Written by: Janette Ghedotte, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
From the Shocking Slap to the Standing Ovation
It was a historic win at the Academy Awards in 1963 as actor Sidney Poitier broke the color barrier to become the first black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor in ‘Lilies of the Field.’
It took almost 4 decades for a second black man, Denzel Washington, to win the Oscar for Best Actor in the movie, ‘Training Day.’ Across the history of the Academy Awards, only four black men won the coveted Best Actor award: Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Forest Whitaker.
On March 27, 2022, Will Smith was set to join the elite list and seize the next Oscar victory at the 94th Academy Awards. Over the span of 38 years, the multi-talented movie star carefully crafted his career and was at the pinnacle of his achievements across TV, music, and movies. The stars and the Universe were aligned in Will Smith’s favor. It was no gamble; Smith had an 89% chance of winning the Oscar.
Yet, Will Smith revealed a different side of himself which shocked the Academy Awards audience and viewers across the world. Smith's self-sabotaging behavior redefined and damaged his brand image as he walked on stage, unannounced, and physically assaulted comedian Chris Rock across the face with a forceful open palm slap. Imposing triple damage, Will Smith not only delivered a single face slap to Chris Rock on stage but upon returning to Smith’s seat, he also shouted two angry sentences laced with profanities at Rock. Smith’s lack of emotional control, poor judgment, and erroneous actions shifted his shooting star 180 degrees in a downward spiral. What should have been Will Smith’s proudest Hollywood moment, this devastating and humiliating Academy Awards recording will be attached forever to him, Chris Rock, and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith?
After the victim Chris Rock declined to press assault charges against the aggressor Will Smith, the Academy Awards reportedly asked Smith to leave. Smith refused and was allowed to remain at the show to receive a standing ovation for winning the Oscar for Best Actor in the movie, ’King Richard.’
Was It STAGED or REAL?
People wondered if this was a staged stunt; some kind of joke; or Smith’s real, raw, and unfiltered emotions. When you understand how to detect and decode Accurate Body Language, then you do not have to wonder. You will know the truth because the "Hot-Spot" clues and warning signs are always right in front of you. But, are you catching them? People overestimate their abilities to read the clues and miss more body language clues than they realize.
From a psychology and body language analysis, what happened and why? On the surface and at the tip of the iceberg, it appeared that Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith took offense to Chris Rock’s “GI-Jane” joke about her bald head. In order to get to the truth, it is important to go deeper into the emotions of each of the three main individuals involved in this debacle, read their body language gestures, and cluster both their verbal and nonverbal clues like puzzle pieces.
A single piece is only one piece and should not represent the entire picture of the situation.
Don't bet the bank on just one or two puzzle pieces. Be a true detective. Be curious. Dig deeper. Ask strategic questions. Consider the motivations of those involved. Motivations drive behaviors. When you get to the core motivations, then actions and behaviors make more sense.
How Come Jada Pinkett Smith Wasn't Sitting Close and Next to Husband Will Smith?
When observing BODY language, do not just look at the primary subject. If you are only looking at the main target, then you are missing the body language of the supporting cast of characters. It is important to notice the other individuals in the scene because they are witnesses to what is going on and feel the energy of the situation. Other people add valuable insights because they are present in the moment and their body language and words add additional layers of truth to the scenario.
When observing body language, it is important to notice proxemics or the physical space between the individuals involved. The closer the distance, the greater connection. Specifically, did you notice the seating arrangement and the distance between Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
We position ourselves close to what we like and what makes us feel comfortable. We move away from or distance ourselves from what we don’t like. Therefore, it was interesting that Will Smith sat closer to actress Lupita Nyong’o than to his wife actress Jada Pinkett Smith. Lupita’s chair placement was angled in between the married couple in a symbolic triangle. To complicate matters, the Smiths have reported infidelities or ‘entanglements’ during their 25-year marriage.
Initially, Will Smith and Lupita Nyong’o laughed at Chris Rock’s ‘GI-Jane’ joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head. Smith and Nyong’o happy facial expressions were aligned regarding receiving the humor of the joke. On the other hand, Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s reactions were polar opposite as evidenced by Jada’s disapproving and disgusted facial expressions and body language of an eye roll, clenched teeth, tight jaws, stiff torso, and hands clasped together. Chris Rock immediately noticed Jada’s rejecting body language and tried to make light of his joke by saying it was a ‘nice’ one.
More than likely, Jada noticed that her husband and Lupita Nyong’o laughed at the joke that she found offensive, which added additional insult to her emotional injury. Although Chris Rock’s insensitive joke was the trigger or antecedent to Jada’s negative reactions; it was not the trigger for Will Smith's onstage physical assault of Chris Rock.
Why did Will Smith do a 180-degree turn from laughing to physical violence and profanity?
Motivation drives behaviors. Behaviors make sense once you understand the individual’s underlying motivation even for unusual or unexpected behavior.
Here’s an Accurate Body Language theory of what happened: After Will Smith and Lupita Nyong’o genuinely laughed at Chris Rock’s joke about Jada’s hair, Will Smith most likely turned and saw his wife’s upset face. At that moment, Will Smith knew that Jada’s anger was not only directed at Chris Rock but was now directed at her husband and Lupita because they laughed at the joke that mocked Jada’s bald head.
