I had two immediate thoughts the moment the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Wednesday that box-office-gold comedian Kevin Hart would host the upcoming Oscars. The first was, “Wow, good choice and what a stamp of approval for the funny man who’s worked so hard for that shot!” The second was, “He’s going to do something or say something during the telecast to f*&% it up.”
After all, the hosting gig is a thankless job, akin to the State of the Union rebuttal or the now-former comedian slot at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Just about anything you say will be criticized. Who knew Hart’s f*&% up would come so quickly after being chosen!
Because of his woeful reaction to the resurfacing of years-old anti-LGBTQ comments and tweets, Hart announced on Thursday that he would step away from hosting the Oscars and apologized to the LGBTQ community. It didn’t have to be this way. He could have been a part of the magic on Feb. 24 if only he fully appreciated the mess he was in.
“My team calls me, ‘Oh, my God, Kevin, everyone’s upset about tweets you did years ago,' ” he said in an Instagram video. “Guys, I’m almost 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. ... I’m the wrong guy, man.”
Then, Hart made matters worse with another video after the Academy called on him to apologize or lose the coveted Hollywood assignment, an ultimatum he rejected in the worst possible way.
“I chose to pass, I passed on the apology,” Hart said. “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’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 space in my life.”
That's not how this works. That's not how life works.
Evolving on bigotry, seeing that your offensive words are hurtful and apologizing for them, is a great thing. It signifies growth, acceptance and empathy. But evolving on issues of bigotry is akin to coming out. Making amends for past offenses never really ends with that one mea culpa, just as you never come out only once. Every time you meet someone new or are in a new situation, you are confronted with the prospect of coming out all over again. I came out to my mother in 1990, yet I still hear from people who tell me they didn’t know I was gay until I mentioned it on television or in a column.
The lesson and reminder for Hart is that not everyone knows your story. Despite Hart’s incredible success in the past few years, not everyone knows who he is. Hosting the Oscars put him in the stratosphere, where the scrutiny is more intense than anything he’s ever experienced and where the margin for error is nil.
When confronted with his past bigotry, Hart should have apologized again immediately and profusely. He should have used the moment as a teachable one by aligning with an LGBTQ rights organization such as the Human Rights Campaign or GLAAD to demonstrate that he understands the hurt he caused and that he continues to make amends. Instead, Hart played the victim — to victims of his comedy and those who love them. As much as I was looking forward to Hart’s big moment on Tinseltown’s most important night, he ultimately showed that he wasn’t ready for prime time.
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