Will Smith's Oscars ban is divisive: 'This is 100 per cent racially motivated'

Some think the punishment fit the act, while others believe it was too harsh

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Will Smith was always going to be able to keep his Oscar. Or at least that's what Whoopi Goldberg predicted not so long ago on the talk show The View.

“He’ll be fine, he’ll be back. No worries,” she's said.

When people such as Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski have kept hold of their Oscars, Goldberg has a point. It was perhaps never in question that Smith would lose his.

Smith got the coveted gong for Best Actor, for his role in King Richard, about 30 minutes after he slapped comedian Chris Rock live on stage during the 94th Academy Awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences faced backlash as it failed to act during the live telecast, allowing Smith to simply saunter back to his seat and then even pick up his prize, make a speech and frivolously attend after-parties unscathed.

On Friday, however, Smith, who has since apologised for his actions and resigned from the academy, was banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years.

'Harsher than I imagined'

Some people think this punishment fits the crime, while others believe it was going overboard.

“He’s not going to be able to present next year, and I think hurray for that," academy member Carol Connors told The Hollywood Reporter. "I don’t think he should be allowed on the academy stage. What he did on the world stage was unacceptable."

Fellow academy member Stephen Potter, however, said: “I have to say I’m surprised at the academy’s formal response of a 10-year ban on Mr Smith, which is harsher than I imagined it would be. Ten years is quite a long time and it’s possible this incident will mostly be forgotten before this term concludes."

On the other hand, some believe it didn't go far enough, particularly as Smith can still be nominated for Oscars going forward.

"So to be clear, Will Smith can still be nominated and win an Oscar, he just can't go to the show or Oscar-related events. Makes sense," wrote reporter Joe Flint on Twitter.

Racially motivated?

Some critics believe the move was racially motivated, citing inappropriate behaviour by white peers that have gone unpunished. This includes Oscar winner Adrien Brody who kissed presenter Halle Berry in 2003 and Jim Carrey, who has publicly denounced Smith's behaviour but who also made advances on a resistant Alicia Silverstone at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards.

“The ten-year ban they gave Will Smith feels very ‘make a lesson of this black person,’” tweeted author Frederick Joseph.

"How long are Harvey Weinstein and Mel Gibson banned for?" he wrote in another tweet, while Twitter user Somari agreed, saying "this is 100% racially motivated".

"They were ok with Harvey Weinstein for how long?" wrote someone on Reddit. “What they mean is that they don’t like PUBLIC assaults.”

“Crazy how the Oscars have allowed racism and harassment to happen with no consequences, but they choose to ban Will for TEN YEARS all over a slap?" wrote another user.

Even controversial British media figure Piers Morgan agrees. "Will Smith banned by the Hollywood Academy, 12 days after he slapped Chris Rock," he wrote on Twitter after the announcement. "It took the same academy 40 years to ban Roman Polanski after he was convicted of raping a child."

'The academy dropped the ball'

Others joked how, with Oscars viewership and interest in steep decline, it's not much of a punishment anyway.

“A harsher punishment would have been mandatory attendance for 10 years,” wrote Scandal star Joshua Malina.

For many, the new sentence can't make up for the fact no one took action during the event.

“The academy dropped the ball by not taking action when it happened," academy member Larry Gleason told The Hollywood Reporter. "This after-the-fact punishment is like the old saying, 'Closing the barn door…' Too late and too little. After the La La Land fiasco, you would have thought they would have handled it better. Sad event for all concerned.”

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Updated: April 12, 2022, 10:41 AM
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