2022 in pop culture: Will Smith Oscar slap, Kanye West rants, Depp-Heard trial, &

In March earlier this year, Will Smith shocked the world when he whacked comedian and presenter Chris Rock across the face during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony. Rock had made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The viewership of the Oscars jumped by more than 50 per cent this year when compared to the previous year — 15.36 million as opposed to 2021’s 10.4 million. For this reason many thought the moment was scripted by the Academy, initially, but when Smith, after being seated, shouted at Rock for keeping his wife’s name out of his mouth (or something), it became clear that it was really happening. It was real. 

Amazingly, Smith went on to win his maiden Oscar later in the ceremony, for his performance as Richard Williams in ‘King Richard’. It has been months since the incident, but the controversy has refused to die down. As a punitive measure for his act of violence, in April the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences barred Smith from Oscars and any other events organised by the Academy for a decade following a meeting of the board of governors. Smith’s actions have led to change in the Hollywood outlook towards violence. Many have argued that Smith should not have been given his Oscar after the slap, and that he should have been charged with assault.

Here are other big events that will have major ramifications for Hollywood:

Kanye West’s multiple antisemitic rants

American rapper Kanye West has been in trouble for some time now post marriage troubles with ex-wife Kim Kardashian, his antisemitic and pro-white supremacy statements (that extend to his sartorial choices) and so on. The recent antisemitism controversy began when in October this year, West was barred from Instagram for saying rapper Puff Daddy is controlled by Jews. 

He then logged in to his Twitter account that had been lying for two years, sharing that he will be “going death con 3” on the jews (presumably meaning DEFCON or defense readiness condition). He was suspended from Twitter too, before being reinstated after Elon Musk took charge of the microblogging site. 

He was then suspended again after he shared the image of a Star of David with a swastika etched inside of it. The Star of David is a sacred symbol in Judaism. Regarding his suspension, Musk responded in a tweet, “I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended.”

Before he shared the tweet, West had expressed his admiration for none other than Adolf Hitler in an interview with far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on the news website Infowars, Hitler is one of the most hated men in history. A German dictator, he who oversaw the murder of six million Jews during the World War II under his Third Reich. 

Jones began by saying that he does not believe West is a Nazi and does not deserve to be demonised. To which West, his face completely covered in a black mask, countered, “Well, I see good things about Hitler also. The Jews…I love everyone, and the Jewish people are not going to tell me ‘You can love us and you can love what we are doing to you with the contracts, and you can love what we are pushing with the pornography’, but this guy that invented highways, invented the very microphone that I use as a musician, you can’t say out loud that this person ever did anything good and I am done with that.”

Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial

The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial gained headlines not just because of the amount of celebrity involved, but also because of the dirty details of the contentious marriage that came to light. The trial was also televised, which led to clips being lifted by respective fans of Depp and Heard (but predominantly Depp) and given funky edits on social media sites like Tiktok. The result was a lot of trivialisation of what should have been considered a serious issue.

Depp was the winner of the trial, held at Fairfax, Virginia. He had sued Heard for an op-ed she had penned for the Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”. While she had not named him, Depp filed for defamation anyway.

The trial ended with Depp being awarded $10 million in damages. Heard was awarded $2 million in damages as well for being “defamed” by Heard’s lawyer who had accused her of creating a hoax. Heard has repeatedly accused Depp of physical and mental violence, which Depp has denied.

Before Fairfax, Depp had lost a defamation trial in London against the News Group Newspapers for libel as the tabloid The Sun owned by the company had called him a “wife-beater.” The judge found Heard’s claims “substantially true”.

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