Make no mistake, Kevin Hart has no one to blame but himself.
Three days ago, December 4th, Academy announced Hart as their host for the 91st Academy Awards. The search to find a suitable emcee, by all accounts, was arduous. The ceremony requires someone who’s charming, funny, biting, but not controversial, political, but not partisan, young, yet well know. Hart, though not the first choice in the minds of some, appeared to be an adequate pick nonetheless.
However, that changed when a past controversy arose. Back in 2010, Hart in his comedy special Seriously Funny, quipped to the audience, “One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear.”
“Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic. Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will,” he later followed up.
Hart also tweeted multiple homophobic slurs, tweets that were deleted the day he became host of the Oscars. “You look like a gay version of Chris Brown. Put a shirt on F–,” tweeted Hart.
When presented with his past quotes, the comedian declined to apologize, stating he had addressed the above content prior. Hart did indeed address the controversy in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone. “The funny thing within that joke is it’s me getting mad at my son because of my own insecurities — I panicked. It has nothing to do with him, it’s about me.”
When confronted about said quotes a few hours ago, the comedian pushed back. “Stop looking for reasons to be negative” posted Hart on Instagram, “Stop searching for reasons to be angry.” Later, the comedian revealed that the Oscars had given him an ultimatum to apologize or relinquish hosting the ceremony. The comedian chose the latter.
The decision to step down ended the oddest saga in Academy Awards history, since the La La Land/Moonlight incident of 2017. Much like that instance, the Kevin Hart controversy was a self-inflicted wound. The Academy’s chairman, John Bailey, should have been aware of the past quotes and tweets. Whether the Academy was cognizant and tried to ignore them, or didn’t research, demonstrates the desperation they must have felt when they arrived in December with no host. The haste to find someone, anyone, may have led to this disaster.
Nevertheless, nothing could have prepared Bailey for Hart’s refusal to apologize. One can only speculate why the comedian declined to issue a simple and short statement demonstrating some remorse.
The indignation shown by Hart, without a thought of addressing the issue in a constructive manner was one that was set up to fail. Hart may have found the questions pertaining to his past to be undignified, considering he was bailing out the Academy and had to switch around shooting dates on an upcoming film to accommodate the ceremony. However, that’s far to kind of an excuse.
The comedian also might have wanted out. In a town like Hollywood, where most stars have learned what fight or flight means, his decision to fight was baffling. Hart knew what would come, but then again, he knew what would come. Hosting the Oscars is a dream for many… until they become the host.
Still, Hart was clearly enthusiastic when he received the news of hosting.
So, maybe Hart just doesn’t get it.
In the same 2015 Rolling Stone interview as above, there’s a quote that points to today’s events. “I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now. I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?” explained the comedian.
The Rolling Stone interview wasn’t an apology. Hart never says that one shouldn’t use the word “f–” or make jokes about gays. Instead, the emphasis was on “sensitivity.” The jokes aren’t wrong, rather the audience. We’re making a big deal out of this. We’re creating a spectacle. We’re setting him up for failure. The outlook feeds into why this situation came to a head. Hart didn’t want to apologize because Hart doesn’t find himself to be the problem. “I’m in love with the man I am becoming. You LIVE and YOU LEARN & YOU MATURE” said the comedian on Instagram.
Ironically, Hart doesn’t appear to have matured much. Following his advice in his 2015 Rolling Stone interview, he walked away rather deal with the “spectacle.” In actuality, the mature response would have been to apologize. In truth, Hart’s course of action smacks of petulance. There will be other reports, soon, which complain of a “PC” culture or over sensitivity, but it was Hart, instead, who demonstrated an over sensitivity in regards to those who wanted the comedian to just show how he “LOVE[D] EVERYONE.” Rather than show that love through action or creating a moment for growth or for activism, sadly, he walked away.
That’s a shame because homophobia is still a prevalent issue in the black community. There are segments who believe it to be a sin. That’s what made the story of Moonlight so inspiring. Hart could have become a beacon on this issue. He might have made other gay black little boys feel less alone. However, by walking away, even with the last second apology accompanying his resignation, he’s set up himself up for failure. And Kevin Hart only has himself to blame.