The Academy Bans Will Smith From The Oscars For 10 Years

Was the decision, made after Smith resigned from the Academy, a reasonable punishment?

Smith holds the Academy Award trophy for his first Oscar
Photo Courtesy / YouTube ABC News

It’s been two weeks since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage at the 94th Academy Awards. Enough time for action to be taken, and enough time for opinions to be formed. The Academy released a statement on Friday announcing that they are placing a 10-year-ban on Will Smith, meaning he will not be able to attend any Academy event for a decade, but he is still allowed to get nominated for awards. Although I do not hold Smith’s actions against him or his character, the Academy’s decision was justified. 

When the incident first occurred, there was one word that came to my mind when thinking about Smith: unprofessional. With time, I started to have more understanding towards him and his situation. He is not unprofessional, but he is simply human. A human with real emotions who may react impulsively in certain situations. Not only did Rock make fun of his wife, but her  illness and a reaction by Smith was expected. However, it was the wrong place at the wrong time. Smith’s punishment was reasonable. The first-time Academy Award winner deserved to keep his award, but he also deserved to be condemned in one way or another.

A man stood up for his wife after an insensitive joke was targeted towards her. Smith’s reaction could have gone in a different direction. He could have confronted Rock backstage, at the after-party or even during the commercial break. This would have avoided unnecessary tension on live television. After the slap, it was all I could think about for the rest of the show. The event was supposed to celebrate actors and close on a positive note. Slapping Rock on live television derailed the rest of the show and involved the other attendees, the Academy and everyone watching the show.

Physical violence was inflicted towards Rock. The action taken by Smith was one driven by anger, but at the event he was expected to keep calm, especially when he was on-camera. The way Smith felt was understandable, but the Academy is under the obligation to make sure everything at the awards goes well. After something like that happens at their show, they have the right to condemn Smith. If the Academy let Smith’s actions slide, similar incidents could happen in the future. 

Rock targeting Jada’s appearance makes me question whether he knew Jada has alopecia. Personally, I was not aware of her illness. No punishments were set on Rock, which I also find to be the right decision by the Academy. His joke was not the only one that was offensive. Amy Schumer even made a joke towards Leonardo DiCaprio accusing him of constantly dating younger girls. Although her comment got some backlash, the incident between Smith and Rock owned the spotlight. Rock does not deserve a punishment, but the Academy should set limitations on what presenters can and can’t say. Verbally attacking anyone should not be prohibited. The incident at this year’s awards proved how roasts by presenters can backfire. 

Comedy is fun but it can also cross the line. The Academy could prohibit jokes that directly target a person or a person’s appearance. This way, presenters could crack a joke without unintentionally offending anyone. Emotion-driven reactions would be prevented and the audience would be at ease. Imagine being in the audience and having the fear lingering in your mind that a presenter may make fun of you or your appearance. Jokes can be made in different forms, rather than just roasts targeting public figures. 

Smith will not be attending future Academy events for a long time. Two things were proven following the Academy’s decision. First, anger is not easily suppressed, no matter how famous you may be. Second, impulsive decisions, even if done with the right intentions, come with consequences. I respect Smith for standing up for his wife, but his punishment was deserved.