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    Will Smith, Before the Slap

    Subscribe to Popcast!Apple Podcasts | Spotify | StitcherWill Smith’s outburst at the Oscars last month derailed the broadcast, his coronation as best actor later that night and the public good-guy image he’d carefully cultivated for several decades.But while much ink has been spilled about the slap and its meaning, far less has been devoted to what the slap truly overshadowed: the breadth and depth of Smith’s acting career. Since the late 1980s, after he transitioned from full-time rapper to sometime television actor, Smith has been building an impressive résumé onscreen, one with creative highs that have often been overshadowed by the sheer scale of his A-list success.On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about Smith’s long journey from rapper to television star to bankable superhero icon, how his creative choices have paralleled his personal journey and some possible options for his next steps.Guest:Soraya Nadia McDonald, senior culture critic for AndscapeConnect With Popcast. Become a part of the Popcast community: Join the show’s Facebook group and Discord channel. We want to hear from you! Tune in, and tell us what you think at popcast@nytimes.com. Follow our host, Jon Caramanica, on Twitter: @joncaramanica. More

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    Why Those Moments of Care for Liza Minnelli and Joni Mitchell Felt Different

    Awards shows are a natural setting for honoring aging legends. It’s reassuring when they don’t try to hide the frailty that aging can bring. The first 53 minutes of music’s biggest night rolled along smoothly. This year’s Grammys had centerpiece performances from Olivia Rodrigo and BTS, plus a big reception for the newly minted Oscar winner Questlove; Trevor Noah, the host, told jokes that offended nobody’s spouse. It was only after Rodrigo accepted the award for Best New Artist that something unexpected happened. Noah introduced the celebrated singers Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell, to a surge of applause. When the camera cut away from him, the two artists were already standing at a nearby lectern, having skipped the ceremonial walk from backstage. Both are in their 70s, and both were honored this year: Raitt earned a lifetime-achievement award, while Mitchell won a Grammy for Best Historical Album (awarded before the main broadcast) and was named Person of the Year by the Grammy-affiliated nonprofit MusiCares. Raitt still tours and is set to release a new album this month, but Mitchell’s appearance was more exceptional. After suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015, she receded from public life during her recovery. Now her every appearance is treated as a seismic event by legions of grateful fans.The Grammy crowd greeted them with a standing ovation. Some camera angles revealed a cane gripped firmly in Mitchell’s right hand. “Overwhelming,” she whispered to Raitt, before the applause died down. Then she stood by as Raitt did much of the talking, reacting to a lavish compliment about her work with exaggerated deflection. Raitt set Mitchell up to introduce the next performer, about whom she was meant to say: “Please welcome an extraordinary artist and beautiful human being — a stunning, brave and truthful voice, my brilliant friend and ambassador, Brandi Carlile.” But when it came to the word “truthful,” Mitchell stopped. Without missing a beat, Raitt leaned over and smoothly filled in the missing word, gently cuing Mitchell to find the rest of the line.One columnist wrote that Gaga’s behavior ‘turned me to a puddle.’The moment recalled another interaction, just a week earlier, at the Academy Awards. That entire evening has been overshadowed by a single event, but even when that gossip was fresh, some attention still lingered on a surprise appearance by Liza Minnelli, who presented the award for Best Picture alongside Lady Gaga. They, too, simply materialized at the side of the stage. Minnelli was using a wheelchair, and as their own standing ovation ebbed, Gaga said: “You see that? The public, they love you.”