Even if you missed the Academy Awards on Sunday, you likely know that actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock for a cruel joke about Smith’s wife.
What you might not know is that other people got sucker-punched during the ceremony, just not physically. They include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, along with anyone who supports Florida’s pending legislation that would prevent discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools from kindergarten through third grade.
These punches came in the opening monologue, delivered by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes.
At one point, Hall said, “You know, this year, we saw a frightening display of how toxic masculinity turned into cruelty toward women and children,” to which Sykes replied, “Damn that Mitch McConnell.”
A little later, Sykes said, “Well, we’re gonna have a great night tonight. And for you people in Florida, we’re going to have a gay night.” Then all three hosts in unison chanted the word “gay” nine times while the audience cheered.
The uber woke Oscars hasn't learnt a thing.— Dan Wootton (@danwootton) March 28, 2022
In the first ten minutes, highly politicised jokes about Hollywood gender pay, Florida's Parental Rights in Education Bill, diversity at the Golden Globes, toxic masculinity, 'black Twitter' and Mitch McConnell.’
THE FIRST TEN MINUTES!
In an evening that was rife with mean jokes, the jabs against conservatives barely registered the next day, with people focusing on the extraordinary exchange that occurred between Smith and Rock, after Rock joked about Smith’s wife, the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, saying he couldn’t wait to see her in “G.I. Jane 2.” It was a reference to Pinkett Smith’s baldness, caused by alopecia. Smith walked onto the stage, slapped Rock, then returned to his seat, where he yelled at Rock, using profanities.
Smith later gave an emotional acceptance speech after winning best actor for his role in “King Richard,” saying, “I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse. And you gotta smile, and you gotta pretend like that’s OK.”
That, of course, is even more true in the realm of politics, and the Academy Awards has never been friendly turf for Republicans or anyone expresses values that seem in line with those of conservatives.
Two years ago, an Oscar winner thanked his wife for staying home with their kids, a line that stopped the crowd from applauding. In 2003, Michael Moore, accepting the Oscar for best documentary feature, famously said, “Shame on you, Mr. Bush,” in a speech deriding then-president George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq. In 2017, actress Meryl Streep gave an Oscar speech in which she called then President Donald Trump a bully, which later prompted Meghan McCain to tweet, “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won.”
After five years of avoiding the Oscars I tuned in tonite. They insulted Mitch McConnell and slurred my adopted state of Florida. I’ll check in again in another five years (if they are still on.)— Michael Carozza (@MichaelCarozza1) March 28, 2022
Writing for Vanity Fair last week, David Canfield argued that the Oscars have always been political and that this year’s event would likely be the same. “But,” he said, “with Americans as a whole continuing to rally behind Ukraine, there may be a chance for some coming together too.”
That — not the exclusion of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” for best original song, and then the rewriting of the “Encanto” song for the live performance — was the biggest disappointment in this year’s show.
Hollywood had a chance to be radically inclusive by going three hours and 42 minutes without kicking conservatives and the 74 million-plus Trump voters. All the hosts had to do was eliminate two lame jokes, perhaps replace them with a unity-building statement about how Americans had come together over Ukraine.
Like keeping the Oscars to the promised three hours, that was, apparently, too much to ask.