While some might view comedian Kevin Hart as a victim of political correctness after being called out for anti-gay jokes he made years ago, others see the response to him as the latest example of how Americans are increasingly intolerant of blatant discrimination.
Not long after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that comedian Kevin Hart would be hosting the 2019 Oscars ceremony, there was backlash about Hart’s past tweets and comments directed toward the LGBTQ community.
As the backlash grew, anyone who has watched these situations play out in the past knew there was a strong chance that Hart ultimately would not be fulfilling a long-held dream of hosting one of the most prestigious awards shows in entertainment. The comedian announced Friday on Twitter that he was stepping down from hosting the ceremony after the academy asked him to apologize for his past tweets — something he initially refused to do.
This is not the first time the Oscars has made headlines surrounding its relationship with historically marginalized groups. Activist April Reign helped bring attention to the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees in 2015 with her hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. And the academy apologized in 2016 for jokes host and comedian Chris Rock made about Asian children that critics deemed racist.
But this might be the first time that conversations about diversity and inclusion involving the Oscars attracted this much attention after the 2016 election, which saw identity politics become a far more common lens through which many view politics and culture.
In many ways, Hollywood is one of the most pro-LGBT spaces in our society. But that Hart may have been hired without a full vetting is still telling.
“The entertainment industry is like any other institution in our country. It’s not perfect,” activist Keith Boykin, who worked on LGBT issues in the Clinton administration, told the Fix. “The industry is still evolving and slowly adapting to demands for inclusion.”
In the current political climate, where seven in 10 Americans think homosexuality should be accepted in society, according to the Pew Research Center, there’s been a growing desire to see LGBT people in greater positions of visibility and influence — especially in politics — leading those conversations. Openly LGBT candidates were elected in record numbers during last month’s midterms.
While one of Hart’s responses to his critics accused them of having “negative energy” by bringing up his past attacks toward a particular community, the comedian previously seemed aware of the real consequences of isolating a segment of the American — and global — audience. He told Variety that he was unwilling to criticize President Trump, in part, to avoid alienating the president’s supporters.
When you jump into that political realm you’re alienating some of your audience. The world today, it’s really not a laughing matter. It’s serious. I don’t want to draw attention to things I don’t have nice things to say about.
When I used the word ‘alienate,’ here’s why. The way that I see it, my job as a comedian is to spread positivity. To make people laugh. And I don’t want to draw attention to what’s already pissing us as a people off.
Everybody’s not going to see things the way I want to see them. And they shouldn’t. That’s what makes us individuals. In that particular realm, I keep my opinions to myself. And like I said, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say it at all. I’m not in the business of trashing people.
Hart’s apology to the LGBT community, in which he explained that he is evolving, has attracted quite a bit of attention based on retweets. He explained that he is becoming a person who is less interested in disrespecting groups of people. When this controversy fades, as all do, the comedian who built his brand on crossing lines will likely have the opportunity to be more mindful of those on the receiving end of his punchlines.