“Oh, yes, but what am I — I don’t understand,” Minnelli responded brightly, her hands trembling as she shuffled through the cards she was meant to read. “I got it,” Gaga said. She took Minnelli’s hand, lauding her as “a true show business legend” and recognizing the 50th anniversary of “Cabaret,” for which Minnelli won Best Actress. When it was time for Minnelli to speak again, she seemed to falter at the task of introducing nominees. Again, Gaga leaned over: “I got you,” she whispered, her voice audible over the telecast even as the camera cut away. “I know,” Minnelli responded.I wasn’t the only one to feel moved by these small acts of care, aimed at quietly helping an older person through a potentially overwhelming experience. Each moment was widely praised on social media. A columnist for The Colorado Sun wrote that Gaga’s behavior “turned me to a puddle,” while a writer for The Cut called it “profoundly moving.” The sheer vigor of people’s approval might say something about how rare it is to see ordinary gestures of support in contexts like awards shows, which tend to be stiff, scripted and spotlit, always highlighting the confidently glamorous and the glamorously confident. These casual gestures of assistance would be unremarkable if you saw them in daily life. And yet they took on, in these otherwise plasticine habitats, a special dramatic weight.To watch Minnelli is to marvel at the genuine artistry that still might bloom from an impossibly screwed-up entertainment industry.Awards shows are a natural setting for honoring aging legends; this is why lifetime-achievement awards exist. Still, America retains a broad uneasiness with the blunt realities of getting older. Our most sprightly legends — the Jane Fondas, Warren Beattys and, until recently, Betty Whites — are invited onstage and praised for how great they look, but the actual frailty that accompanies aging tends to be hidden. Ailing celebrities often disappear from public life; only after they die do we learn about their health challenges.In this sense, Mitchell’s and Minnelli’s appearances carried slightly different emotional valences. Mitchell’s felt like a public reassurance that she was doing well. While accepting her preshow Grammy, she thanked her physical therapist, who accompanied her to the stage; days earlier, she sang her 1970 hit “Big Yellow Taxi” onstage with Carlile and others at a MusiCares ceremony. The reaction to Minnelli was more explicitly reverential, as if viewers were suddenly realizing that she would not be with us forever. The Oscars worship the amorphous concept of “the movies,” and Minnelli — daughter of Judy Garland, a fixture of culture across seven decades — is bona fide movie royalty. And unlike the (relatively) youthful Grammys, the Oscars ceremony loves to bow at the altar of old Hollywood. In 1996, Kirk Douglas received an honorary award, shortly after a stroke that affected his speech; in 2011, he showed up at age 94 to announce the Best Supporting Actress award. Nobody seemed to mind that he hit on one of the hosts (Anne Hathaway) and the winner (Melissa Leo); they were happy to pay tribute while they could. But seeing Minnelli, physically weakened yet immortally bright-eyed, stirred something in me that I am not used to feeling while watching these idolatrous shows. To say that Minnelli is Hollywood royalty is not mere book-jacket copy; to learn about her life, and to watch her in movies like “Cabaret” or shows like “Liza With a Z,” is to marvel at the genuine artistry that still might bloom from an impossibly screwed-up entertainment industry. We are so used to seeing her move with unbelievable energy that it was difficult to see that energy restrained. But I was grateful to see her on her own terms, rather than reading conspiratorial guesses about her health, and happy that the academy invited her to present. And, like so many others, I was endeared by the reassuring presence of Lady Gaga; much as she has in her work with the 95-year-old Tony Bennett, she seemed intuitively prepared to act as companion to a legend.Perhaps it’s not just the televisual rarity of moments like these that affects people. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a particular phrase being used often on social media: “give them their flowers.” The idea is that we should honor the figures important to us while they’re still around to cherish it — a notion I’ve seen repeated more and more during the pandemic, as hundreds of thousands have died, public figures included. Seeing Mitchell and Minnelli receive their flowers was heartwarming, sure; the magnitude of their work cannot be overstated. But many of us very literally have not been able to see older loved ones in years. The most vulnerable still remain at a distance, unsure if it will ever feel entirely safe to go out in public again. Maybe that’s why so many reacted so strongly to seeing elderly figures offered a little support as they participated in these grand events. What we see here is a communal tenderness we might all better will into existence, so we can welcome one another back into a world where fragility is increasingly hard to ignore.Source photographs: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images; screen grabs from YouTube.Jeremy Gordon is a writer in Brooklyn whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation and other publications. More

