Award war, too: The Lavender Tube on the Oscars & Will Smith's Slapgate

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Sunday April 3, 2022
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Chris Rock slapped by Will Smith at the Academy Awards
Chris Rock slapped by Will Smith at the Academy Awards

"April is the cruelest month," wrote T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland, and it certainly seems to have begun that way. Usually the Oscars are a kind of one-and-done TV event: the awards night itself and then the hung-over morning-after news wraps where the hosts, fashions and various highs and lows are deconstructed on the morning shows and TV tabloids. Then it's au revoir till next year.

Due to what could be called The Fresh Slap of Bel Air, we are still talking about the Oscars and the fallout from Will Smith slapping Chris Rock for an ableist joke directed at Jada Pinkett Smith. It doesn't seem as if that talk will end anytime soon.

Will Packer, who made history as the first Black person to produce the Oscars, gave an exclusive interview to TJ Holmes on ABC's Good Morning America on April 1—a full five days after the event. (Source: CNN)

Packer told Holmes that Rock told him not to remove Smith from the event, despite the slap and that Rock was adamant with LAPD that he did not want to press charges. Rock may have thought that would end discussion of what happened, but it didn't. Everyone has weighed in.

Whoopi Goldberg, who has famously dismissed Oscar winner Roman Polanski's anal, oral and vaginal rape of a 13-year-old as "not rape rape" (Polanski was convicted) and stood up for Oscar winner Holocaust denier and wife abuser Mel Gibson after his various arrests, talked non-stop on The View about the incident, defending The Academy, the audience and Smith. (Source: The Wrap)

Jerrod Carmichael on the April 2 'Saturday Night Live'  

On Saturday Night Live, newly out comedian and host Jerrod Carmichael was fabulously funny as he talked about "It" and ended by enjoining Barack Obama to "heal the nation" by talking about "It."

Carmichael said, "This is gonna really blow your minds. It happened a week ago. A week ago, bro ... Doesn't it feel like it happened when we were in high school?"

Carmichael also talked about coming out as gay on his HBO special Rothaniel. He noted "In New York, if you're gay, they let you ride the bus for free and let you host Saturday Night Live."

On his April Fool's Day show, Libertarian asshat Bill Maher said Jada Pinkett Smith was "lucky" that she "only" has this autoimmune disease.

"Alopecia is not leukemia," he said. "I blame toxic femininity." and added, "Just put on a f—king wig like everybody else at the Oscars if it bothers you so much."

Conversely, The Late Late Show host James Corden said, "I applaud Chris Rock for recovering, keeping the show moving. It was an incredibly dignified response. I'll say this: Will Smith can't take a joke. Chris Rock can take a punch."

Another comedian, Tiffany Haddish, was Team Will, telling Variety that she was pleased to see someone stand up for Black women. The famously outspoken Haddish said she told Pinkett Smith, "You better suck his dick from the back, girl!"

Jane Campion, director of 'The Power of the Dog'  

Folks have been so caught up in talking about the Oscars like the exchange between Smith and Rock was all Biggie & Tupac that we never talked about how queer the Oscars were or how disabled people got the stage they were cheated out of the year before. In 2021 an octopus in My Octopus Teacher was deemed more meaningful documentary content than the long fight for disability rights in Crip Camp, which left some of us queer crips stunned. (Not that the octopus movie isn't good; it's very moving. But geez, it wasn't the fight for the rights of 81 million Americans.)

Oh and at the 94th Oscars Jane Campion became only the third woman in the history of the Oscars to win Best Director and she won it for a gay-themed film, The Power of the Dog, which garnered more nominations than any other movie, including three acting nominations.

But you may not have heard about any of this because, well, yeah, that.

Before Will Smith "slapped the sh*t out of" Chris Rock and the rest of us, we were laughing at the women comedians hosting: out lesbian Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall.

Sykes encouraged the audience to make it a "gay, gay, gay" night in a dig at Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law. Later she would hand over a party favor —a pre-shredded Texas mail-in ballot.

Ariana DeBose won Best Supporting Actress as Anita in 'West Side Story'  

The awards themselves had us crying real tears over the fabulousness of Ariana DeBose's speech when she won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in the remake of West Side Story. After thanking her partner, Broadway costume designer, and theater professor Sue Makkoo, DeBose said, "You see a queer, openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina who found her strength in life through art."

