Kevin Hart was supposed to host the Oscars. The comedian was tapped by the Academy on Tuesday to preside over February’s ceremony. The gig lasted less than three days.
As is customary in this genre of controversy, it all comes down to insufficient wokeness. Hart, as it turns out, made a few gay jokes on Twitter earlier this decade. “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay,’” he tweeted in 2011. In 2009, Hart referred to someone as a “fat faced fag.” In 2010, he said someone’s profile picture resembled “a gay bill board for AIDS.”
He’s made several other similar jokes on Twitter and elsewhere over the course of his career. None of it is particularly funny, nor is it particularly hateful. But Hart had the perfect response to his critics.
“I’m almost 40 years old,” he said on Instagram. “If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past, then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man.”
Declining to apologize, Hart explained, “We feed into the Internet trolls and we reward them, I’m not going to do it, man. I’m going to be me, and stand my ground.”
Note Hart’s concession that he’s “evolve[d]” since making the jokes in question. Allowing him to host the Oscars, then, would hardly be an endorsement of his prior sentiments, since Hart himself no longer endorses them.
But he was up against a Hollywood pile-on. From progressive entertainment outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to stars like Billy Eichner and Jamie Lee Curtis, the pressure mounted quickly. Indeed, before the books closed on Thursday, Hart had stepped down from the job, citing his desire not to be “a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists.”
“I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he added.
It shouldn’t need to be said that our culture’s views on homosexuality have shifted rapidly in recent years. Agree or disagree, Hart has by all accounts shifted right along with society. But nothing is ever good enough.
That’s exactly why he should have stood his ground and refused to resign or apologize. Hart is one of the most popular and successful comedians of his generation. His star power would have been better exerted standing fast against the trolls than caving to the insatiable wokeness police.
Indeed, given Hart’s influence, and the magnitude of the Oscars platform, this particular conflict represented a big opportunity to diminish the power of the trolls he rightfully disdains. Instead, Hart chose to feed them.
That’s not to assume it was actually much of a choice. Hart’s brand is a business, after all, and the Academy likely afforded him few options. But all of his critics at THR and Variety and elsewhere should know they just empowered a beast that would have no problem taking any of them down as well, should an outdated or regrettable joke from years ago ever surface. Had the media and the Academy agreed to proceed with Hart, acknowledging his “[evolution]” and giving little oxygen to his detractors, it would have set a major precedent.
Now, Hart’s critics may want to consider whether railroading the opportunity of a lifetime for one of the country’s most successful African-American entertainers— a man who’s clearly changed his mind to match their own positions on the content in question— was really worth it.