Why Experts Are Calling Will Smith's 'Act Of Love' At The Oscars Dangerous

"Jada, I love you. 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it, alright?" This was the joke Chris Rock told that spawned what should've been one of the most acclaimed airings of the Oscars into a debacle.

For context, the awards ceremony, which has been criticized in the past for not being inclusive, was produced by Will Packer — one of the most respected Black producers in the industry — who took the opportunity to hire an all-Black team for this year's show, according to The Washington Post. After not having a host since 2018 (before the start of the pandemic), the Oscars appointed three women at the helm. Amy Schumer was joined by Black actress Regina Hall and Black comedian Wanda Sykes (per Los Angeles Times).

Just a few other history-making wins included Ariana DeBose (an openly queer Afro-Latina) winning Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in "West Side Story," Riz Ahmed being the first Muslim to win an Oscar (Best Live Action Short Film), and "CODA" (a film about a deaf family that was honored with the Oscar's first-ever silent applause) taking home Best Picture (via Oprah Daily).

Not to mention, Samuel L. Jackson, 73, finally won his first Oscar for lifetime achievement, which was presented the Friday before the show at the Governors Awards, People reports. Another first: Will Smith won Best Actor for his performance in King Richard, according to NPR — and that brings us full circle.

What may have been at the root of the outburst

Chris Rock's joke attempted to make light of Jada Pinkett-Smith's closely shaved head, perhaps not knowing it was a side effect from having alopecia. Afterward, Will Smith stormed the stage, slapped Rock, went back to his seat, and proceeded to yell at the comedian, "Keep my wife's name out of your [expletive] mouth!" Twice.

Upon winning Best Actor, Smith tearfully addressed the incident in his acceptance speech. One of the things he said is that "love will make you do crazy things," but counseling professor Joel Wong told CNN his actions were more about preserving his own honor. Psychiatry professor Wizdom Powell believes it's likely that Smith also experienced feelings of shame for initially laughing at the joke.

Regardless of the reasoning, Smith's words hit too close to home for survivors of domestic abuse. A 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health speaks to the fact that men who act violently attempt to justify their actions by blaming it on love.

Psychology professor Ronald Levant says breaking this cycle begins with reshaping how male honor culture and masculine norms are taught to young boys. This includes teaching them that it's okay to cry, be vulnerable, and use their words in conflict instead of forcing them to "walk it off" or "man up." As a result, boys can become men who understand how to properly process their emotions without resorting to violence.