Will Smith won Best Actor at the 94th Academy Awards, but he marred the greatest night of his career when he slapped Chris Rock across the face over a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. Discourse over the incident has been frenzied, and many Oscar viewers wonder, could this incident ruin Will Smith’s career for good?
To support the idea that Smith’s career can be saved, Smith formally apologized to Chris Rock via a March 28 Instagram post. Film publicist Bumble Ward says that to overcome scandals, celebrities must apologize and then act in a way that shows they won’t repeat their actions, and Ward thinks Smith is doing decently so far.
Conversely, a Blue Rose research poll found that 52.3% of people — mostly young Americans — think Chris Rock was wrong to tell a joke at Jada’s expense, and they don’t blame Will for the slap. Most American moviegoers are aged 18-24, so film companies may not feel bad about hiring Smith from now on, as his biggest supporters are also theirs.
Also, the internet’s attitude towards Slapgate is far from dead serious, with memes and jokes galore across all platforms. It seems that feelings towards Smith are already transforming from career-damaging anger into mockery and amusement, and Chris Rock himself has joked about the incident, which could lead to burying the hatchet with Will.
Lastly, Smith wouldn’t be the first star to receive widespread backlash — then a career recovery — in relation to the Oscars: anti-Semite Mel Gibson and sex offender Roman Polanski both recieved Oscar acclaim, even after their behaviors were unveiled. Compared to those scandals, one brief slap just seems like, well, one brief slap to Smith’s career.