Earlier this year, actress Jada Pinkett Smith used social media to announce that she was boycotting the 88th Academy Awards because there were no black nominees.
The 44-year-old actress even urged Chris Rock to turn down his second straight Oscars hosting gig. However, Rock, 51, announced weeks after that he was still performing his hosting duties.
Everyone expected the Grown Ups actor to share his sentiments about the diversity issue in the Oscars and he didn’t disappoint.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 29, 2016
On Sunday night, however, while Rock tackled the issue of lack of opportunities among black actors, what shocked the audience were his statements against Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will.
During the traditional monologue at the start of the show, Rock stated that some actors and actresses, as well as personalities have decided to boycott the awards night. He cited Jada Pinkett Smith and film director Spike Lee as among the black celebrities who chose not to attend the Oscars as a sign of protest.
But then, Rock quickly dropped the bomb on Pinkett Smith, stating that he was slightly surprised that she referred to her absence at the Oscars as “boycotting.”
“Jada said she’s not coming. I was like, ‘isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s gonna boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” Rock quipped.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 29, 2016
The Oscars host then tried to explain that he completely understands where Jada is coming from, especially after her husband was not nominated for his performance in the film Concussion.
Rock also pointed out that while Jada was protesting the unfair treatment of actors of color, her husband was once paid a huge $20 million salary for the very poorly-received film, Wild, Wild, West.
After dissing the Smiths, the Oscars host went on to criticize the montage that was shown at the beginning of the show, and said he counted at least 15 black people in it.
“Well, I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” he added.
— Variety (@Variety) February 29, 2016
Rock also shared what went through his head while considering backing out from hosting this year’s Oscars. He said that if he backed out, the Academy Awards would still proceed, and what he did would not have changed anything.
Even in the past, Rock always thought that he could make a bigger impact on the audience and the industry itself if he took the hosting gig.
In addition, the Madagascar actor said that the lack or absence of black actors nominated for an Oscar has long been a problem, although no one seemed to care about it then.
“You know why? Because black people had real things to protest at the time. Too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer,” he said.
— Mashable (@mashable) February 29, 2016
Before closing the monologue, Rock said that in order for more actors of color to be nominated, more opportunities should be given to them.
“What I’m trying to say is, it’s not about boycotting. We want opportunity,” Rock said. “We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it! Not just once.”
Moments after his speech, social media erupted with reactions on Rock’s message to Hollywood. Some were positive about what he said, and others thought he was too harsh on Jada Pinkett Smith.
Some Twitter fans defended Rock and said that he was just telling it like it is, while other netizens thought he was consistent in his message by appealing for more acting opportunities for African American actors while pointing out that Will Smith earned $20 million as a leading man in a Hollywood movie.
Chris Rock is real. He doesn’t care about making ANYONE uncomfortable- whether you’re a white person or Jada Pinkett Smith???????? #oscars
— Elle (@candiceLfrank) February 29, 2016
Chris Rock cracking Will Smith over his awful movie, Wild Wild West was awesome #Oscars
— Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis) February 29, 2016
[Images by Craig Barritt and Jason Kempin, Getty Images]