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Academy Award-winning actor John Wayne had a despicable moment at the 1973 Oscars when Native American actor Sacheen Littlefeather gave a speech. However, his action only earned widespread backlash in more recent years. Wayne is going viral on Twitter in eye-opening comparisons to the 2022 Oscars Will Smith slap heard around the world.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences takes action over John Wayne 1973 Oscars incident and Will Smith slap

John Wayne and Will Smith at the Oscars. Wayne is smiling in a black-and-white photo wearing a tux. Smith is wearing a suit, holding up his Oscars statue.
L-R: John Wayne and Will Smith | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The 1973 Oscars saw Marlon Brando win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather. However, he wasn’t there to accept the award. He boycotted the award show to bring awareness to the negative treatment of Native Americans across Hollywood. Additionally, he wanted to bring attention to the Wounded Knee Occupation. So, he asked Littlefeather to take the stage in his place to give a speech, forcing the world to hear her powerful words. Half of the crowd booed her, and Wayne nearly charged the Oscars stage to assault the actor.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially published an apology to Littlefeather for her mistreatment. President David Rubin called her statement “powerful” and called her mistreatment “unwarranted” and “unjustified.” He acknowledged that the 1973 Oscars moment is ingrained in the award show’s history forever and wants to see progress continue to push forward.

Meanwhile, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face at the 2022 Oscars for making an inappropriate joke about his wife, Jaida Pinkett Smith. As a result, the punishment was a 10-year ban from the Academy for Smith.

Social media compares John Wayne Oscars fiasco to Will Smith slap

Social media is happy to see an apology, although they point out that it took an entire 50 years for it to come. They believe that the Academy should have supported the actor from the very beginning. However, they threatened her with security guards hauling her off the stage if she went over her allotted time.

The 1973 Oscars conversation involving Wayne heated up when Twitter users started to compare it to Smith slapping Rock at the 2022 ceremony.

“Mind you, she was nearly assaulted by John Wayne for this, but they were quick to ban Will Smith for a slap,” one Twitter user wrote.

Other Twitter users jumped on the bandwagon, believing that Wayne should have had some repercussions for his behavior at the Oscars. Many of these posts blame racism for the Academy’s behavior and lack thereof.

Conversely, another Twitter user believed that Wayne didn’t deserve any action taken against him after the 1973 Oscars. “So, in other words, John Wayne assaulted no one, and Will Smith assaulted someone … and your point?”

Different perspectives place varying gravity on each of the situations, weighing one as worse than the other.

Award shows need to do better


John Wayne Joked He’d Punch Anybody Not Singing at the 1973 Oscars

Regardless of which side of the fence folks fall on, all of Twitter appears to agree that award shows need to do better. Wayne and Smith’s behavior has no place at the Oscars, and the Academy shouldn’t condone it. The organization is clearly taking action through its apology to Littlefeather and Smith’s punishment, although many crowds remain unsatisfied.

The 2023 Oscars takes place on March 12, and viewers will have to wait and see what changes they plan to implement. Will there be security guards stopping audience members from charging the stage? Will there be other precautions put in place?