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    One Last Takeaway From ‘The Slap’: Leave Black Women’s Hair Alone

    Lost in the Oscars fray is the hurt inflicted when a group is denigrated for a laugh. Chris Rock, who has examined this issue in a documentary, should have known better.While the Slap Heard Round the World has been vigorously debated and dissected since Will Smith confronted Chris Rock at the Oscars, there was more to the incident than its abrupt physicality.Rock’s joke, and Jada Pinkett Smith’s resulting eyeroll, echoed even more thunderously for Black women. Her glare encapsulated the fatigue and frustration that so many of us deal with in the complex daily feat of simply wearing our hair as we like. That Chris Rock would point to a Black woman’s hair for a joke left me breathless, and I wasn’t alone.“When Black women’s hair is mocked by comedians like Rock, he ushers in the everyday forms of microaggressive hatred against Black women that normalized blatant discrimination,” Ralina Joseph, a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, and the director of the Center for Communication, Difference and Equity, said in an email interview.Black women’s hair has been the object of scrutiny, derision and ridicule in American society since it’s been growing out of our heads. Thanks to standards of beauty that for too long excluded us, we are arguably the largest demographic in the country whose hair is continually policed. Court cases document fights against school districts and corporations trying to govern how we can wear our hair. A segment of people who don’t live with it, in all its iterations of textures and lengths, somehow wants to dictate how and when it’s pretty, professional or unkempt.Distaste for Black hair seeps into our everyday lives: Just last month, the House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act, banning discrimination against natural hair in hiring, public housing placement and public access accommodations. Let that sink in: Exclusionary actions stemming from disdain toward our hairstyles are so pervasive, they require legislation.Nowadays, visibility and a touch of glamorization in mainstream media (I’m lookin’ at you, Beyoncé), have fostered a growing fascination with our manes — a double-edged sword. Bosses scrutinize or give it a shout-out, strangers try to paw or photograph it, friends and frenemies praise or judge it — even Tinder prospects weigh in on it.Academic studies have outlined how strongly the identity of many Black women is tied to their hair. Not having the type of hair that’s affirmed and considered “womanly” in the culture at large can dent one’s sense of self. And feeling that what’s considered a key part of womanhood needs altering to be accepted, especially from childhood, makes it hard to see one’s image as positive.The Altercation Between Will Smith and Chris RockThe Incident: The Oscars were derailed when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, who made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.His Speech: Moments after the onstage altercation, Mr. Smith won the Oscar for best actor. Here’s what he said in his acceptance speech.The Aftermath: Mr. Smith, who the academy said refused to leave following the incident, apologized to Mr. Rock the next day after the academy denounced his actions.A Triumph Tempered: Mr. Smith owned Serena and Venus Williams’s story in “King Richard.” Then he stole their moment at the Oscars.What Is Alopecia?: Ms. Smith’s hair loss condition played a major role in the incident.Since it’s hard to separate our image from our hair, poking fun at a Black hair style is an easy way to get a laugh while devaluing Black women. Witness Jamie Foxx lampooning us as Wanda on “In Living Color” and Martin Lawrence as Sheneneh. It’s incomprehensible that a Black comic would reach for it in such a high-profile setting as the Oscars — especially a man so closely associated with a film about Black women’s hair struggles.Not only did Rock produce and narrate the 2009 documentary “Good Hair,” which brought Black hair culture to the big screen, but he created it with his own daughters in mind. In the opening, he recounts how one of his girls asked him, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” Onscreen, he speaks to a range of women, including celebrities like Raven-Symoné, who explain that when they relaxed their hair, the goal was also about making society comfortable with them.Chris Rock in “Good Hair,” a documentary he narrated and produced.Roadside AttractionsWhile the film could have delved further into how Black women have thrived in a beauty culture (including a hair-care industry) that has rarely included them, it illuminated our struggle to audiences that may not have known one existed. It’s hard to understand how he could help bring that gem of a film to life and yet take a swipe at a Black woman’s hair. Did he so quickly forget the lessons of that film, which seemed to recognize how American society “otherizes” us and our tresses?Or, worse still, did the lessons never matter? Rock has a history of dogging not just Black women, but the entire Black community, or as Joseph calls it, “in-group punching down.”“Despite a brief ‘Good Hair’ moment. where he celebrated (and mocked) Black women, his punching down has also been broadly anti-Black woman,” she noted.Through his career, Rock has demonstrated a penchant for belittling and mischaracterizing Black women, from his ex-wife to female romantic partners in general. In a 1997 episode of “The Chris Rock Show,” he skewered Black women’s need to join the Million Woman March to his guest — Jada Pinkett Smith, a march participant.There’s another sensitive aspect to Rock’s dig at Pinkett Smith. In interviews and on her Facebook series “Red Table Talk,” she has chronicled her painful ordeal with alopecia, a condition that disproportionately affects Black women. She initially concealed her hair loss under wigs. That she decided to shave her head and reveal the reason was to be commended, not jabbed at. To be clear: Whether Rock knew of her condition or not, the joke wasn’t hurtful only because Pinkett Smith deals with alopecia (an affliction to which “Good Hair” even devotes special attention). The insult added an extra layer of hurt, especially because Black women can be harsh on ourselves about hair, amid social pressures and Eurocentric beauty standards that we’ve internalized, often to an extreme degree.Generations of Black American women recall weekend afternoons spent watching an iron comb glow like molten lava on the stove burner. We waited for our mothers to wield the hot comb like a weapon, ready to press our thicket of coils into submission to make us more culturally palatable. Even at a young age, I wondered who I was supposed to be impressing.When I was deemed old enough, I “leveled up” to chemical straighteners that would frequently blister my scalp — all for a flouncy bob I detested. “Beauty is pain,” my hairdresser would chirp as she kneaded the chemical cream into my roots and I winced. In my mid-20s, I decided beauty wasn’t worth that pain, so I chopped off most of my hair and have since maintained a very short, natural style.“When Black women’s hair features as the butt of jokes, the very real and myriad forms of multiple marginalization against Black women is erased and even justified,” Joseph noted. “It hurts.”Even though the jokes at the expense of us and our hair predate Rock, we don’t need him to lead the way in turning up the savagery of the practice, let alone on Hollywood’s biggest evening.Like the director Jane Campion’s misstep a couple weeks ago at another awards show (which, sadly, also involved the Williams sisters, one of the focuses of the Will Smith film “King Richard”), this takedown of a Black woman stings even more for having been unleashed by someone who should know better — in Rock’s case, as a Black father of daughters; in Campion’s, as a woman who’s also probably dealt with sexist professional slights. But the result each time was the same: Black women were expected to smile and take the stab.In one sense, the entire Oscars to-do, and its flurry of embarrassment and apologies, could have been avoided by choosing not to drag a Black woman down by her hair. Yet for too many and for too long, it has felt irresistible not to mess with it, mess with us.So to anyone who ever feels the urge to mock, I’ll reframe Will Smith’s warning at the show: Keep the mention of Black women’s hair out of your mouth. More

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    Will Smith’s Slap Could Hurt His Family’s Brand

