In a way, you’ve got to hand it to Will Smith.
On Sunday night, the 53-year-old accomplished a feat that’s been eluding producers and network execs for the past decade:
He got people talking about the Oscars again.
Granted, he did so by publicly humiliating himself and revealing his deepest insecurities to all the world, but still!
In case you somehow haven’t heard, Smith slapped Chris Rock in the face in response to one of the comic’s jokes.
The moment was shocking for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Rock’s gag was actually pretty tame.
"Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it," Rock said to the Smiths in reference to Jada’s shaved head, which is a response to the actress’ alopecia areata, a condition that causes partial hair loss.
(For our younger readers, G.I. Jane was a 1997 film in which a character played by Demi Moore joined the Navy SEALS. Moore shaved her head for the role.)
Smith leapt on to the stage, smacked Rock in the face, and then returned to his seat (in the front row, of course), where he continued to seethe.
"Keep my wife’s name out of your f—–g mouth," Smith screamed.
On Twitter, viewers complained that Smith was not kicked out of the ceremony, despite the obvious safety risk that he posed.
The complaints grew louder moments later when Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor and delivered a self-aggrandizing speech in which he tearfully excused his actions without apologizing to his victim.
Rock declined to press charges against Smith, but that doesn’t mean the actor will get off entirely scot-free.
Smith violated the Academy’s standards of conduct — perhaps more egregiously than any member in the institution’s history — and the heads of the organization announced today that there will be a formal review of the incident.
"The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show," reads a statement issued by the Academy.
"We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law."
The organization also shared a summary of their standards of conduct which are intended to "provide an ethical framework for Academy members."
"Members should act in a manner consistent with the good reputation of the Academy," the Academy stated.
Perhaps in anticipation of disciplinary action against Smith, the statement included the following phrase:
"The Academy may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy’s Bylaws, up to and including suspension of membership or expulsion from membership."
According to a new report from People magazine, Smith’s actions resulted in chaos backstage at the Oscars.
"Behind the scenes there were a lot of people, and different voices and bifurcated opinions, weighing in on what had just happened and what was the best and quickest course of action," a source told the outlet.
"People were also checking that Chris Rock was okay."
According to the insider, the decision to allow Smith to stay for the rest of the ceremony was not a unanimous one.
"Basically there were just minutes to first figure out if it was a stunt and then try and get people on the same page — including the producers, ABC, the Academy, reps who were not all in the same place or all looking at their phones in real time, and even to see if Chris wanted to press charges," said the source.
"Having Will removed was definitely discussed seriously," the insider continued.
"You can’t plan for something like this and make a split-second decision that needs everyone’s buy-in, and in any iteration that would have consequences,"
Not removing Smith from the premises certainly set a dangerous precedent, as other celebrities who are upset by whatever’s happening on stage might now feel inclined to express their criticism in a similarly dangerous fashion.
But it’s not too late for the Academy to send a message by taking some sort of disciplinary action against Smith,.
It seems unlikely that they’ll take wipe his Best Actor win from the record, but for safety’s sake, Will should probably be banned from future Academy events.
We doubt he would storm the stage a second time, but if he suffers no consequences at all, then what’s to stop others from lashing out with violence?