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Will Smith’s miserable year since the slap that shook Hollywood

Will Smith has been living with the repercussions of his infamous Oscars slap for a full year now.

On March 27, 2022, at the 94th Academy Awards, Smith took umbrage with a joke Chris Rock told onstage about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Not seeing the funny side, Smith walked on stage, slapped rock, turned and took his seat in the front row again. Proving it wasn’t a bit, he proceeded to tell Rock to “keep my wife’s name” out of his mouth—a moment which has since been meme’d and mocked to no end.

Since that night, Smith has endured a turbulent year, seemingly culminating in Rock’s recent savage retort during his Netflix stand up comedy special Selective Outrage.

In the immediate aftermath of the slap, there seemed to be no immediate repercussions for Smith.

He had slapped Rock after he’d made a “GI Jane joke” about Jada’s hair, which some criticized as she has alopecia. He then accepted the best actor Academy Award for his performance in KingRichard.

“At first Will Smith got away with his slap of Chris Rock at the Academy Awards. He even got to make an extensive speech when he collected his Oscar,” Beverly Hills-based psychiatrist Carole Lieberman told Newsweek, looking back on the incident. “So, he thought that he was still going to be Hollywood’s darling. But, when the Awards ended, the buzz began to go against him, and it has continued to grow. There has been a combination of mockery and armchair psychology in response to the Will Smith’s slap.”

Later that night he celebrated at Oscars after-parties, before releasing a statement the next day apologizing for his behavior.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences then announced that they were banning Smith from attending all Academy-related events for a decade.

“Will knew as he walked up to the podium to slap Chris on live TV exactly what he was doing and what would ensue, and he did it anyway, knowing full well it would be talked about around the world. I don’t think he knew he’d be banned for 10 years from the Oscars, but I don’t think it even bothers him,” comedian and friend of Rock, Jeffrey L. Gurian, told Newsweek.

The host of the online show Comedy Matters TV continued, “Will’s level of fame is all about ego. He’s been famous for so long that he’s lost touch with what it’s like to be a regular person. We have no royalty in this country. We treat our celebrities as our royalty, and some of them actually believe it, and ego is a dangerous thing! It makes you do things you sometimes come to regret.”

A recent study conducted by Betfair found that over half of all Britons selected the slap as the most controversial moment of all time. The study found 52.5 percent voted it the most shocking while the closest rival was the la la country/moon light mix up, voted for by just 9 percent of participants.

After issuing an apology on social media for his behavior at the 94th Academy Awards, Smith took a break from public life for almost four months. In the meantime, his marriage to Jada was scrutinized as videos of the couple trended online, former clips featuring Rock and Jada resurfaced, as well as stories about the state of the Smith marriage. One thing which was repeatedly questioned was the Red Table Talk episode where Jada and Will address her “entanglement” with another person, rapper August Alsina, with whom she admitted to having a relationship with.

He returned with a video posted to his Instagram and YouTube channels at the end of July 2022. Smith answered some prewritten questions addressing the night of the Oscars.

“Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and personal work […] You asked a lot of fair questions that I wanted to take some time to answer,” Smith said in the video, as he went on to say Jada had “nothing to do with it.”

From that point on, he’s been back in the public eye, regularly posting videos on social media. His return made the publicity tour for his heavy drama emancipation slightly easier as he was prepared for the onslaught of questions about the infamous event.

Smith’s ban from Academy-related events was supposed to be significant as he had an awards-contender coming up in the form of slavery-based movie emancipation, on Apple TV+. However, “emancipation did not perform well at the box office,” Lieberman said. “It was supposed to be his comeback to the big screen after ‘Slapgate,’ but it was a flop.”

It’s hard to tell how much Smith’s actions at the previous Academy Awards affected the release of emancipation. The movie received a week-long cinematic release in theaters before launching on streaming in December 2022. It holds a 45 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and a fan rating of 6.1 out of 10 on IMDb.

Rock continued to work in the following months after being slapped onstage at the Oscars by Smith, though he never directly addressed it explicitly at length.

Rock finally weighed in on the event almost a year later in early March 2023, as part of his live Netflix special Selective Outrage. Rock addressed Will and Jada’s “entanglement” at length, suggesting that hurt Will far more than a slap across the face ever could.

“I know Chris and I know him to be a classy guy which is why it took him a year to address this situation. I watched the special and was wondering about the title until he got to the Will Smith part. Selective Outrage is an absolutely perfect description of what went down,” comedian Gurian told Newsweek.

Smith hasn’t publicly responded to Rock’s Selective Outrage special, but a source told Entertainment Tonight that Smith has called for Rock to “let it go.”

Will Smith has been living with the repercussions of his infamous Oscars slap for a full year now.

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