The 94th Oscars: What the Hell Happened and Why It’s Important

Ava Orofino, Scarlet Staff

The 94th Academy Awards were certainly a night to remember. On Sunday, March 27th, the 2022 Oscars were reported live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, highlighting the best films of 2021, and some of the amazing artists who worked on them. The normal trends were back, people making final bets on who they thought would win, and who was the best dressed on the red carpet. But there were some moments that make it more historical and not as normal as events in the past. Despite multiple other things that happened during this year’s Academy Awards, it will always be the year where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television. Now, do not get me wrong, Marty the zebra from Madagascar getting slapped in the face by Oscar the fish from Shark Tale was not on my 2022 bingo card, and that certainly made history in its own way. However, there was a lot more to the Oscars that is being overshadowed by the obvious.

I guess I will address the elephant in the room first though. About halfway through the ceremony, Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada, being bald. Jada Smith has a condition called Alopecia areata, where the recipient’s body has an immune system that attacks the hair follicles around the head and face. She went public about the disease on social media back in 2018, so it was public knowledge that she struggled to grow her hair. After Chris Rock cracked a joke about Jada being in the new G.I. Jane movie, Will Smith walked up on stage and slapped him right in the face in defense of his wife. Rock was clearly surprised, trying to brush it off, despite Smith yelling “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth” at him. Unsurprisingly, social media took this by storm the second Will Smith walked on stage. Not even 12 hours later, memes upon memes were made, and sounds on TikTok were trending and continue to be. One person even made a sound connecting Will Smith’s “outburst” with his song in the Aladdin remake. Ten minutes later, Smith won Best Actor for his film, King Richard. Many people were angered by Will Smith’s reaction and even demanded the Oscars take his award away and not be invited back to future ceremonies. Others claimed that Chris Rock had asked for it, not only because he mumbled a “Macbeth” right before. Not only that, but Madagascar fans are worried that there may not be a new movie in the future, as Jada Smith and Chris Rock both play lead roles in the franchise, although there was never news about a fourth movie being added. Andrew Garfield and Zendaya were also seen on their phones moments after it happened, creating memes about them texting their significant exes about all the drama happening.

Speaking of Andrew Garfield, the man was number four on the list of the most talked-about people in regards to the Oscars. Numbers one through three were, unsurprisingly, Will Smith, Chris Rock, and Jada Smith, in that order. But Garfield did not come home with one award, although he was nominated for two for his role in Tick, Tick, Boom. Several theories surrounding this were because many people believe he should have won the award and because he was easily one of the best-looking stars at the award show this year. Andrew Garfield and Zendaya reunited on the red carpet from their movie, Spiderman: No Way Home. Like Garfield, Zendaya was also part of a few films featured at the Oscars this year: Spiderman: No Way Home and Dune. Although Spiderman did not win any awards, getting beaten by Army of the Dead and Cinderella for Twitter Fan Favorite, Dune came home with several design awards, 6 out of their 10 nominations were wins. Marvel fans were livid when they learned that the Jukebox musical that scored a 43% on Rotten Tomatoes was ranked higher than the life-changing addition to the Spiderman franchise, which brought villains and heroes from different universes into one.

This year’s Oscars might just be the most disappointing yet. At least for adults. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science partnered with TikTok at the Oscars this year, hoping to appeal to a younger audience. Many TikTok and other social media influencers, the popular song from the Academy Award-winning animated film Encanto, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” was performed live for the first time at the Oscars since the film dropped in November. However, it was not what people expected it. Most of the original singers from the song were present, but there were a few special guests that were included in the remix. Becky G and Louis Fonzi made an appearance during the first part of the performance, but at the end, there was a rap featuring Megan Thee Stallion with edited lyrics. Parents were furious about this latest version, and teenagers were not enthused either. 

Despite the negatives, there were some historical, positive moments that occurred at the Oscars this year. Ariana Debose of West Side Story had an emotional win as the first openly queer, Afro-Latina woman to win an Oscar. “So, to anybody who’s ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us,” Debose stated in her acceptance speech, making eyes water all around the world. She played Anita in the remake of Stephen Spielberg’s West Side Story. The iconic Rita Moreno, who originated the role in the 1961 film, also won an Oscar for that same role, making the pair part of a select group of actors who have won the same award for the same character. 

Debose was not the first of the historical moments on Sunday; CODA star Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar! The film is a drama that follows a deaf family with a hearing daughter, that took away three Oscar wins in 2022. Kotsur, however, is not the first deaf actor to win an Oscar; that honor went to his CODA costar and the producer of the movie, Marlee Maltin. She won Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God way back in 1986, making it almost 40 years since her win. CODA is a term that stands for the “Children of Deaf Adults,” something that the movie focuses on. Despite the hope that this led to more representation and recognition of the deaf community in the film industry, many people are concerned that the movie is from “the hearing gaze.” An article in the New York Times wrote that the hearing gaze “led to scenes that may resonate with hearing viewers but fall flat with deaf views or even upset them.” Of course, because of this, many deaf people were insulted and admitted that the so-called “representation” was not exactly accurate. ” The movie also rarely showed deaf people communicating through other methods, like video relay services, mobile phone apps, lip-reading, or only plain old pencil and paper,” the NYT article continued. Doing this makes it seem like deaf people cannot communicate on their own and are dependent on other people, which is harmful and inaccurate for the deaf community. Besides this, however, the movie came home with Best Picture, which is amazing. It beat out Dune, Belfast, King Richard, and Do not Look Up, and came home with two other Oscars as well. 

In general, the Oscars were a delightful experience, and I mean that both literally and sarcastically. Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall were the hosts, and three live-action princesses presented, all dressing similarly to their respective characters. Although the media has seemed to forget about some of these important and wonderful moments that happened at the Oscars this year because of the obvious Will Smith/Chris Rock Drama, the incredible artists who have worked hard to get where they are today have not brushed past any of it. Maybe the media should stop focusing on the negative and start recognizing the positives more.