Writer Michael Cooper will be examining issues that affect the LGBTQ community weekly in this new column, "Time for Tea/LGBTQ News." Nothing is off limits, as he dives deep into the challenges faced on a daily basis. This week, the nonsense spouted by Kevin Hart...
In the age of social media, your homophobic past can come back to haunt you, as comedian Kevin Hart learned earlier this month. After it was announced that he would host next year's Oscars, homophobic tweets he made between 2009 and 2011 emerged, such as, "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." That was written in 2011, when Hart was 31 years old.
Hart's first response was to post an Instagram video on Dec. 6 that did not include an apology but instead said, "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 or explain their past, then do you."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which presents the Oscars, pressured Hart to apologize, so in the end he did, and stepped down as host. As of press time the Academy has not announced a replacement.
A few days later, some other (straight, male, cisgender) comics came to Hart's defense, most notably D.L. Hughley and Nick Cannon. Cannon actually dug up old tweets from white, female comedians such as Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler, claiming there's a double standard because they're white. "I don't mean this in a hateful way, but the new Bachelorette's a faggot," Silverman tweeted in 2010. Silverman responded by saying she stopped using the word years ago and that she thought at the time she was using it comically as an ally.
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And there is the key difference — regardless of race, Silverman was a huge proponent of gay marriage and has been an LGBTQ activist. Hart has not. Silverman retweeted a thread from Greg Hogben, the gay author of My Daughter's Army, where he further explained to Cannon: "The thing is, a lot of gay guys didn't take offense to these comments, because we didn't feel the violence or malicious intent behind it. Because we knew they were jokes. Because we knew these people were LGBT allies. … I can't say the same for Kevin Hart. I can't find a history of helping at-risk LGBT youth. To be honest, his tweets and his stand-up gig saying he'd ‘do anything not to have a gay son' made me bristle. In short, it felt malicious."
To Hart's original point, sure, people evolve (look at Hillary Clinton), but that still doesn't excuse public displays of hatred that a grown adult made in the not-too-distant past. GLAAD issued a statement on Hart's decision, saying, "Kevin Hart shouldn't have stepped down; he should have stepped up. Hart's apology to LGBTQ people is an important step forward, but he missed a real opportunity to use his platform and the Oscars stage to build unity and awareness. We would still welcome that conversation with him. The Academy has recently made significant strides in featuring diverse talent onstage and they should now double down on that commitment as they look for a new host."
And while GLAAD may be right about diversity (many are calling this year's awards season the "queerest" one yet, with movies such as Boy Erased, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite getting nominations for major prizes), it remains true that no out actor has ever won an Oscar, despite many straight cisgender actors taking home awards for playing gay characters. While actors should be able to play any sexual orientation, since that's the nature of acting, perhaps Hollywood needs to do a better job of casting LGBTQ actors in not only gay roles but also straight ones to rectify this unfortunate situation.
Nevertheless, it's definitely a step forward that this conversation is happening. And while the specifics of this situation may not have played out in an ideal manner, it will be interesting to see what direction the Motion Picture Academy chooses to go for its new host. As out lesbian and comedian Kate McKinnon said playing Ellen DeGeneres in a skit on Saturday Night Live about new hosts auditioning for the gig, "I'll host the Oscars, sure. I haven’t done anything controversial in my life, except for being gay. But people like that now, except for the guy that was supposed to host."