    Will Smith has spent decades radiating boundless likability. His family has become known for sharing therapy sessions online. His smack at the Oscars has complicated all of that.From his start as a goofy, G-rated rapper and sitcom star through his carefully managed rise as a blockbuster action hero, Will Smith has spent decades radiating boundless likability. But his amiable image was something of a facade, he wrote in his memoir, noting that a therapist had nicknamed his nice guy persona “Uncle Fluffy.”Mr. Smith said he had concocted this people-pleasing demeanor as a means of deflection during his turbulent childhood. “As an adult, he became my armor and my shield,” he wrote. “Uncle Fluffy paid the bills.”Mr. Smith wrote that he had another, less public, side: “the General,” a punisher who emerged when joviality didn’t get the job done. “When the General shows up, people are shocked and confused,” he wrote in “Will,” his 2021 memoir. “It was sweetness, sweetness, sweetness and then sour, sour, sourness.”Both sides of Mr. Smith, 53, were on display on one of the world’s biggest stages last week when he suddenly slapped the comedian Chris Rock during the telecast of the Academy Awards ceremony, complaining that Mr. Rock had insulted his wife of 25 years, Jada Pinkett Smith, with a joke. Soon afterward, Mr. Smith won the Oscar for best actor, and wept through his polarizing acceptance speech. Then he was off to the Vanity Fair party, dancing to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” his chart-topping hit from the last century, as though nothing had happened.Now Mr. Smith has resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that just honored him with an Oscar, and which has condemned his actions and opened disciplinary proceedings against him. And he is confronting the very real possibility that a night which should have been the crowning moment of his professional career could wind up damaging a family brand rooted in his seemingly-authentic congeniality.For several years, a growing branch of Smith family enterprises has adeptly delivered reality-style revelation and emotional intimacy across an expanding number of platforms. Beyond Mr. Smith’s acting career and his introspective, best-selling memoir, there is the popular “Red Table Talk” show on Facebook Watch, in which Ms. Pinkett Smith, their daughter, Willow, and Jada’s mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, hold forth on everything from racial identity to workout routines to the Smiths’ unconventional marriage.Mr. Smith’s upcoming projects include “Emancipation,” a $100 million, high-prestige drama for Apple; an action thriller at Netflix; a remake of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” where he would star opposite Kevin Hart for Paramount; and the second installment of a travel series for National Geographic on Disney+. They are all under the banner of Westbrook Studios, the film and television arm of the media company that the Smith family started in 2019. It was valued at $600 million earlier this year when an investment firm bought a 10 percent stake.Could The Slap derail all that?It was not clear whether the incident would affect any of his current projects, like “Welcome to Earth” for National Geographic on Disney+.Disney+, via Associated PressNow that Mr. Smith may not be welcome at the Oscars and his public reputation has been tarnished, studios may be wary of hiring him at the moment for lead roles in their biggest films. The companies behind Mr. Smith’s upcoming projects declined to comment on whether they were altering their plans in light of recent events. But three talent agents, who were granted anonymity to describe private negotiations, said there had been indications that at least some of his upcoming projects could be hanging in the balance.Several public relations specialists who focus on crisis management warned that the incident could erode the good will that the Smiths have built up, while others suggested the fallout could be contained. “His brand is currently damaged goods worldwide,” said Mike Paul, a public relations expert. The Altercation Between Will Smith and Chris RockThe Incident: The Oscars were derailed when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, who made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.His Speech: Moments after the onstage altercation, Mr. Smith won the Oscar for best actor. Here’s what he said in his acceptance speech.The Aftermath: Mr. Smith, who the academy said refused to leave following the incident, apologized to Mr. Rock the next day after the academy denounced his actions.A Triumph Tempered: Mr. Smith owned Serena and Venus Williams’s story in “King Richard.” Then he stole their moment at the Oscars.What Is Alopecia?: Ms. Smith’s hair loss condition played a major role in the incident.The veteran television producer Jonathan Murray, who has dealt with on- and offscreen drama and family brands in programming like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” said that the outcome for the Smiths depends on what steps they, and particularly Mr. Smith, take now.“I think most people would give him the benefit of the doubt,” said Mr. Murray, a co-founder of the production company Bunim Murray, which pioneered reality TV. “But it really will rest on whether we believe that he is authentically dealing with this.”Several friends and colleagues of Mr. Smith described the Oscars altercation as a puzzling aberration for a man who has spent his career almost fanatically hewing to professional standards.“What happened was inconsistent with any behavior I’ve seen working with Will Smith,” said Elizabeth Cantillon, a producer of “Concussion,” the 2015 film in which he played a doctor battling the N.F.L. “He was always exquisite. I think he’s part of the collective breakdown we are all having.”The incident came as Mr. Smith has appeared to be in a period of transition: seeking out loftier and more personal roles; expanding his media empire beyond film and television; openly discussing the abuse he witnessed his father inflict on his mother; and working on what he has described as self-understanding, through therapy, meditation and even hallucinogens.