Opinion: Infamous Oscars moment should be no surprise

“You like me! You really like me!”

The above utterance, attributed to Sally Field during her acceptance speech for the 1985 Academy Award as Best Actress, ranks as one of the most inane observations ever made by a motion picture star.

How bad was it?

So bad that Ms. Field, with the help of two major media outlets, mounted a campaign to “correct the record” some 37 years later. Featured on the cover of this year’s Oscar preview edition of “Variety” in late March and on the small screen via NBC’s “Today,” she insisted that she actually said, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!”

Lest you think that her clarification offers a distinction without a difference, beware of incurring “The Wrath of Sally.” Said Ms. Field about those who refuse to accurately quote her, “Sometimes I want to punch them in the nose.”

Talk about foreshadowing!

It wasn’t a punch in the nose from Field but a slap across the face of emcee Chris Rock, delivered suddenly, dramatically and loudly by actor Will Smith, that will ensure that the 94th Academy Awards ceremony will rank as the most infamous such gathering in motion picture history.

Unless you’ve deliberately gone “off the grid,” you’ve probably seen replays of the scene. Smith, enraged at a joke that included his wife’s name, rushed the stage and assaulted the comedian. Remarkably, Rock maintained his equipoise — though he voiced his surprise in street language: “Wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked the (expletive) out of me!”

Smith, returning to his seat, responded in obscene outrage, twice shouting: “Keep my wife’s name out your (expletive) mouth!”

It was shocking — even by Hollywood standards.

But in retrospect, it is not surprising.

The entertainment industry has worked overtime to erode basic American values, while its trade association spokesmen and legions of well-compensated public relations experts have insisted that the “artists” for whom they work are, in fact, exemplars of our First Amendment freedoms.

But it goes beyond the oft-repeated concern that liberty is being confused with licentiousness. Now it gives license to criminally violent conduct, permitted at a public event, provided that the individual engaged in that conduct is one of the “beautiful people.”

Make no mistake: That is what we witnessed at the Oscars, and it was exceedingly ugly. Compounding the ugliness was the subsequent announcement of Smith winning the Academy Award for Best Actor. Undoubtedly, Smith was not acting when he apologized to the collective “creative community” — but not Rock personally — for his violent reaction to the joke.

By the next day’s news cycle, social media served as the conduit for remorse and repentance. Smith apologized to Rock, writing in an Instagram post that “I was out of line and I was wrong.” Rock responded by recognizing that his joke “had crossed a line I shouldn’t have.”

Meantime, the aforementioned PR experts maintained a familiar line to explain why the Academy and the telecast producers continued the program with no intervention by law enforcement: “The Show Must Go On!”

Don’t expect a collective “change in conscience” from Tinseltown. Predictable political pronouncements, praising the left and criticizing the right, remain the currency of the reel-related realm. Not only did they pop up with regularity during the slap-marred Oscars telecast; so too were they supplemented by Field in her “Variety” cover story.

Field returned to a martially themed message directed at Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas. “If you see them coming toward me, those two governors specifically, lead me out of the way, because I cannot be responsible for what I would do,” Field said.

Florida and Texas authorities may conduct a “threat assessment,” but more likely some B-movie magnate will concoct a new screenplay for the aging starlet. Evoking TV memories of over a half-century ago combined with the 2001 Oscar winner for Best Picture, get ready for “Gidget goes for a Gladiator!”

Just don’t expect to like it.