The Oscars' Crisis Team May Stop Another Slap... But Why Are They Really There?

This year’s Oscars will be unlike any other in recent memory. Even for the Oscars, it’ll feel like an awards show being played with the bowling alley bumpers up and the stabilisers on.

You see, the memory of The Slap – Will Smith, Chris Rock, etc. – and its long aftermath is still so sharp in organisers’ minds that they’ve set up a crack squadron of professionals who will neutralise anything untoward before it happens.

“We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place,” the Academy’s CEO Bill Kramer told Time magazine. "We’ve run many scenarios. So it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now but that we’re planning for just in case it does happen.”

Then again, as Time’s interviewer pointed out, of all the things you’d drill a crisis team in, what actually happened last year probably wouldn’t have cracked the top 20. That old Mike Tyson line about everyone having a plan until they get punched in the mouth has rarely been more appropriate.

But the crisis team is yet more proof that in the Oscars’ 94-year history, nothing has caused a more massive wave of shock, mockery, outrage and counter-outrage than The Slap.

Judd Apatow tweeted that Smith “could have killed” Rock. Nicki Minaj said: “You just got to witness in real-time what happens in a man’s soul when he looks over to the woman he loves & sees her holding back tears from a ‘little joke’ at her expense.”


One Direction’s Liam Payne was the UK’s representative on the matter. “Will Smith actually used to live behind my house,” said a visibly shaken Payne, on his way through a journey of three or four different accents.

So: some questions. Is this crisis team prepping for events which they’re extrapolating out from the slap, or just trying to think of the least likely things which could happen given the elements present in the room?

Even if you took some 30-sided dice and trained your crisis team to counter any two random celebs, a random flashpoint and a random unfortunate consequence those dice threw up, it’d be a long old while before you hit Best Actor nominee Will Smith plus Chris Rock plus alopecia gag equals assault by slapping.

The vision of a crisis team for perhaps the most steadfastly tedious celeb event of them all begs more questions. What will it look like? Will they have a uniform? Are they authorised to use lethal force? Will they just ask the seat-fillers who keep the crowd looking full when celebs go for a piss to carry tasers with them, just in case?

It’s a thinker, and a reminder of how differently the Oscars likes to carry itself. On these shores we’re on a strange run of awards dos where either far too much of interest has happened for the organisers’ liking, or nowhere near enough.

At the Baftas, Angela Bassett did the thing. A nation screamed. DJs mixed Ariana DeBose’s rap into their sets. The muddy war film won some awards, whatever. Angela Bassett did the thing.

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Meanwhile at the Brits, traditionally the UK’s most unpredictable and controversy-thirsty awards show, literally nothing happened. Host Mo Gilligan was reduced to asking famous people if they were having a good time. Lizzo, are you having a good time? Stanley Tucci, are you having a good time? Mo’s great, but the lack of vibe was palpable. Incidentally, this Oscars will be helmed by ol’ safe-hands Jimmy Kimmel.

“He’s funny; he’s respectful; his edges aren’t too sharp,” Bill Kramer told Time magazine. “I think people in the audience feel very safe and engaged with his energy.”

Kimmel is very, very Los Angeles, and very, very Hollywood. The studio where he shoots his late night show is literally across the road – and up a weirdly sparkly staircase in a mall – from the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars has been held since 2002. That studio is also next door to the Roosevelt Hotel, where the first ceremony was held in 1929.

You might also recall that it was Kimmel who jumped, unbidden, on stage to try and sort out the La La Land-Moonlight fiasco of 2017. Short of giving the gig to a robot shaped like a human-sized Oscar statuette and preloading it with old Billy Crystal routines, it’s about as safe a bet as they could have made.

That crisis team (they might want to work on the name, by the way, because it’s giving Samaritans) is fairly clearly a piece of signalling as much as it is an effective fighting force. We don’t know what their vibe will be but it’s not like they’re doing counter-terrorism stuff. They’re keeping an eye out for anyone trying to do Antonio Banderas in.


The message is: nothing like that will ever happen again. Which is odd, because nothing like that has ever happened before either. No-one who’s actually at the Oscars would ever have wanted The Slap to happen in the first place, or be gagging to get their own The Slap away this year.

Kramer, though, insisted that they’d really gone blue-sky with the threats to the safety and sanctity of the show.

“Because of last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars,” he said.

This is exactly the point. Every awards show was slightly freaked out by the idea of a comedian being challenged by someone they’d taken the piss out of. No other awards show thinks itself so important that it has to announce a crisis team of unknown composition, size or efficacy.

(Indeed, the possibility of a member of the crisis team being a little over-vigilant and twitchy feels like the most likely source of controversy. The possibility that one of them dump-tackles Andrea Riseborough into the wings is not zero.)

It all feels more like a flex than a fix. Whether the crisis team actually has to do anything is irrelevant. It’s a signal that the Oscars is simply too important – too precious and pure – to be sullied by violence. The Tonys wouldn’t need a crisis team. The Grammys would get by just fine. The Oscars, though? Get the SAS in.

Clearly, The Slap was a bad thing and we’d all be better off had it never happened. But it was the single biggest news story for about three weeks. Now the strange bind the Oscars finds itself in is that The Slap, which reaffirmed its place as the top of the mountain in Western culture, is the one thing it would like never to happen again.

From: Esquire UK

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