Movies 7 December 2018 | 12:15

Kevin Hart steps down as Oscars host amid homophobia row

07 December 2018 12:15

US-based actor and comedian Kevin Hart confirmed yesterday that he will no longer be hosting next year’s Oscars, after public outcry relating to his past homophobic behaviour. The controversy is partly the consequence of some tweets, containing homophobic hate speech, that he published a decade ago. The slurs didn’t surface recently, and he has acknowledged them in the past, but his appointment as the host of next year’s prestigious Academy Awards and the fact that he has now started to delete them, has caused the issue to come up once again.

There are members of the LGBTQ+ community who are up for awards in next year’s ceremony and a number of the films – such as Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller, 2018) Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton, 2018), Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer, 2018), and A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, 2018) – focus on the continuing issues that affect that societal subset. So, the question that a lot of people are posing now is: is it appropriate to have someone like Hart hosting the event? The answer is, in my opinion, a big fat ‘no’, which is why there are increasing calls for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to totally disavow him.

The 39-year-old comedian-actor has a long history of homophobic behaviour, his charge sheet includes vile stand-up jokes based around egregious homophobia, a raft of rape jokes in his 2015 movie Get Hard (described by The AV Club’s AA Dowd as ‘a 100-minute gay joke’), to anti-gay statements in interviews and tweets saying that he avoids behaviour that might make him ‘gay by association’. When you put all this together, it’s hard not assume that Hart holds some very problematic opinions.

Here’s a gag of his, from 2010: ‘One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear. Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will. Now with that being said, I don’t know if I handled my son’s first gay moment correctly. Every kid has a gay moment but when it happens, you’ve got to nip it in the bud!’

This type of commentary continued until around 2015, when Hart’s profile rose and he realised that it might well affect his career. When Rolling Stone raised the issue with him that year, he acknowledged that his homophobia wasn’t going to continue, not because he had realised that it was wrong, but because the social and political climate had changed. ‘I wouldn’t tell that joke today,’ he said. ‘Because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now. I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can.’

Erik Anderson, founder of industry publication Awards Watch, said: ‘Considering how many of the Oscars’ biggest fans are women and gay men it’s quite something for the Academy to hire a guy who beat one wife, cheated on another when she was eight months pregnant and said one of his biggest fears is his son growing up and being gay.’

Despite previously saying that hosting the Oscars was his ‘goal for a long time’, Hart confirmed yesterday that he has chosen to step down from the role. He tweeted: ‘I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologise to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words of the past.’

There’s no doubt that Hart has no place at the Oscars. When you look at the issues raised in Boy Erased – a biographical drama about a boy forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program after being publicly outed for his sexuality – it would be crass and offensive to suggest otherwise.

There has been no real attempt on his behalf to atone for his behaviour until now. And as society becomes more, for want of a better word, ‘woke’ we face some questions when it comes to dealing with celebrities with troubled pasts. How do we proceed?

Should people like Hart be cast aside, ostracised and ignored? Or should we accept that it’s not going to happen again? If he makes a $10m donation to an LGBTQ+ charity and takes five years out, could we forgive his disgusting past? Does he deserve another chance? There are no simple answers. Society’s norms and values are evolving, we’re learning as we go. Hopefully Hart is too.