Will Smith thought, “Ruh-Roh!” At that moment, Will Smith knew he was in the ‘dog house’ with his wife. So, he had to take immediate action to somehow make right Jada’s perceived wrong against her. So far, no video has shown the facial expressions and body language of Jada and Will Smith during these moments. Therefore, it is uncertain if Jada just showed in her body language or if she verbally said something for Will Smith to “do something.” The marital couple’s body language or verbal exchange was the trigger for Will Smith to get up from his chair and approach Chris Rock.
Will Smith’s Walk to the Stage and Back to His Seat
Will Smith’s eye gaze appeared to be down as he approached Chris Rock. Perhaps, Smith didn’t want Rock to see his facial expression pre-emptive of the physical slap. Videoclips of Chris Rock’s face showed surprise and pain and his left arm was lifted up in a defensive body language gesture.
As Will Smith turned around to strut back to his seat, he lifted his chin, inhaled deeply, and smirked as if he was proud of himself for ‘surprise sucker slapping’ Chris Rock at the live televised Academy Awards. Smith expanded his arms and walked back to his seat in a confident strut. A video exists showing Jada laughing and clapping after her husband slapped Chris Rock. She applauded and gave her approval to her husband’s violent actions against Rock.
Listen Up! Did You Catch Will Smith's Escalating Power, Emphasis, & Tone of Voice?
When interacting with others, pay attention to not only body language but also the words verbalized and emphasized along with voice cadence, rhythm, pace, and volume. After being slapped, Chris Rock verbally reacted to the assault by making a joke, “Wow. Will Smith just smacked the sh*t outta me!”
For those who thought it was staged, they did not catch Will Smith’s flared nostrils, chin jet upward, upper left lip curl of disgust, and the escalating power and volume as he emphasized each word during his sentence of profanity. Rock attempted to minimize the negative impact of the joke by saying to Smith, “Wow. Dude. It was a GI Jane joke!” For extra oomph, Smith repeated the profanity twice with extra force.
Want to Know the EASY Accurate Body Language Tip That Will Smith Should have Done to Maintain His Cool and Avoid Slapping Chris Rock?
The entire debacle could have been avoided if Will Smith had known and followed these Accurate Body Language reactive strategies:
remain in his seat
show calm emotional regulation in order to stay in his executive frontal brain
use strategic silence
with a tilted head, simply shake his head side to side to show disapproval of Chris Rock’s joke.
That's it. Simple. Easy. These recommended Accurate Body Language reactive strategies would have conveyed the message effectively to Chris Rock in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way without any negative consequences to the individuals involved or the remainder of the Academy Awards show. Instead of Will Smith looking out of control, the world would have perceived Will Smith to be the hero and devoted husband that Jada needed him to be.
If Will Smith tilted and shook his head side to side head in a disappointing or disapproving gesture, Chris Rock may have apologized at that moment after he realized that his joke did not land well for Jada. Will Smith would have avoided redirecting attention from the show to himself and avoided being banned from the Oscars for 10 years. He would have saved the positive Hollywood image and brand that he carefully cultivated for over 30 years.
This is a perfect example of how knowing body language can get your message across without a physical assault and seriously negative consequences. When you know Accurate Body Language skills, then you have the confidence and competence to remain in control.
Staged or REAL?
If it were a staged stunt, then what did the involved individuals stand to GAIN or RISK LOSING? Ask these questions and start investigating the answers as you cluster the clues and put together the evidence that unfolded before, during, and after Chris Rock’s trigger joke that was directed toward Jada Pinkett Smith.
Given that Chris Rock experienced childhood bullying and physical violence, why would he agree as an adult to be slapped, humiliated, and re-traumatized by another black man on live TV for the world to see? Why would Chris Rock open the door for any angry heckler to assault comedians on stage in general? It does not make sense that Chris Rock would agree to any suggestion that this was a staged stunt.
Will Smith experienced childhood trauma when he saw his abusive father hit his mother. Will felt powerless to protect his mother. But, as a child, it was not his duty to protect his mother. It was her duty to protect him. Will Smith had everything to lose and nothing to gain by slapping Chris Rock. Smith was set to win the Oscar less than an hour after the slapping incident, so he did not need to steal the attention of the next category of nominees. Smith’s negative consequences include postponement of his upcoming movies, a 10-year ban from attending the Oscars, possible FCC fines, and damage to his brand image.
Want to Get to the TRUTH? Get Trained in Accurate Body Language.
If you missed the clues from the Hollywood stars in this situation, just imagine all the "Hot-Spot" clues and warning signs that you may have missed in your personal and professional interactions with others. Contact Janette Ghedotte of Accurate Body Language to empower you to spot the clues, get to the truth, and avoid costly mistakes.
Click the link to get the BEST @AccurateBodyLanguage analysis of the Will Smith SLAP debacle: https://abl.accuratebodylanguage.com/032822willsmithhit_reg1
Janette Ghedotte, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Truth & Deception Detection Expert Janette Ghedotte is a MA LLP Clinical Psychologist, Founder, and CEO of Accurate Body Language.
Accurate Body Language is the KEY to cracking the code, unlocking the vault of nonverbal communication, and revealing the secrets of human interaction.
With over 20 years of corporate business, marketing research, advertising & strategic brand positioning, and clinical psychology experience, Janette specializes in understanding the complexities of human behavior, interpersonal relationships, and verbal, and nonverbal body language communication.