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Can the Will Smith-Chris Rock incident slap life back into the declining profile of Oscars?

Can the Will Smith-Chris Rock incident slap life back into the declining profile of Oscars?

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Will Smith has publicly apologised to Oscars host Chris Rock on his Instagram. Possibly, a moment that will go down in Oscars history, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star and overall Hollywood nice guy Smith took to the stage to slap Rock for making a joke at the expense of his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Pinkett Smith who has been married to Smith for over 20 years, has in recent years struggled with hair loss due to alopecia, and has been incredibly vocal about the condition.

Nonetheless, Smith, on his Instagram page, admitted that violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” said Smith. He added, “I would like to publicly apologise 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 also apologised to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. The Academy also ran a statement saying it “condemns the actions of Mr. Smith” and has “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.”

While the Oscars this year drew 15.4 million total viewers on ABC in the US, according to Nielsen’s fast national ratings - a significant improvement from 2021’s record low - the numbers are still a far cry from its glory days. However, this incident has undoubtedly gone viral captivating headlines and audience behaviour from all over the world.

According to Meltwater data, much of the audience remains neutral about the incident (47%), and a significant chunk (37%) were displeased by Smith's move. Most of the keywords were also around wife, joke, slap, actor.



According to statistics from Carma, while Oscars only generated 873.7k mentions in the whole month of March, the volume skyrocketed after the incident. Over the last 24 hours, social and online media mentions on Smith stood at 6.3 million and Chris Rock stood at 4.1million. Oscars' mentions were only at 4.6 million. In terms of engagement, Smith stood at 31.4m, Rock at 20.2m and Oscars at 19.8m.

While some might have initially thought the moment to be a stunt by the Academy, multiple reports have said that the jab at Pinkett Smith wasn’t scripted in. According to Jose Raymond, director of strategic advisory at PRecious Communication said that even though Smith was standing up for his wife, the online reactions don’t seem to favour him.

“If it was a publicity stunt, then the act has gotten the global attention it craved for, and maybe for all the wrong reasons,” he said. While the incident has surely gotten publicity for the dwindling event, whether it would turn viewers towards the Oscars in future is very much unknown, explained Raymond. He questioned however:

Is a norm now for major award ceremonies to indulge in controversies to somehow drive eyeballs?

“Think Miss Universe 2021 with the animal impression ask of Miss India,” said Raymond. During the event, Steve Harvey asked one competitor Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu to make an animal sound. Many were left unhappy with the fact that while other contestants were asked about their accomplishments, this one competitor was asked to make animal impressions.

Ashvin Anamalai, chief strategist, Be Strategic added that Smith’s brand of being a Hollywood Good Guy, which has served him well as among the most successful actors of his generation. But as the saying goes, “an actor is only as good as their last performance” – and that performance at the Oscars has evidently out shone his award-winning depiction of Richard Williams. He added that the move will change “the way Will Smith is perceived forever, removing the guise he has built and sustained for nearly 40 years”. He added:

For a legendary public figure who preaches that happiness is peace, there is no excuse for his actions, and in wary of large areas of public concern, corporate marketing activities will choose against association with a person engaged with public violence.

As for the Oscars getting global attention, Anamalai said that unfortunately the attention negative one. “From public vandalism, paparazzi assaults, sexual abuse and harassment, and now, a globally televised public assault (over a comedian doing his job), I don’t believe this will generate more interest, but instead turn viewers off,” he said. "In a world where people are demanding peace, equality, and harmony, this was not the showpiece the world expects, nor will accept."

Meanwhile, several brands took the opportunity to jump on the trending slap scene on social media as well. 

Farmhouse Malaysia

Farmhouse Malaysia posted a picture of a cow in shock, along with the caption "Oof, that slap was ice cold". The brand went on to promote the freshness of its milk on its Facebook and Instagram with the caption "Unlike our non-frozen milk, we have to say. At Farmhouse there are no slaps, only pats for our wonderful cows." 

farmhouse oscars

Golden Village

Golden Village posted a picture which included stills of the slap scene, along with its mascot reacting to the scene. The picture, that was posted on its Facebook and Instagram, included the caption, "Omg it's slappening".

gv oscars

Tupperware Brands Malaysia

One trendjack that really stood out was a Facebook post by Tupperware Brands Malaysia. In a relatively relatable scenario among Malaysians, and even Asians, the brand posted a still of the slap with the caption "When you tell your mum you lost her Tupperware" in it. Tupperware Brands went on to add the caption "No Oscars award for crying cause the tears are real" in its post as well.

tupperware oscars


UNITAR tapped on an idea floated by many netizens: Was the slap real? In addition to making a meme from the slap, UNITAR added another iconic slap meme, featuring Batman and Robin, into the picture as well. However, in the Batman and Robinm meme, the text was altered to promote its free Foundation courses for those who study in the university from Foundation to Degree. The post included the caption, "UNITAR has something real.. Free foundation!"

unitar oscars

Did you spot any other trend jacks? Let us know at 

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