Man of Steel actor Harry Lennix, who played General Swanwick in the film and went on to portray Martian Manhunter in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, recently penned an op-ed where he demanded Will Smith return his Oscar for Best Actor and claimed the Academy’s decision to ban Smith for 10 years “lays bare the shallowness of Hollywood morals.”
After Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson sent a letter to Academy members announcing, “The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards.”
They concluded the letter writing, “This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy. We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.”
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Lennix penned an op-ed for Variety titled “Will Smith Must Return His Oscar to Restore the Award’s Honor” responding to the Academy’s decision to ban Smith for 10 years, but still allow him to be nominated and win awards.
Within the op-ed, Lennix didn’t beat around the bush, in the first paragraph he declared, “The Motion Picture Academy’s decision to ban Will Smith from Oscar ceremonies and events for 10 years as discipline for slapping Chris Rock is little more than an extended time out for a playground bully. It’s a toothless penalty that lays bare the shallowness of Hollywood morals.”
Later in the op-ed he also criticized the Oscars performance as a whole describing it as “profane.” He wrote, “Given the coarseness of pop culture in the age of social media, it was no surprise that much of this year’s Oscar proceedings were frequently profane.”
While Lennix would criticize the Academy for their punishment, he spent the majority of his op-ed targeting Smith noting that the actor “needs to express-mail his golden trophy back to the Academy and publicly state something to the effect of: ‘Out of respect for the 94 years of honor conferred upon this award, I do not in good conscience feel worthy of being its custodian.'”
Lennix would specifically take issue with Smith’s acceptance for Best Actor, which he won after he slapped Chris Rock.
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During the acceptance speech, Smith said, “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.”
He would later reference the supernatural saying, “I’m being called on in my life to love people, and to protect people, and to be a river to my people.”
At one point, he even touched on the advice he received from Denzel Washington after he slapped Chris Rock saying, “Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful that’s when the devil comes for you.'”
Referencing the remark about God, Lennix wrote, “in couching his acceptance speech as somehow submitting to the will of God, Smith abdicated personal accountability.”
He would later add, “It is an insult to the honor of God to assign him any part of the tawdry episode. To argue that some deterministic force was at play is to deny the sad fact that the affair was purely human.”
“To be sure, a grave moral failure occurred, but the psychology and philosophy that underpins this ongoing spectacle can very ably be explained as an act of free will,” Lennix asserted.
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Aside from Smith’s discussion of God and the supernatural in his acceptance speech, Lennix also specifically took issue with Smith slapping Chris Rock describing it as “an existential crisis for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.”
He added, “The incident was such a jolt to societal norms that it will gnaw away at our national conscience until somehow properly atoned for.”
Finally, he concluded the op-ed stating, “The only hope for a justifiable grace must involve Smith voluntarily returning his award for best actor.”
What do you make of Lennix claiming that Smith must give back his Oscar? What about his criticism of the Academy and the Oscars ceremony? Do you agree with his criticisms regarding Smith’s references to God and the supernatural?