After a highly anticipated wait, comedian Chris Rock took to the stage Sunday night to open the 88th Academy Awards. His opening monologue, primarily directed towards the issue of race, diversity and the #OscarsSoWhite boycott, received mixed reaction.
During his opening, the 51-year-old comedian took a swipe at Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who both decided to boycott the Oscars ceremony because of Hollywood's failure to recognize actors of color. "If he wants it all about merit, can we complain about the $20 million he got for Wild Wild West,' said Rock." He then went after Pinkett Smith, telling the Los Angeles crowd, "Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties: You can't boycott something no one invited you to."
However, his comments comparing the #OscarsSoWhite backlash to the protests of the 50s and 60s were considered by many to be off-base. "Black people did not protest [the Oscars]," Rock said. "Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time, you know, we were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother is swinging from a tree, it is really hard to care about best documentary."
Rock also shouted out a former Oscars winner, the actor Jamie Foxx for his performance in the 2004 film Ray. "But what about Jamie Foxx? Jamie Foxx is one of the best actors in the world," the comedian said. "Jamie Foxx was so good in Ray that they went to the hospital and unplugged Ray Charles. We dont need two of these!" Foxx recently spoke out against the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
"Me and Denzel [Washington] were like, 'What's the big deal? Hashtag act better,'" Foxx said, according to Page Six.
Rock ended his monologue by telling the Dolby Theatre crowd that "everything is not about race." The comedian also mentioned the #AskHerMore campaign, an initiative launched by the Representation Project at the 2014 Oscars. "Another big thing tonight: you're not allowed to ask women what they're wearing," Rock said. "#AskHerMore, you have to ask her more. Everything is not sexism, everything is not racism."