On December 4thof last year, the announcement of Kevin Hart as the next host of the Oscars was meet with quiet jubilation. After years of white hosts, it seemed appropriate to have a comedian more aligned with the Oscars’ new diversified image. Hart himself has proven himself to be a dependable box office draw, with his films totalling over $3.5 billion internationally, while on social media he has 34 million Twitter followers and 65 million on Instagram.
However, almost the next day old tweets from 2009 and 2010resurfaced showing Hart making a series of blatantly homophobic jokes. This followed with exerts from his 2010 stand up special Serious Funny where he said he would beat his son if he ever exhibited gay behaviour.
“One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear,” he said. “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.
“Now with that being said, I don’t know if I handled my son’s first gay moment correctly. Every kid has a gay moment but when it happens, you’ve got to nip it in the bud!”
This is far from the first time Hart has been marred by a homophobic controversary. In 2015 he gave a particularly cringe-inducing interview for his film Get Hard where defended the film’s homophobic jokes.
Benjamin Lee of The Guardian called the film one long gay joke, writing at the time the makers of the film “have such an obsession with (gay rape). It punctuates every other line of dialogue and not even in particularly inventive ways, the script is essentially multiple, exhaustive variations on ‘you’re going to get raped.’”
Defending the film to out journalist Louis Virtel from HitFix Hart simply said: “Funny is funny, regardless of what area it’s coming from.”
All of these instances were brought up in a 2015 Rolling Stone profile. Hart didn’t apologise for the comments or the homophobia, instead he blamed an overly politically correct climate. In reference to his joke about beating his son if he was gay he said: “I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now,” he said. “I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can.”
"I have nothing against gay people, be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will." - Kevin Hart
All of this culminated with the Oscars offering Hart an ultimatum: host the 2019 Oscars and apologise for your comments, or step down. In an Instagram post on December 6thHart chose to step down, refusing to apologise.
“I passed on the apology,” he wrote. “The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up. I’ve addressed it. I’ve spoken on it. I’ve said where the rights and wrongs were. I’ve said who I am now versus who I was then.”
Then, barely a month later, the whole issue was brought up again. Hart appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show where she defended him, saying those trying to bring him down were just “trolls” and that “they're gonna win if you don't host the Oscars. You can’t let them destroy you and they can't destroy you because you have too much talent."
Hart, again, went on the defensive, saying he’s apologised again and again and that world should just hurry up and move on.
The appearance was immediately met with backlash. Many were quick to point out Hart never actually apologised or showed any remorse for his remarks.
“The only thing Keven Hart proved by going on Ellen was that he is a terrible actor with zero genuine remorse who didn’t have the decency to address his ignorance. No, they weren’t ‘haters’ who came after you. It was the LGBTQI+ community because we’re sick to shit of it,” wrote Harry Cook.
The Hollywood Reporter's Kris Rehl said, "I was shocked to see Ellen throw her weight behind his self-victimization."
“I feel like if you’re not homophobic anymore, you shouldn’t mind apologizing for your past homophobia again and again and again,” wrote Louis Virtel, the journalist from the Get Hard interview.“I don’t want to hear a hostile retelling of how we didn’t hear your meagre apology the first time.”
“The only thing Keven Hart proved by going on Ellen was that he is a terrible actor with zero genuine remorse."
Vulture ran a whole feature dedicated to finding the previous apologies Hart had referred to over and over again: they found nothing.
In a powerful segment, Don Lemon, a CNN reporter, urged Hart to be a better ally to the LGBT+ community, accusing him of turning “himself into a victim instead of acknowledging the real victims of violent and sometimes deadly homophobia.”
“Kevin, if anything, this is the time to hear other people out. To understand why they might have been offended,” Lemon continues.
Then, last Monday, Hart finally issued a formal apology on a SiriusXM radio show. He also stepped down, again, from hosting the Oscars.
While some might dismiss this whole incident as political correctness gone overboard it’s important to note, like Don Lemon does, that these jokes have very real-world consequences. Homophobic jokes, particularly violent ones, normalises the othering and abuse of LGBT+ people, it makes light of horrific circumstances, and has been proven to cause mental illness and depression for queer people. Rewarding this behaviour, or even ignoring it, gives permission for it to continue. This incident should be taken as a learning moment on the appropriate (and inappropriate) way to be an LGBT+ ally.