy Awards.

The presenters have to be nice so they don't offend anyone. But the big wigs know better. People want spectacle. They want something colossal. They want a blockbuster.

Hollywood is not only competing with various streaming services for viewers and revenue, but the short attention span Tic Tok Nation is killing Hollywood too. When a seventeen second video can rack up millions of views in a few short hours, well, that's a blockbuster. You don't even need to put butts in seats to make it a success.

Hollywood is out of ideas. All they do is make sequels (The Academy Awards Part 94) and produce remakes. That's what everyone says, at least.

Well, if the moment when Will Smith smacks Chris Rock for all the world to see isn't a Hollywood remake of that Twisted Tea viral video from a couple years ago- dumbed down with a cruel joke instead of actual racism and prettied up with stars and badass dialogue and big production values, then I don't know what it is.

The Academy Awards presentation needed this. It needed a "water cooler" moment that people would be talking about the next day. Entertainment happens so fast. It's forgotten even faster. It's not even about the movies anymore. It's about the moments people talk about.

At this point, I can barely remember any of the night's winners, because it wasn't about that. It was about that moment we were supposed to talk about.

I don't know. Maybe part of me wants it to be make believe. When the people who make believe for a living start smacking each other, I think we might be in real trouble.

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