“Strategizing about being the biggest movie star in the world — that is all completely over,” Mr. Smith said in an interview with The New York Times Magazine in December. He added: “I want to take roles where I get to look at myself, where I get to look at my family, I get to look at ideas that are important to me. Everything in my life is more centered on spiritual growth and elevation.”Mr. Smith starred on the NBC sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in the 1990s.Alice S. Hall/NBC, via Getty ImagesMr. Smith, a Philadelphia native, started performing as a teenager in the ’80s, in the rap duo D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and quickly earned a Grammy — the first ever for best rap performance — for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” A chance encounter with the producer Quincy Jones led to him starring in the hit NBC sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which ran from 1990 to 1996, featuring a hip-hop theme many children of that era can still recite. It was perhaps the last bit of his career that happened by accident. (Mr. Smith’s company recently developed “Bel-Air,” a dramatic reboot which just finished its first of two seasons on Peacock as the nascent streamer’s most-watched original series.)Mr. Smith then set out to make himself the biggest movie star in the world, and by many measures succeeded. With a business partner, James Lassiter, Mr. Smith plotted out, with actuarial zeal, the commonalities among hit movies: special effects, aliens, a love story. He became the face of summer blockbusters, with films including “Men in Black” and “Independence Day.” In his memoir, written with Mark Manson, he provides a handy, if boastful, chart of his prowess: from 2002 to 2008, he had eight consecutive films gross more than $100 million domestically.For the fans, he was always accommodating. But the mantle was heavy.“I am a Black man in Hollywood — in order to sustain my position, I can’t get caught slipping, not even once,” Mr. Smith wrote in his book. “I had to be perfect at all times.”Mr. Smith became the face of summer blockbusters with a string of hit films, including “Men in Black” with Tommy Lee Jones.Columbia Pictures/Getty ImagesPart of the image that Mr. Smith sought to project had to do with his seemingly-enviable family life: his creatively inclined children — Willow, 21, his son Jaden, 23, and Trey, 29, a son from his first marriage — and his union with Ms. Pinkett Smith, 50, an actress and musician. That portrait of stability cracked in recent years, especially when Ms. Pinkett Smith acknowledged, in a 2020 episode of “Red Table Talk,” that the couple had gone through a separation, during which she had been involved in what she called an “entanglement” with an R&B singer, August Alsina.Leveraging “Red Table Talk” as a sort of public therapy session, the Smiths have laid bare the details of some of their fiercest disputes, sometimes in the presence of Willow and Ms. Banfield Norris, Mr. Smith’s mother-in-law, who is known to viewers as Gammy. In one episode in 2018 the Smiths sought to dispel rumors, noting that they are neither swingers nor Scientologists, after reports over the years that they had donated money to causes affiliated with Scientology.“We have devoted ourselves to each other in a spiritual sense — spiritual, emotional — it’s like whatever she needs, she can count on me for the rest of her life,” Mr. Smith said in the episode. “We don’t have any deal breakers.”On “Red Table Talk,” their Facebook Watch show, topics include everything from racial identity to the Smiths’ unconventional marriage. Facebook WatchThe revelations about their marriage were met with public derision, including on the awards circuit. In mid-March, at the BAFTAs, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars, the host, the comedian Rebel Wilson, joked about it when she mentioned Mr. Smith’s win for “King Richard.”“Personally,” she said, “I thought his best performance in the past year has been being OK with all of his wife’s boyfriends.” Mr. Smith was not present at that ceremony.At this year’s Academy Awards, even before Mr. Rock took the stage, Regina Hall alluded to the Smiths’ relationship in a comic bit in which she suggestively asked to personally inspect some of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors, joking that their Covid test results had been lost. “Will Smith,” she said. “You’re married, but you know what, you’re on the list and looks like Jada approved you. So you get on up here.” He laughed and stayed seated.What did bring Mr. Smith to his feet, striding purposefully across the room to strike Mr. Rock, was an ad-libbed line about Ms. Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. It stung, Mr. Smith explained later, because Ms. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which leads to hair loss. “A joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear, and I reacted emotionally,” Mr. Smith explained in the apology to Mr. Rock and others he posted on Instagram Monday evening. For his part, Mr. Rock said at his comedy show on Wednesday that he was still processing the event. (A representative for Mr. Smith declined to comment. Representatives for Ms. Pinkett Smith and Mr. Rock did not respond to requests for comment.)For many viewers and fans, especially Black fans, the incident involving three of the highest-profile Black artists in Hollywood was fraught and did not lend itself to easy judgment. “It’s a really complicated moment, because of all the ways that it resonates with gender and race and power and brand,” said Miriam Petty, a film historian and professor at Northwestern University who studies Black stardom.Some commentators criticized Mr. Rock for what they deemed a low-blow joke. Others, like the actress Tiffany Haddish, who co-starred with Ms. Pinkett Smith in the comedy “Girls Trip,” applauded Mr. Smith for seeming to defend his wife’s honor, which Dr. Petty characterized as understandable in a world in which Black women and other women of color are not afforded the same social protections as their white counterparts. But was that stance anti-feminist? Did it glorify violence? “Again — messy, messy, messy,” Dr. Petty said.Since turning 50, Mr. Smith has relaxed, to some degree, his public image. A recent YouTube series, “Best Shape of My Life,” that ostensibly targeted his non-superhero dad bod was really about unbuckling his own strictures of behavior. He has traveled without security for the first time in years; at last learned to swim; and tried to come to terms, after the death of his father in 2016, with the toll that relationship took.In the statement announcing his resignation from the academy, Mr. Smith said, “Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”Now, as Mr. Smith seeks to rebound from this episode, he seems all but certain to do it with his family around him. In the aftermath of the Oscars, Ms. Pinkett Smith posted a message on Instagram: “This is a season for healing,” it read, using a watchword well-known to the 11 million Facebook followers of “Red Table Talk.” “And I’m here for it.”Julia Jacobs contributed reporting. Susan Beachy contributed research. More

