During the 94th Academy Awards held on March 27th, 2022, Will Smith made news by slapping comedian Chris Rock just minutes before winning the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams in the movie King Richard. Will Smith resorted to violence after Chris Rock made a distasteful joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith’s bald head.
The Academy Awards have been around for 94 years, and Will Smith is only the 5th black man to win an Oscar. Chris Rock has previously cracked some distasteful jokes about the Smiths, so there seems to be some bad blood there.
When the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was trending, he mocked Jada Pinkett Smith’s decision to boycott the Oscars by saying they probably wouldn’t have been invited anyway. And now, as we all know — he made fun of her bald head.
The joke, which referred to her as G.I Jane, has shone a light on alopecia areata. This autoimmune disorder targets hair follicles in the human body, leading to unprecedented hair loss. The cause of this disorder is still unknown, and its strange nature has led to the harassment of many people affected by it.
Was Rock aware of Pinkett Smith’s disorder and still joked about it? Or was he uninformed because no one cares about issues even famous black people face? What is Alopecia Areata, and why haven’t I heard about this before?
These are just some of the questions discussed throughout the world due to this fiasco. Some might argue this fiasco at the Oscars was an intelligently devised marketing strategy. Still, one positive outcome that has been achieved is the attention alopecia areata is receiving because of it.
A poet on Twitter named Golden tweeted about his experience after being diagnosed with alopecia areata in the 7th grade, “People bullied me for years for something I couldn’t control — I wish more people would be defended/advocated for me when I was a child.
He further went on to respond,” In a world where bullying is prevalent, we have to stop acting like ableist jokes are violent/harmful. We must stop using black women for publicity punch lines as if we don’t have feelings. We can be fragile, vulnerable, just be trying to make it to tomorrow too.”
Organizations like The National Alopecia Areata Foundation are also using this situation as an opportunity to battle the stigma and discrimination surrounding this disease, as reported by The Guardian.
They want people to realize that many children are diagnosed with alopecia annually, and jokes like this could encourage bullying.