She continued, "And that's what I believe we're here to celebrate. Yeah, so, to anybody who has 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."

Uniqueness of you
The tears kept flowing as Troy Kotsur became only the second Deaf person to win an acting award. He won for Best Supporting Actor, for his role in CODA, signing his speech. He ended a long, moving speech saying, "I just wanted to say that this is dedicated to the Deaf community, the CODA community, and the disabled community. This is our moment."

Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor for his role in 'CODA.'  

Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for her portrayal of Tammy Faye Baker in the biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye. In a paean to Tammy Faye, Chastain gave an emotional speech about suicide, LGBTQ kids and being better humans.

She said, "We're faced with discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country with the only goal of further dividing us."

Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye'  

Chastain ended her speech noting, "For any of you out there who do in fact feel hopeless or alone, I just want you to know that you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you."

The night ended, post-slap, with perhaps the most moving scene of the night as Lady Gaga attended to Liza Minnelli, who was giving the award for Best Picture. Minnelli has been in ill health for years and now uses a wheelchair.

Shaky and shaking, Minnelli looked up at Lady Gaga who said, kindly and with no hint of condescension, "I got you" and helped her finish announcing the nominees and the winner, CODA.

That win for CODA brought Deaf people to the stage. It's impossible to articulate fully how impactful that scene was for the disability community in America. It's to be hoped that CODA's success will lead to more roles for Deaf and disabled actors on the big and small screens.

Lady Gaga with Liza Minnelli  

As GLAAD keeps pointing out in their annual TV status report, there is almost no representation of disabled people on TV.

What's saddening and frustrating is that so much history was made at these Oscars and the inspiration and aspiration of those wins have been lost in the non-stop discourse on The Slap.

Everyone has a comment or a think piece (my own is with Philadelphia Gay News). Sykes went on Ellen's show to talk about how horrified she was, noting she felt physically ill over witnessing the incident. Fellow host Schumer said on Instagram that she was traumatized, but felt bad for Smith in his tearful Best Actor speech.

gay film director Pedro Almodovar  

But Pedro Almodovar, whose film Parallel Mothers was nominated in several categories, had a very different take from Schumer's. Almodovar wrote a piece for IndieWire and likened Smith to a cult leader.

Reporters even asked Jen Psaki for a comment in the White House press briefing.

Barista blowoff
Smith has tendered his resignation to The Academy, but they are still considering what actions to take against him. They will meet on April 18, so this ain't over. And Chris Rock has yet to speak, so stay tuned.

One of the dishiest scenes on Oscars night took place on the red carpet when Caitlyn Jenner tried to get into Lady Gaga's orbit and failed. The always charming LG did her best to swat that gnat with delicacy.

"Are you still in Malibu?" Jenner asked Lady Gaga. "I don't see you at Starbucks anymore."

Lady Gaga said, "Well, I switched baristas."


Alas, Jenner insists on making her presence felt in all the wrong ways. On the Trans Day of Visibility she announced she had been hired by Fox News, which regularly misgenders people and has recently gone full QAnon with their anti-gay messaging. The one-time gubernatorial candidate will be a contributor to the network referred to as "State TV" in the Trump years. (Source: HuffPost)

Now Jenner and former House rep and longtime homophobe and transphobe Tulsi Gabbard can share their view that trans girls and women are bad for women's sports.

Caitlyn Jenner and Lady Gaga at Elton John's Oscar party red carpet. Is "I switched baristas" the new "I don't know her"?  

In her statement about her new role at Fox, Jenner said, "I am humbled by this unique opportunity to speak directly to FOX News Media's millions of viewers about a range of issues that are important to the American people."

Meanwhile, Human Rights Campaign has stripped Fox News of preferred LGBTQ employer status, noting "Enough is enough." (Source: CNN)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who has been more like The West Wing's CJ Craig than CJ herself, is in negotiations with MSNBC to join the news network next month. She will be missed.

Also, if you need something only marginally political to watch, Minx is a new comedy series about a feminist writer who partners with a low-rent porn publisher to bring empowerment to the masses via a women's magazine with nude male models.

Speaking of GLAAD, their Media Awards were held April 2, celebrating some of the best of LGBTQ TV and film. You can see a list of the winners and watch the show online.

So for the Sturm and the Drang and the wonderment that Will Smith has gotten more punishment than Academy rapists or that guy who tried to subvert American democracy on January 6, 2021, you really must stay tuned.

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