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    Will Smith Resigns From Academy After Slapping Chris Rock at Oscars

    The producer of the telecast said that Smith had been asked to leave after slapping Rock, and that he had urged officials not to “physically remove” him. LOS ANGELES — Will Smith, who slapped the comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars, said Friday that he was resigning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, saying that he had “betrayed” its trust with conduct that was “shocking, painful, and inexcusable.”The sudden announcement came late Friday afternoon, days after the Academy had condemned Mr. Smith’s actions and opened an inquiry into the incident. “I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work,” he said in the statement. “I am heartbroken.”He said that he would “accept any further consequences the board deems appropriate.”“Change takes time,” he concluded, “and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”The academy said that it accepted his resignation. “We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” David Rubin, its president, said in a statement. “We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”Now that he has resigned, Mr. Smith will no longer have access to academy screenings and events. He will also not be able to vote in the Academy Awards. However, he could still be nominated for an award, since being a member is not a requirement for eligibility. Mr. Smith’s resignation came roughly 12 hours after Will Packer, the lead producer of the Oscars telecast, spoke publicly about the episode for the first time. In an interview with Good Morning America” on ABC, the network which also broadcasts the Oscars, Mr. Packer said that after Mr. Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony, he urged the Academy leadership not to “physically remove” him from the theater in the middle of the live broadcast.Mr. Packer said he had learned from his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were discussions of plans to “physically remove” Mr. Smith from the venue. So he said he immediately approached academy officials and told them that he believed Mr. Rock did not want to “make a bad situation worse.”The Altercation Between Will Smith and Chris RockThe Incident: The Oscars were derailed when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, who made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.His Speech: Moments after the onstage altercation, Mr. Smith won the Oscar for best actor. Here’s what he said in his acceptance speech.The Aftermath: Mr. Smith, who the academy said refused to leave following the incident, apologized to Mr. Rock the next day after the academy denounced his actions.A Triumph Tempered: Mr. Smith owned Serena and Venus Williams’s story in “King Richard.” Then he stole their moment at the Oscars.What Is Alopecia?: Ms. Smith’s hair loss condition played a major role in the incident.“I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time,” Mr. Packer said. “Because as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation that I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”In the interview, Mr. Packer also said that Mr. Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair was unscripted “free-styling.”“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes,” he said of Mr. Rock.Someone close to Mr. Rock who asked to speak anonymously because the Academy’s inquiry into the incident is ongoing said that Mr. Rock was never asked directly if he wanted Mr. Smith removed. Had he been asked, it was not clear how Mr. Rock would have responded, the person said. Mr. Rock was only asked if he wanted to press charges, and he said that he did not, the person said.Mr. Packer said that, like many viewers at home, he had originally thought the slap might be part of an unplanned comedic bit, and that he was not entirely sure until he spoke with Mr. Rock backstage that Mr. Smith had actually hit the comedian.“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Mr. Packer recalled Mr. Rock telling him.Mr. Packer said that Mr. Smith reached out and apologized to him the morning after the Oscars. And he praised Mr. Rock for having kept his cool. “Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs,” he said.“I’ve never felt so immediately devastated,” Mr. Packer said of the incident.Asked if, after hearing Mr. Smith’s acceptance speech, he wished that the actor had left the ceremony, Mr. Packer said that he did, noting that Mr. Smith had not used his remarks to express real contrition and apologize to Mr. Rock.“If he wasn’t going to give that speech which made it truly better, then yes, yes,” Mr. Packer said when asked if he wished Mr. Smith had left the ceremony. “Because now you don’t have the optics of somebody who committed this act, didn’t nail it in terms of a conciliatory acceptance speech in that moment, who then continued to be in the room.”Mr. Smith did not apologize to Mr. Rock until Monday evening, after the Academy had condemned his actions and initiated disciplinary proceedings against him. Mr. Packer’s comments came after days of questions about why Mr. Smith had seemed to face no repercussions for striking a presenter on live television.The academy said in a statement earlier this week that Mr. Smith had been asked to leave the awards ceremony following the slap, but had remained. Then several publications questioned that account, citing anonymous sources, and reported that Mr. Packer had suggested he stay. Shortly after the ceremony ended Sunday, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that the person who had been slapped had “declined to file a police report.”In the interview, Mr. Packer described his recollection of law enforcement’s involvement.“They were saying, this is battery, we will go get him,” Mr. Packer said in the interview. “We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him.”“Chris was being very dismissive of those options,” Mr. Packer continued. “He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’”Both on Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, the Los Angeles police have maintained that Mr. Smith’s slap qualified as misdemeanor battery under California law — and that as a misdemeanor, officers cannot take action unless the victim in the case files charges, which Mr. Rock did not do.In an interview on Thursday, Deputy Chief Blake Chow, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Bureau, described the department’s role in less dramatic terms. At the Oscars, police officers are primarily responsible for patrolling outside the Dolby Theater and the Academy hires a security company to handle issues inside the building, he said.On Sunday, one police captain was stationed backstage as a liaison, the deputy chief said. The police captain inside did not observe the slap himself; but he quickly became aware of it, the deputy chief added. The police captain made contact with a representative for Mr. Rock shortly after the comedian had finished presenting an award and had returned backstage with his team, Deputy Chief Chow said.The representative communicated “Chris Rock’s wishes” that he did not want to press charges or file a police report, the deputy chief said. “He didn’t want to do anything.”The police department was not asked to escort Mr. Smith out of the venue, and even if the police had been asked to do that, such a request would not have fallen within the department’s purview, the deputy chief said.Detectives followed up on Monday with Mr. Rock’s representatives to ensure that he still did not want to take action. He reaffirmed that he did not, the deputy chief said.Mr. Rock made his first public comments about the incident on Wednesday at a comedy show in Boston. “I’m still kind of processing what happened,” Mr. Rock said, while promising to discuss the episode in greater depth later. “It’ll be serious, it’ll be funny, but I’d love to — I’m going to tell some jokes.”After nominating only white actors and actresses for its awards in 2015, drawing widespread criticism, the academy did it again the next year — overlooking performances like the one Mr. Smith gave in “Concussion.” At the time, Ms. Pinkett Smith was outspoken about what many people saw as an urgent need for the academy to become more inclusive. Smith was less pointed in his criticism, but joined her in a boycott of the ceremony, drawing attention to the #OscarsSoWhite movement.Nicole Sperling More

