The Oscars are always a prime opportunity for some cringey moments (it is live TV after all). Who can recall the Best Picture mix-up between Moonlight and La La Land in 2017? For the 2022 Academy Awards, that moment came courtesy of an altercation between presenter Chris Rock and Will Smith about two hours into the evening. Rock stepped on stage to deliver an award, and before getting to the list of nominees, he cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, comparing her to G.I. Jane (the 1997 film starring Demi Moore), which features the main character shaving her head.
While the quip might have seemed innocuous enough given the roast-style comedy that is signature to award shows, viewers and attendees quickly realized that the line cut a little too deep for the couple — Pinkett Smith’s face immediately settled into annoyance, with a very visible eye roll, while Smith’s jaw tightened. What Rock (and potentially the writing team) failed to realize is that Pinkett Smith recently shaved her head due to an ongoing struggle with alopecia and posted about her journey on Instagram on Dec. 28, writing, “Mama’s gonna have to take it down to the scalp so nobody thinks she got brain surgery or something😜Me and this alopecia are going to be friends … period!😆.”
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles, resulting in the stop of the hair growth stage, and subsequently causing the hair to fall out. Approximately 6.8 million people deal with the disease in the United States. And as any woman who has experienced hair loss can tell you, it can be a deeply distressing condition.
So while Rock may have thought he was making a clever observation about a daring beauty choice from Pinkett Smith, her husband clearly thought it was worthy of him jumping on stage and confronting him right then and there (the mic was still hot, so everyone heard Smith slap him). The audio dropped out from the broadcast for about 20 seconds, but as Smith returned to his seat, he was clearly mouthing some choice words for Rock and his comments about his wife’s hair.
Safe to say that this is yet another Oscars moment that not only set Twitter aflame but also brings up an interesting conversation about what beauty choices are too personal to serve as fodder for a joke.