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Are We Supposed to Feel Sorry for Kevin Hart?

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Unless you’ve been living on Uranus — sadly, I never get tired of Uranus humor — you’ve probably heard more about Kevin Hart over the last two weeks than you heard the rest of your life. That’s because Hart got booted from his role as Oscars host after some of his anti-gay tweets and Instagram posts surfaced.

As Variety reported, some of the tweets were feverishly deleted, leading to an Instagram video from the comedian that only made matters worse:

“My team calls me, ‘Oh my God, Kevin, everyone’s upset by tweets you did years ago,’” he said in that video. “Guys, I’m nearly 40 years old. 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 the past, do you. I’m the wrong guy, man.”

To my knowledge, nobody asked or expected Hart to justify his bigotry. People were looking for an apology, not a justification. Something from the heart, not the fist.

Variety continued: “Those words rang as a defiant non-apology for many. Hours later, Hart resurfaced with another video stating that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had given him an ultimatum: Apologize or we’ll find a new host. ‘I chose to pass on the apology,’ the 39-year-old actor-comedian said in the video. ‘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. I’ve done it. I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old when I’ve moved on and I’m in a completely different place in my life.’

“That, too, rang hollow for many,” Variety went on unnecessarily. “Less than two hours later, Hart announced via Twitter that he was removing himself from the gig, and he finally offered the apology everyone was looking for.”

One interesting aspect to this sour little story is the way people sprang to Hart’s defense. I’ll quote some of them later, but first I’d like to quote one of Hart’s “jokes”:

From 2011: “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.’”

Hilarious, huh? As I always say, there’s nothing quite like a joke about breaking a dollhouse over your son’s head.

The Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman noted that “Hart has a history of homophobic remarks and close to a hundred anti-gay social media posts.” A Twitter user observed that “Hart’s Twitter page was filled with antigay sentiment until around 2010… which also happens to be the year his career really took off after his first stand-up special was a hit… the same stand-up special where he ‘joked’ about how his ‘biggest fear’ in life was having a gay son.”

And Queerty reported that in 2015, Hart told Rolling Stone that “he probably wouldn’t make that same joke again, not because it was homophobic, but because people have become too sensitive and it’s just not worth the backlash.” Now that’s enlightenment!

Jerry Seinfeld weighed in.

“Kevin is in a position, because he’s a brilliant comedian, to kind of decide what he wants to do,” Seinfeld said in an interview for “Sunday Today” with Willie Geist. “He doesn’t have to step down, but he can. And when you look at that situation, well who got screwed in that deal?”

I’d say gay people, though obviously Seinfeld was going for the Academy on the grounds that Hart was indispensable.

And why are LGBTQ folks screwed? Because we’re first expected to go along with any joke made at our expense, no matter how cruel and insulting, and when we don’t, we get blamed for not having a sense of humor — or worse.

Witness Albert Eisenberg, writing for philly.com: “The optics of the shaming of Hart, a successful black comedian, by a mostly white LGBT Hollywood establishment were horrible.”

As though the “optics” of a father bashing his kid over the head with a dollhouse weren’t downright depraved.

Comedian Nick Cannon responded to the controversy by digging up old anti-gay tweets from Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham, a strategy that only proved that straight white female comedians can be as cruel and demeaning to LGBTQ folks as straight black male comedians.

Jason Okundaye, writing for The Independent, is one of the few commentators with something useful to add to the conversation: “As Hart is someone who has based sections of his comic performance on degrading gay people, and makes little apology for it, I have zero sympathy for him and feel indifferent to his resignation. I’m unmoved by the controversy itself, because I’ve already had the pleasure of discovering that many black household names in comedy like Hart, Bernie Mac and Eddie Murphy have long sacrificed the dignity of gay people like me for the sake of a cheap two-liner.”

Okundaye ends his piece with this challenge: “Even in international policy, when Denmark announced it was withholding aid from Tanzania due to anti-gay comments pedaled by a senior politician, I thought of those Tanzanian LGBT+ people, who would not only suffer the economic consequences alongside straight Tanzanians but would also be scapegoated. As black LGBT+ people our identities often feel fragmented — this is intensified when we witness conversations on race and LGBT+ rights where we are a glaring omission. But people should listen to us, consider us, platform us. We have a lot to say, and we can probably say it better.”

Take a look at the difference between Hart’s first statement, the defiant one obviously written by him, and his second, the one that sounds like it was penned by a publicist in heavy damage-control mode. 1) “So I just got a call from the academy, and that call basically said, ‘Kevin, apologize for your tweets of old, or we’re going to have to move on and find another host,’ talking about the tweets from 2009, 2010. I chose to pass. I passed on the apology. The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times.” 2) “I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscars. This is because I do not want 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. I’m sorry that I hurt people. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.”

I don’t.

Follow @EdSikov on Facebook and Twitter.

Updated 1:44 pm, December 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

me again from Queens says:
Who still watches the Academy Awards anyway ? A bunch of mediocrity and mediocre people clapping for themselves.
Dec. 21, 2018, 12:02 pm
Ed Sikov from Union Square says:
I watch it every year. It's only boring for people who don't care about movies. Last year's Best Picture winner - MOONLIGHT - was hardly mediocre.
Dec. 22, 2018, 2:04 pm
me again from Queens says:
I care about movies. That's why I think the Academy awards are lame now. Besides, nothing cool happens at the event like streakers or Brando sending the Native American girl on to refuse the award or even Vanessa Redgrave causing a fuss.
Dec. 23, 2018, 1:47 pm
Ed Sikov from Union Square says:
You remember Sasheen Littlefeather! All is forgiven.
Dec. 26, 2018, 2:03 pm
me again from Queens says:
okay
Dec. 27, 2018, 2:12 pm

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