As we ramp up for Oscar weekend 2023, what this year has in store for its watchers is only a wonder. On the heels of Chris Rock’s clap back via his Netflix special, we’re quickly transported back to Oscars 2022, where the infamous slap heard worldwide went down. However, rather than rehashing the incident or diving into the ongoing #OscarsStillSoWhite, after a new study from USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative found that, for the most part, the Oscars nominees remain “so white,” I’m choosing to focus on the couple that leads by example – Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher.
Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher’s decision to remain seated during Smith’s award acceptance speech sparked a heated debate on social media. The discussion resurfaced after Kunis sat with Magazine C and explained her reasoning for not standing up. Unfortunately, social media critics have attacked her for her “perceived” lack of respect for Smith and focused on shaming her for past comments about their families’ hygiene.
It is easy to get caught up in the happenings and behaviors of celebrities on one of the biggest nights in Hollywood. Still, the root cause of this controversy squarely lies in the inappropriate behavior exhibited by Smith, not Kunis or Kutcher. Even in a fit of anger, slapping someone is never an acceptable response, especially at a public event such as the Oscars. Moreover, it sends the wrong message to the world, especially to younger generations who view Will Smith as a role model.
Furthermore, Smith’s behavior towards Chris Rock, triggered by a joke meant to be lighthearted and harmless, resulted in violent action. Again, this highlights the need for individuals to be more mindful of their words and actions, in public settings where their behavior can have far-reaching consequences.
In Her Own Words
Kunis and Kutcher’s decision not to stand up for Smith is understandable, as they chose to prioritize their values and beliefs over societal expectations. In a world where performative actions often precede genuine feelings, it takes courage to stand up for what one believes in, even if it goes against popular opinion. Mila and Ashton were one of the precious few audience members who chose not to participate in giving Will Smith a standing ovation when he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. Mila’s reasoning was brilliant – “The idea of leading by example,” Kunis explains, “only makes sense when you actually have someone to lead. We have our tiny little tribe here at home, and never once do I want to tell them to do something if I’m not willing to do it myself. Not standing up to me was a no-brainer, but what was shocking to me was how many people did stand up. I thought, wow, what a time we’re living in that rather than do what’s right, people focus on doing what looks good. It’s insane to me.“
The real question is – should your inappropriate actions, done moments before, overshadow the significance of winning an Oscar, one of the highest honors an actor can receive? Yes, It Does. An individual’s actions have consequences, regardless of the timing or context in which they occur. While winning an Oscar is undoubtedly a notable achievement, it does not excuse or justify inappropriate behavior. It is important to hold public figures accountable for their actions and to set an example of acceptable behavior in society.
Kunis and Kutcher’s decision not to stand up for Smith embodied that lesson. While some continue to shame them for their decision, I applaud them for going against the grain. In a world that often prioritizes image over substance, it is refreshing to see people like Kunis and Kutcher leading by example and showing us that it’s okay to prioritize our values and beliefs over societal expectations. It’s a lesson I wish more people, especially in Hollywood, would take to heart. But ultimately, it is our collective responsibility to create a world where everyone feels safe, respected, and valued, regardless of their background or beliefs. If we focus on building a world like this, we may not need to rely on celebrities to set an example for us. Instead, we can all be leaders in our own way, standing up for what we believe in, even if it means going against the norm.
As we gear up for yet another Oscar weekend, let’s remember that it’s not just about the glitz and glamour of the red carpet but also about the values and principles we uphold as individuals and as a society. Let’s strive to create a world where respect and kindness are the norms, and inappropriate behavior is not tolerated, even in the face of success and achievement. Because Oscar’s night is not just about winning an award but also about the legacy we leave behind and our impact on the world.
Barika Phillips Bell is the co-founder of the award winning company, B3 Media Solutions, a social media research, listening (search & social), analytics, data visualization, and reporting agency. She has over 15+ years experience within social media on both the brand and agency side.