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    Oscars Producer Did Not Want Will Smith Physically Removed After Slap

    Will Packer, the producer of the telecast, said that Smith had been asked to leave after slapping Chris Rock, and then there were discussions of having him physically removed.Will Packer, the lead producer of the Oscars telecast that was thrown into upheaval after the actor Will Smith went onstage and slapped the comedian Chris Rock, said Friday that after Mr. Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony, he urged the Academy leadership not to “physically remove” him from the theater in the middle of the live broadcast.Mr. Packer said he had learned from his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were discussions of plans to “physically remove” Mr. Smith from the venue. So he said he immediately approached academy officials and told them that he believed Mr. Rock did not want to “make a bad situation worse.”“I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time,” Mr. Packer said. “Because as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation that I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”EXCLUSIVE: #Oscars producer Will Packer tells Good Morning America about the frenetic aftermath of actor Will Smith slapping host Chris Rock live on stage on Hollywood’s biggest night. https://t.co/AeoYcGkM32 pic.twitter.com/8z35t8TPFw— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 1, 2022
    Mr. Packer gave his first interview since Sunday’s broadcast to “Good Morning America” on ABC, the network which also broadcasts the Oscars. In the interview, Mr. Packer said that Mr. Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair was unscripted “free-styling”“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes,” he said of Mr. Rock.Mr. Packer said that, like many viewers at home, he had originally thought the slap might be part of an unplanned comedic bit, and that he was not entirely sure until he spoke with Mr. Rock back stage that Mr. Smith had actually hit the comedian.“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Mr. Packer recalled Mr. Rock telling him.Mr. Packer said that Mr. Smith reached out and apologized to him the morning after the Oscars. And he praised Mr. Rock for having kept his cool. “Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs,” he said.The Altercation Between Will Smith and Chris RockThe Incident: The Oscars were derailed when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, who made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.His Speech: Moments after the onstage altercation, Mr. Smith won the Oscar for best actor. Here’s what he said in his acceptance speech.The Aftermath: Mr. Smith, who the academy said refused to leave following the incident, apologized to Mr. Rock the next day after the academy denounced his actions.A Triumph Tempered: Mr. Smith owned Serena and Venus Williams’s story in “King Richard.” Then he stole their moment at the Oscars.What Is Alopecia?: Ms. Smith’s hair loss condition played a major role in the incident.“I’ve never felt so immediately devastated,” Mr. Packer said of the incident.Asked if, after hearing Mr. Smith’s acceptance speech, he wished that the actor had left the ceremony, Mr. Packer said that he did, noting that Mr. Smith had not used his remarks to express real contrition and apologize to Mr. Rock.“If he wasn’t going to give that speech which made it truly better, then yes, yes,” Mr. Packer said when asked if he wished Mr. Smith had left the ceremony. “Because now you don’t have the optics of somebody who committed this act, didn’t nail it in terms of a conciliatory acceptance speech in that moment, who then continued to be in the room.”Shortly after the ceremony ended Sunday, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that the person who had been slapped had “declined to file a police report.”In the interview, Mr. Packer described his recollection of law enforcement’s involvement.“They were saying, you know, this is battery, was the word they use in that moment,” Mr. Packer said in the interview. “They said we will go get him; we are prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him. They were laying out the options, and as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’”Both on Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, the Los Angeles police have maintained that Mr. Smith’s slap qualified as misdemeanor battery under California law — and that as a misdemeanor, officers cannot take action unless the victim in the case files charges, which Mr. Rock did not do.In an interview on Thursday, Deputy Chief Blake Chow, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Bureau, described the department’s role in less dramatic terms. At the Oscars, police officers are primarily responsible for patrolling outside the Dolby Theater and the Academy hires a security company to handle issues inside the building, he said.On Sunday, one police captain was stationed backstage as a liaison, the deputy chief said. The police captain inside did not observe the slap himself; but he quickly became aware of it, the deputy chief added. The police captain made contact with a representative for Mr. Rock shortly after the comedian had finished presenting an award and had returned backstage with his team, Deputy Chief Chow said.The representative communicated “Chris Rock’s wishes” that he did not want to press charges or file a police report, the deputy chief said. “He didn’t want to do anything.”The police department was not asked to escort Mr. Smith out of the venue, and even if the police had been asked to do that, such a request would not have fallen within the department’s purview, the deputy chief said.Detectives followed up on Monday with Mr. Rock’s representatives to ensure that he still did not want to take action. He reaffirmed that he did not, the deputy chief said.Mr. Rock made his first public comments about the incident on Wednesday at a comedy show in Boston. “I’m still kind of processing what happened,” Mr. Rock said, while promising to discuss the episode in greater depth later. “It’ll be serious, it’ll be funny, but I’d love to — I’m going to tell some jokes.”The academy said Wednesday that it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith “for violations of the academy’s standards of conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the academy.” It said that Mr. Smith would be given a chance to respond and that at its next board meeting, on April 18, it “may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion or other sanctions.” More

