Oscars 23: Why ‘The Slap’ still matters, one year later

The 2022 Academy Awards were meant to be a return to post-pandemic normalcy — to their traditional home at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and a March date, after a COVID-delayed edition at Union Station in April the previous year. It was also seen as a chance for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to celebrate the reforms it had made in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, with a dramatically different membership producing one of the most varied slates of nominees in the history of Hollywood’s top prize.

Then came the Slap. Suddenly, nothing else mattered.

Millions watched in real time as Will Smith — an overwhelming favorite to win for his performance in “King Richard” later that night — charged the Oscars stage to confront Chris Rock after the comic told one too many jokes about his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith. In the process, the lead actor prize, and just about every other that followed the altercation, became an afterthought.

A year later, the Slap has become more than just a stunning scene from the 2022 Oscars. It’s been etched forever into the annals of popular culture, propelled by an unrelenting social media debate of the event’s every angle.

The Slap continues to resonate — with fans of Smith and Rock, with the entertainment industry, with journalists looking for the meaning of it all, with Smith and Rock themselves. As we approach the 2023 Academy Awards, what does the Slap say about America right now?

“‘The Slap’: One Year Later” takes an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at that moment, through the eyes of Los Angeles Times journalists covering the 2022 Academy Awards and cultural critics who attempt to make sense of Will Smith’s televised assault on Chris Rock.

Originally published at www.latimes.com

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