Letters to the Editor: Will Smith undermined what his Oscar-winning character stands for

Chris Rock and Will Smith onstage during the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As an Academy member, I voted for Will Smith as best actor for his sensitive, nuanced performance in “King Richard.” In the movie, Smith’s character approaches the world with a firm but gentle grace as he stands up to toxic masculinity while never giving into it. In real life, Will Smith lost his cool because presenter Chris Rock told a joke about Smith’s wife’s hair.

By physically assaulting Rock on live television, Smith undermined everything his character stands for and all that this portrayal was about. In his acceptance speech, Smith did not apologize to Rock or the millions of us who witnessed this assault. I, for one, want my Oscar vote back.

Rob Epstein, San Francisco


The writer is a filmmaker and two-time Academy Award winner.


To the editor: Will Smith took the Oscar home, but he may have left his dignity. Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high” — not lower. A few months back, I sat in the same room at the Dolby Theatre for Smith’s book tour, which was filled with inspirational anecdotes spanning his childhood to his evolution as one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. It seemed almost like a reset from the negative headlines that’ve dogged him and his family the past few years amid personal and professional controversies.

Now, like many others, I’m left wondering what’s next after what seems like one of the darkest periods in his public life.

Jamil Wilkerson, Los Angeles


To the editor: I hope Hollywood is ashamed after the Oscars. Yet it is not the rash actions of a celebrity or the insensitive joke of another celebrity that should cause America to hang its head today. It is the appropriation of a phrase from the American revolution being applied to a film awards circus at a time when there are real shots being fired at real people in a history-defining war. It could be very appropriate to discuss the “shot heard ‘round the world” right now drawing parallels to our own revolution that the phrase refers to, and contemplating the severity and implications of this war and the way it is defining our collective future.

That is why it is doubly offensive to hear that phrase applied not to the suffering and political tension in Ukraine but to the latest Hollywood soap opera. There are shots being heard around the world today, not slaps. Wake up, America.

Doug Staker, Salt Lake City


To the editor: Chris Rock’s joke was in poor taste. Jada Pinkett Smith’s reaction in the moment would have told me that, if hadn’t known it already. Rock should have known better. (After all, he starred in and narrated the documentary “Good Hair.”) I personally believe it was a last-minute ad lib, and a misstep on his part that the three female hosts would not have encouraged (female hosts who did a great job, and are now not being discussed at all — but that is an opinion for another day). Will Smith was also wrong to leave his seat during a performance and, more wrong still, to resort to physical violence. Escalation is not right. I also wish Smith would not have yelled out afterward.

Then I watched Smith’s acceptance speech. I believe he knew he made a mistake and was heartily sorry. The rest of us should focus on two quotes from Smith’s speech: “Love will make you do crazy things,” and “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you,” and try to live accordingly.

Pamella Myers, Fairfax, Va.


To the editor: Will Smith had no business hitting Chris Rock for remarks he made about Smith’s wife. Kathy Griffin tweeted that “it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian. Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.” Well put. The academy has since condemned Smith’s actions and launched an investigation. I believe the academy was right to censure Smith and should issue a formal apology to Rock.

David Tulanian, Henderson, Nev.