Hypocrisy in Hollywood

Madison Peters, Contributing Writer

Trigger warning: Mention of physical violence, sexual assault and rape.

On Friday, April 8, it was announced that the Academy’s board will ban Will Smith from attending the Oscars for the next 10 years. However, it has been clarified that Smith can still be nominated for future awards and can keep his current award. Seeing the Academy’s swift action against Smith raises a troubling question: is there a double standard in Hollywood? 

While neither Chris Rock’s nor Will Smith’s actions were excusable, this has started some debate about whether Smith’s punishment matches the crime. It took the Academy less than two weeks to come to a decision about Smith, but in the case of other nominees who have committed far more serious crimes, the Academy tends to drag its feet. 

Throughout the years, there has been a clear difference in treatment between white actors and BIPOC actors. After the 94th Oscar awards ceremony, there was a debate in the media about whether Smith’s award should be revoked due to his altercation with Rock. However, when it comes to Harvey Weinstein, who won Best Picture in 1999 for “Shakespeare in Love,” it was never discussed if his award should be revoked after he was convicted of rape and other sexual assault crimes. While the Academy posted a statement on Twitter saying that they do “not condone violence in any form,” what about Weinstein’s crimes? Unfortunately, Weinstein is one of the many that have been let off the hook by Hollywood. 

Roman Polanski is another notable example of when Hollywood suppressed the severity of a celebrity’s crimes. In 2002, Polanski won Best Director for the movie “The Pianist.” Winning an award at the Oscars is a life-changing moment for anyone, so where was Polanski? He was not present for the ceremony, as he had fled the country in 1978 after pleading guilty to raping a minor. All of this information was available to the public, yet, the Academy and celebrities brushed this under the rug and still awarded him with Best Director. Even without him present to claim his award, he was met with a standing ovation in solidarity, despite his horrific crimes. After 30 years, the Academy finally came around and banned Roman Polanski, with celebrities finally retracting their support for the infamous director. However, in 2022, celebrities wasted no time submitting statements to news outlets condemning Will Smith’s actions, and the Academy opened an investigation within hours of the incident. 

Unfortunately, there are many more instances of celebrities getting to claim their awards and give their inspirational speeches, while their crimes get washed away. Smith’s actions are not excusable and should be scrutinized, as well as Rock’s statement toward Jada Pinkett Smith. However, when looking at the bigger picture, we have to ask ourselves: Is this being blown out of proportion? It is worth keeping in mind that this act took place on live television for everyone to see and to be played on repeat. Due to this, it is easier for us to get worked up and make opinions, but sexual violence is an act that takes place in private and can easily be minimized. If the Academy continues to turn a blind eye and does not denounce severe crimes nominees commit, the disgraces will continue.