This must have been the shortest fling at glory and in fulfilling a lifetime ambition for the American actor Kevin Hart. Just two days after being named as the host of the glittering Oscars awards night (February 25, 2019), Hart has withdrawn as there was a public backlash over a few of his homophobic tweets in the past.
It goes to show that social media posts simply never go away. There may be billions of tweets in a month and trillions in a year but when it comes to tweets by celebrities, people have a way of stashing them away in their memory or their computer hard discs and remembering and recalling them at the right moment. This is exactly what has happened to Hart who was trolled for his illiberal past views on gays.
The host of the Oscars show is a pivotal figure in the success of the Academy Awards. The Academy may have been looking to pull back on declining viewership figures of the ceremony around the world and has been on the lookout for trendy comedy for this year. Even so, its priority of diversity in the show may have led to it picking a black American actor as host this time after two years of Jimmy Kimmel of late night television chat show television fame. That seems to have backfired now thanks to the elephantine memory of the Twitterati.
Hart tweeted just after midnight on Friday that he was withdrawing as Oscars host because he didn’t want to be a distraction. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he tweeted. “I chose to pass on the apology. The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times.
The critics were unforgiving though. Hart had appealed to them to “stop being negative” about his earlier anti-gay remarks. “I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve? I don’t know what to tell you,” he said and added “I love everybody” in capital letters.
GLAAD, an advocacy group for LGBTQ rights, would have none of it. The group had communicated to the Oscars broadcaster ABC, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and Hart’s management to “discuss Kevin’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and record.”
Even then, Hart was being somewhat stubborn in his anti-gay views. Of course, no one can fault him for his personal views about not wanting his son to be gay, but then the public did not see it his way. “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, do what you want to do, but me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will,” he said.
The Twitterati are also an unforgiving crowd. They are not the ones who will forget in a trice. In these extremely sensitive times when racial and sexual diversity is viewed as an ideal in evolving society, Hart was way out with his homophobic postures, even if they are from the past. The point was also made that Hart’s apology was too artificial whereas “a simple, authentic apology showing any bit of understanding or remorse would have been so simple,” according to fellow comedian Billy Eichner.
Homophobia is not seen as a positive trait in this age of liberal attitudes towards sex and sexuality, as seen in India too where a landmark Supreme Court ruling opened legal avenues to sexual diversity. The Academy, already in a hard place in trying to render gender equality in the choices it makes for its awards, has been hit with a whammy now in its search for an alternative. Will it be a woman comic to make up for the Hart imbroglio is an interesting thought.