“The Slap Heard Around The World”: How International Media Has Responded To Will Smith’s Troubling Oscar Moment

“The Slap Heard Around The World”: How International Media Has Responded To Will Smith’s Troubling Oscar Moment

March 28, 2022

“The Slap Heard Around The World” is how Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald has appropriately described it.

The Oscars have once again permeated the cultural conversation. Sadly, for the wrong reasons.

Will Smith’s rash and disproportionate response to Chris Rock’s ill-advised jibe has landed plenty of column inches and air time on the international stage. The overriding tone has been censorious.

While the Ukraine conflict is rightly the lead story on most outlets, some UK tabloids are leading with #slapgate and most foreign publications have the shocking Oscar moment as their number two story in terms of prominence. Most have the moment as their lead Oscar story ahead of other coverage from the night.

In the UK, The Telegraph‘s critic Robbie Collin branded Smith’s act as “the most shameful and unforgivable Oscar moment ever”.

The Guardian called the evening “a historic night for women – overshadowed by male violence”. The paper’s Catherine Shoard asked whether Will Smith’s personal history may in some part explain him lashing out. The writer points out how Smith has written publicly about his need to compensate for a childhood marred by domestic violence. Shoard also points to previous occasions when Rock has poked fun at Jada Pinkett-Smith.

On ITV’s popular Good Morning Britain show, hosts Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley took different tacks. Speaking about the incident, Madeley described Rock as “rude” and “unlikeable”, saying he was the most “unpleasant person I’ve ever interviewed.”

But Reid responded: “I honestly think at the moment there’s quite a lot of justifying of someone who just hit someone else on television and just remember, apart from the fact it’s not OK to hit somebody, what is that saying to people watching.”

Writing for the aforementioned Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Idato called it “the Oscars’ lowest moment in history”: “The issues here are thorny. Rock’s comedy was risky, of course, but Smith’s reaction felt unwarranted. It is difficult to see Smith striking Rock as anything other than assault, regardless of the provocation. And there is an unease which follows when one question is left unanswered: whether Hollywood will accept, and therefore, normalise what happened, or dare to call Smith to account…One thing is certain: the Academy will hate this.”

Italian paper La Reppublica led with the headline “Machismo vs body shaming: at the Oscars we got a lesson of what we shouldn’t be”. The comment piece called Smith’s action “a bad example of toxic masculinity” and how the whole incident highlighted “the worst in our society from the mockery of a woman because she has her head shaved to the fists of “her” man who is convinced that he must do justice.” Meanwhile, “nobody bothered to give Jada a voice”, the paper said.

German critic Thomas Vedder of Die Welt criticized Smith for an “archaic macho attitude” and said the response was “completely absurd”. He goes on to claim that Smith “should have seen the movie Coda, that’s the kind of macho guys they take apart in that movie”.

In Spain, El Pais‘s Octavio Salazar denounced the Oscar winner as “Another Man We Shouldn’t Be”: “Hopefully the example of the actor generates a kind of reverse Me Too in men, in which we make it clear that we are not willing to tolerate such behavior.”

French publication Le Monde has chosen not to spotlight the Oscars this morning and it’s hard to find mention of the event on the publication’s homepage. Despite the muted response, however, their Oscar story is still the site’s most-read and third-most read story.

The South China Morning Post went for more matter-of-fact coverage, including the headline: “Will Smith Hits Chris Rock In The Face On Stage, Then Wins Best Actor Oscar”.

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