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    Will Smith Refused to Leave Oscars After Slap, Academy Says

    The academy revealed that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony after slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, and said that it was initiating disciplinary proceedings.LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday that the actor Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars ceremony after he slapped Chris Rock Sunday night onstage, but that the actor had refused to go.The admission came as part of a statement the academy released saying it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith “for violations of the academy’s standards of conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the academy.”The disciplinary process will take a few weeks to conclude, it said. Mr. Smith is being given at least 15 days’ notice of a vote regarding his violations and potential sanctions. He will be given the opportunity to be heard beforehand with a written response. The organization’s board of governors are scheduled to meet again April 18.The Altercation Between Will Smith and Chris RockThe Incident: The Oscars were derailed when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, who made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.His Speech: Moments after the onstage altercation, Mr. Smith won the Oscar for best actor. Here’s what he said in his acceptance speech.The Aftermath: Mr. Smith, who the academy said refused to leave following the incident, apologized to Mr. Rock the next day after the academy denounced his actions.A Triumph Tempered: Mr. Smith owned Serena and Venus Williams’s story in “King Richard.” Then he stole their moment at the Oscars.What Is Alopecia?: Ms. Smith’s hair loss condition played a major role in the incident.“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television,” the academy said in a statement. “Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”The statement continued, “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”The two-and-a-half-hour meeting of the board of governors on Wednesday was described by two people who attended as “emotional,” as the governors conveyed the feelings of their constituents from their branches of the film industry. The feeling in the room, according to those who attended, was that it was their obligation “to not normalize violence,” said two governors who were granted anonymity to discuss a private meeting.On Sunday at the Academy Awards, Mr. Smith reacted to a joke Mr. Rock had made about his wife’s buzzed hair by leaving his seat in the audience and slapping the comedian across the face, then warning him — with expletives — not to speak about his wife, the actress Jada Pinkett Smith. (Ms. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which causes hair loss and has led her to regularly buzz her hair.)Shortly afterward Mr. Smith won an Oscar for his lead performance in “King Richard,” a biopic in which he played the patriarch of the Williams tennis family. He used his speech to apologize to the academy and fellow nominees — but not to Mr. Rock. The next day, after the academy condemned his actions and opened an inquiry, Mr. Smith apologized to Mr. Rock in a public statement that said he had been “out of line.”The stunning onstage moment immediately set off a national debate over who was to blame and, in Hollywood, questions about why Mr. Smith faced no repercussions after striking a presenter on live television.Wanda Sykes, one of the hosts of Sunday’s telecast, said in a clip from an interview with Ellen DeGeneres that was shared Wednesday that the moment was “sickening” to her and that she thought Smith should have been escorted from the building instead of being allowed to stay and accept his Oscar.“I’m still a little traumatized by it,” Ms. Sykes said in the clip from an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that is scheduled to air next week. “For them to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award — I was like, how gross is this? This is just the wrong message.”Nicole Sperling More

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    Oscars Audience Jumped After Will Smith’s Slap of Chris Rock

    The Oscars audience swelled by more than half a million people on Sunday shortly after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, capping the awards show with a late-night surge.At 10:27 p.m., Mr. Smith attacked Mr. Rock after the comedian delivered a joke onstage about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Nearly 17.4 million viewers were watching in the minutes after the slap, up from 16.8 million shortly before it, according to Nielsen data released by ABC.Mr. Rock, who was presenting an award, had taken a jab at the close-cropped hair of Ms. Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss. Mr. Smith walked onto the stage, struck Mr. Rock, and then returned to his seat and loudly demanded, using expletives, that the comedian refrain from talking about Ms. Pinkett Smith. Mr. Smith’s words, as well as Mr. Rock’s responses, were silenced during the broadcast, leaving many viewers struggling to understand what had happened and speculating whether the incident was scripted. (It was not.)Until that point, viewership had been tailing off. The largest audience measured by Nielsen came earlier in the night, when nearly 17.7 million people watched Troy Kotsur, the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar, deliver a heartfelt acceptance speech for his supporting role in “CODA.”Viewership dropped off quickly after the attack, but then surged again during the period when Mr. Smith, who was the heavily favored front-runner in the best actor race, returned to the stage to claim the award for his role in “King Richard.” About 17.4 million people watched his speech, according to the Nielsen data.On Monday, Mr. Smith apologized for his actions. Earlier that day, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it was conducting a formal review of the incident.Overall, the Oscars drew 16.6 million viewers, around 4.9 million of them 18 to 49 years old, according to Nielsen. The audience was 58 percent larger than the all-time low of 10.4 million people who watched last year, but was still by far the second smallest viewership on record. ABC said that the Oscars drove 22.7 million interactions on social media, a 139 percent increase over last year’s broadcast. More