Over the past 24 hours, after it was announced that Kevin Hart would be the host of the 91st Oscars, word spread on Twitter, first by AwardsWatch’s Erik Anderson, that Hart had gotten into hot water years ago after he told a story about trying to prevent his son from being gay. He later explained the point of his story as stemming from his own insecurity, coming from a place of fear rather than anger, disgust, whatever. Homophobia is literally fear of homosexuality so the literal translation is correct – it was a homophobic bit. But his apology was, I thought, a teaching moment for him. Once he heard from the gay community he realized how much hurt it caused and vowed that would not repeat his mistake in the future.
However, The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee has gone even deeper and scanned Kevin Hart’s tweets going back to 2010 and unearthed slurs against the gay community that are pretty blatant. Lee says:
Hiring Hart is an indicative misstep that highlights how homophobia, casual or blatant, is still de-prioritised in comparison with other discriminatory belief systems. In the past few years, the Twitter feeds, routines and off-stage behaviours of comics have been pored over for signs of impropriety and numerous figures have been duly taken to task. But gay jokes remain somehow acceptable. Look at straight comedian Peter Serafinowicz’s string of redubbed Trump videos, meant to be hilariously funny and unthreatening because he was speaking in a “gay voice” or check out straight comedians Chelsea Handler and Jimmy Kimmel comparing their Republican enemies to bottoms because that somehow equals lesser in their book or on a related note, cis comedians Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais continuing to ridicule trans people in recent specials.
Hart’s obsession with making unfunny, disrespectful and inappropriate jokes about a community he has shown nothing but bile for along with a string of unrepentant responses to any criticism paints him as someone entirely undeserving of a spot on the Oscars stage. If the Academy wants to progress and remain relevant, handpicking a man with a history of homophobia is a flashing red siren of an issue, a middle finger up to the LGBT community and a sign that Oscars might no longer be quite as white but they remain aggressively straight.
The Academy may now have no choice but to remove Hart as the Oscar host for the 91st Oscars. Lee makes a pretty good case that, despite Hart’s apology, he’s clearly someone who has derived much humor by making fun of the gay community. You can’t really do that unless you yourself are gay, just like you can’t make race jokes unless you aren’t white. We are well beyond the point where this is acceptable.
As you all know, I am not a big fan of call-out culture, not a big fan of punishing people for their past, especially not for past tweets. In this case, it first appeared that it was just one joke. Now it has revealed itself to be bigger. You can’t really offend a whole community for so many years and have that be forgotten. Hart as the host would be a slap in the face for the Oscars’ most devoted fan base. While there is no doubt that as popular as Hart would boost their ratings significantly, it’s possible that any new Oscar viewers would be offset by the loss of many other devoted Oscar viewers who will be unwilling to watch the show if Hart hosts. They have to find someone whose past has already been thoroughly vetted. There really isn’t much more to say about it.