Opinion | Point-Counterpoint: Forgive Kevin Hart already


Via Eva Rinaldi | Wikimedia Commons

Members of the LGBTQ+ community protested the choice of Kevin Hart as this year’s host of the Oscars because of a series of tweets in 2010 and 2011 and his subsequent response to them.

By Cammy Morsberger, Staff Columnist

Kevin Hart was supposed to host the 2019 Academy Awards in February, but shortly after Hart accepted the offer to host in early December, social media users reposted a handful of Hart’s homophobic tweets from nearly a decade ago.

His tweets are problematic but a decade old, meaning society’s response to this situation was wrongly hysteric. It was only days after the internet blitz that Hart stepped down, and consequently, we were unable to have an authentic, open discussion on his remarks.

The tweets contain homophobic comments, including one that reads, “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.’”

Due to heavy backlash, Hart dropped out of the Oscars, appeared on television discussing the incident and apologized numerous times online and in interviews.

In search of previous apologies, several publications cite that there are none. But Hart admitted in past interviews that he does not intend on bringing the subject of homophobia or gay people up again, and this reformed mentality serves as his apology.

Hart stated in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone that he “wouldn’t tell that joke today,” because, due to a lack of sensitivity, he “just look[ed] for the laugh.”

But since then, he has apologized on multiple platforms, including in his announcement that he wouldn’t be hosting this year’s Oscar’s.

“I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” Hart wrote on Twitter a day after the tweets were posted.

He addresses criticism and moves on in an effort to stay respectful and politically correct in a world that constantly demands it.

But Hart’s apologies will apparently never be enough. In an interview on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Hart said he has addressed the jokes while promoting films like Get Hard. Hart’s hesitation to apologize again was due to frustration — he feels he has repeatedly confronted his own tweets, only to be met with anger from those who wish to “cancel” him.

Ellen Degeneres defended Hart in the interview, even calling the Academy, requesting they reevaluate their decision to find a new host. According to Hart’s Instagram post, the Academy warned that without an apology, the show would move forward without him.

Instead of apologizing again, as he has done, Hart decided to step down. But Degeneres’ support for Hart is meaningful. Degeneres, an openly gay woman and a popular spokesperson for gay issues, expressed her approval, saying she knows Hart personally and knows he’s “not that guy.”

But Don Lemon, a CNN reporter and another active member of the LGBTQ+ community, recently spoke out against Hart.

“Someone like Kevin Hart … can be a leader, the ultimate change agent,” Lemon admits on his program. “He can help change homophobia in the black community — something Kevin’s old Twitter jokes addressed, but in the wrong way.”

Lemon argues that Hart and his jokes maintain a harmful mindset, also pushing for Hart to be an activist as recompense for past actions.

“Apologizing and moving on does not make the world a better place for people who are gay or people who are transgender,” Lemon stated in a segment on “CNN Tonight.” “Being an ally does.”

But it’s not Hart’s responsibility to advocate for these causes. By repeatedly addressing his tweets, stepping down and demonstrating his maturity, Hart has done what is necessary to face his errors.

Lemon’s perspective is relevant, given that both he and Hart grew up in hyper-masculine environments, where “gay” behavior was punished. Both were taught that being gay is wrong.

That being said, Hart may have inadvertently lost the real meaning behind his offensive words. In Hart’s past, slang words “fag” or “homo” were synonymous with “bad.” He was separated from the impact behind his language, and those terms lost their value. This effect, “semantic satiation,” occurs when a word is repeated so often that its linguistic meaning is forgotten.

So Hart could claim ignorance. He’s a comedian, and the tweets are jokes. Whether audiences laughed or not, Hart intended for the statements to be funny, given that he included the same homophobic themes in his stand-up special, “Seriously Funny,” in 2010.

Comedians have long relied on controversial subjects to appeal to audiences. Ricky Gervais, a British stand-up and actor, is well-known for his lewd comedy involving violent, controversial or taboo topics. One famous act in his stand-up special “Ricky Gervais: Out Of England,” includes reading and commenting on a medical pamphlet on gay sex.

Despite this, Gervais has hosted several award shows, hosting the Golden Globes four times since 2010. Now, Piers Morgan, among others, are pushing for Gervais to host the Oscars. While Gervais has received backlash but continues to thrive in the public eye, refusing to offer apologies or giving a sarcastic one, Hart is immediately labeled an enemy of the people. Regardless of whether Gervais deserves his popularity, this demonstrates how society is often reactionary and wrongly casts out those in the public eye.

Gervais’s career relies on unexpectedly morbid or offensive comedy. Hart is known for his outrageous personality, but not for indecency or for deliberately offensive comedy. These differing reputations mean that Hart is “canceled,” yet Gervais can keep making a career out of humiliating and disparaging others.

Time is an important element in the narrative. Hart’s tweets are a decade old, and a great deal of understanding can emerge in a shorter span of time. Instead of listening to an individual repent his mistakes, we instinctively attacked him. Instead of allowing Hart to speak on his past, we decided his words for him — we already lit the stake.

We must avow that Hart has evolved his thinking and his mindset on this issue.

Hart and his career will ultimately be unaffected, but this proves that culturally, we respond to past mistakes too sensitively. In a bid to attack personalities like Hart, we only hurt our ability to thoughtfully approach and learn from these topics. If we preserve internet “gotcha” culture, disallowing individual growth, we can’t create social change.

The best apology is said not with words but with action — Hart’s has grown and changed since his tweets years ago. His conduct indicates his regret, and it’s time that we forgive him.