A year after the slap heard around the world at the 2022 Oscars, Will Smith continues his slow comeback to the big screen. In late 2022, he starred in the film Emancipation, which followed the journey of Peter, an enslaved man fleeing to union army base Baton Rouge in the 1860s shortly after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The film went to streaming on Apple TV+
Today, he announced a very different type of project–a fourth installment in the Bad Boys franchise that started in 1995. In a joyful announcement, Smith reunites with his costar in the franchise, Martin Lawrence.
IT'S ABOUT THAT TIME! pic.twitter.com/hGWToUb3tm
— Martin Lawrence (@realmartymar) January 31, 2023
The Bad Boys movies follow Smith and Lawrence as they play Miami-Dade detectives who unravel mysteries in a dramedic fashion. Fans of the franchise were quick to take to Twitter amid the announcement.
Rush Hour 4 and Bad Boys 4 both coming out pic.twitter.com/EcbV2qnkI8
— Laugh Entertainment (@Laughent21) January 31, 2023
I'll be honest. It's been about 90 minutes since I read the Bad Boys 4 Life news and I am STILL BUZZING like that cute girl in 5th grade told her friend to tell me that she thinks I'm cute. WHAT A DAY!
— Josh Macuga (@JoshMacuga) January 31, 2023
Despite fans of the franchise’s excitement at the announcement, Smith’s Oscars controversy continues to loom over his career. Variety‘s research in August 2022 determined that his Q score dramatically dropped and that his altercation with Chris Rock damaged his reputation.
The slap sparked a lot of conversation surrounding the ethics of comedy, misogynoir in Hollywood, and the harmful angry Black man stereotype. Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock after he made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith. Pinkett-Smith sported a new buzzcut at the Oscars, which was a result of alopecia. The alopecia diagnosis was not known by Chris Rock at the time of his speech.
The incident, which got Smith banned from the Academy for the next 10 years, also continued conversation on the Time’s Up movement, which seeks to hold men in Hollywood accountable for sexual assault and harassment.
Comparisons were drawn to other actors who have committed far more serious offenses and are given lesser sentence. One recent example was Ezra Miller, who stands accused of assaulting several people in restaurants and grooming an indigenous activist who was a minor. Their suspension from The Flash and acting in general has only lasted less than a year.
— Rien Forme (@rien4me) January 31, 2023
Smith did issue an apology following the slap, but the consequences with the Academy still stand.
Some long time fans of the actor haven’t wavered in their support amid the ongoing cultural discussion. Outside of the controversy, Smith continues to inspire young Black filmmakers and actors.
Will Smith Really pulled up to Tougaloo on the hush and… i'm still trying to process that. So dope that the students got to experience that. That's special! (and that movie on Apple is good too!) pic.twitter.com/SvqVppUS1o
— C.J. Lawrence (@CJLawrenceEsq) January 31, 2023
The Fresh Prince of Jackson! Will Smith visited Tougaloo College today to teach a workshop for filmmaking and film production 🎬
(Source: Whitney McDowell-Robinson) pic.twitter.com/FQmZv8MkS2
— WLBT 3 On Your Side (@WLBT) January 31, 2023
90s films like the Bad Boys franchise have continued to find new life on streaming services after scenes posted to TikTok go viral. The phenomenon has specifically impacted romantic comedies the most, namely the trends that were inspired by 10 Things I Hate About You and How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Following these, Bad Boys has already crept up on Gen Z audiences on the platform. Younger audiences on social media appear to be the most sympathetic demographic towards Smith’s controversy, and may bring a new generation into the theaters upon its 2023 release.
Bad Boys 4 is currently in its early stages, and a shooting schedule and release date are yet to be announced.