No, Will Smith isn't going to lose his Oscar

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

I should clarify: He’s not going to lose his Oscar unless the Academy wants to make this episode much, much more painful for itself.

The child rapist Roman Polanski gets to keep his award but Will Smith giving Chris Rock five across the eyes is inexcusable? What?

Imagine the Oscar committee trying to explain why we must separate the art from the man in the case of the white sex offender while yanking an award out of the hands of a black actor who briefly lost his temper after his wife was insulted.

It’s farcical. But in this era, it’s natural following a high-profile incident of misbehavior for the media to wonder what sort of private sanctions might be visited on the offender. It happens all the time to nobodies whose misconduct goes viral on social media. Why wouldn’t it happen to an A-list star who slapped a presenter during the Academy Awards?

[T]he [Academy’s] code of standards, which was updated in December 2017 in the wake of the Me Too movement, asks its members to behave ethically and uphold the academy’s “values of respect for human dignity, inclusion and a supportive environment that fosters creativity.”

The code states the academy is “categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination,” and stipulates that it is no place for “people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates standards of decency.”

The code states the academy’s board can suspend or expel those who violate the code of conduct or who “compromise the integrity” of the academy.

“It’s basically assault. Everyone was just so shocked in the room, it was so uncomfortable,” said one “highly placed Hollywood source” to the New York Post. “I think Will would not want to give his Oscar back, but who knows what will happen now.”

Uh, I know what will happen. He will not be asked to return his Oscar. Maybe he’ll be suspended from voting as a member of the Academy for a year or two as a wrist slap:

Take it from Whoopi Goldberg, a member of the Academy herself: He gets to keep his statue.

Even so, Academy members are reportedly going through the motions of pretending there might be a meaningful punishment:

“Academy leadership strongly considered removing Will Smith from last night’s broadcast following the incident. There were immediate discussions but the Academy decision makers were seated in various spots in the Dolby Theater and couldn’t mobilize to make a decision before he won best actor,” the source said…

At least a dozen members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, met virtually on Monday morning to discuss a response to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during Sunday’s ceremony, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.

The meeting was described as “heated” and “divided.” There was no agreement on further action, according to the sources.

Remember that Smith received his Best Actor Oscar last night *after* he had slapped Rock and used his acceptance speech to apologize to the Academy. How would they justify taking away his trophy over an infraction he had already committed by the time they awarded it to him?

Besides, that was the liveliest thing to have happened on the show in ages. If people had known it was coming, it would have done much better than the second-worst ratings in Oscar history.

Next year we may see an actual brawl onstage to try to rekindle viewer interest.

There are two ways to look at last night’s fiasco and neither is wrong. One, via Rich Lowry, is as an ugly example of what celebrity privilege looks like. “Will Smith is either half out of his mind or thinks, as the very definition of an A-lister, he can assault people and get away with it, and even weave committing an act of battery on live TV into his self-valorizing Oscars acceptance speech with no one objecting,” he wrote. “And he was right. If you needed any more evidence how twisted and corrupt our celebrity culture is, last night provided it.” Some comedians are fretting today that the dimmer bulbs watching will have absorbed Smith’s behavior as something to emulate, to the detriment of stand-up comics everywhere. Real men don’t tolerate “jokes.”

The other way to look at the slap is … it was darned funny. And the idiotic hot takes that followed it from thirsty commentators desperate to find a political angle in everything are even funnier. Ben Dreyfuss:

Immediately, people decided that it was a very very serious deal. People called the LAPD to report it! You have to imagine how these phone calls went. “9-1-1? Are you watching the Oscars? I think you better turn ‘em on.”

Some people said it was a sign of toxic masculinity. Other people said it showed the Hollywood’s woke agenda is a sham. Some people said it explained Trump? Other people blamed Black Lives Matter. Some people said drama as an art was a mistake. Other people said it meant Chris Rock isn’t good at jiujitsu? Some wondered if it would be ok for Will Smith to assault a female comedian.

Others said Will Smith was acting like Putin? Some said that it meant that random lunatics were now empowered to assault every comedian they see! None of these things are what happened of course. Because what happened is a total non-thing.

All of that is sadly true and Dreyfuss has the links to prove it. Even the less outre political takes were predictable enough to be systematized into this familiar matrix:

Violence is bad. But celebrity-on-celebrity violence in which no one gets hurt is less bad.

Here’s “The View” hashing it out with some takes of their own this morning.