The Kevin Hart Oscars saga is far from over, it appears. While the Academy is coming up on a record-late deadline for announcing an Oscars host, it sounds like they could very well go back to Hart—that is if Ellen DeGeneres has anything to say about it. You’ll recall that soon after Hart was announced as the Oscars host, the comedian’s well-chronicled past homophobic jokes resurfaced. But rather than acknowledge the comments as hurtful, Hart turned defensive and refused to apologize for something he said was in his past. The Academy issued an ultimatum: apologize or step down. Hart decided to step down.
But DeGeneres had Hart on her show this week, and the conversation turned serious as they addressed the Oscars ordeal and Hart’s homophobic jokes. As Hart recounts the event, he explains his reasoning behind refusing to apologize:
“The next morning, after a day full of congratulations and celebrations, I’m hit with an onslaught on social media of my past coming back up again. Literally the next morning. Not even a full 24 hours to glow in the glory of, ‘Kevin Hart is hosting this year’s Oscars’. When it happened, my first thought is I’m gonna ignore it. I’m gonna ignore it because it’s 10 years old. This is stuff I’ve addressed; I’ve talked about this. This isn’t new. I’ve addressed it. I’ve apologized for it. I’m not gonna pay it any mind. Because when you feed into that stuff, you only add more fuel to the fire.”
A major issue here, obviously, was that many people were unaware of Hart’s past jokes, and so an apology would have gone a long way. Not everyone heard, read, or was aware of Hart’s past apology, so for many these old tweets and jokes were brand new. Moreover, Hart’s indignant response felt as though maybe he wasn’t actually remorseful, or that he didn’t think it was that big of a deal. But Hart felt like it was well-worn territory, and he explained on Ellen how he’s changed over the past decade:
“I know I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body. I know that I’ve addressed it; I know that I’ve apologized. I know that within my apologies, I’ve taken 10 years to put my apology to work. I’ve yet to go back to that version of the immature comedian that once was. I’ve moved on. I’m a grown man. Cultured. I’m a guy that understands now, I look at life through a different lens and because of that I live it a different way. So now I’m kind of upset because these 10 years are just being ignored, they’re being brushed past.”
Hart went on to recount the past times he “had” to address his homophobic jokes:
“I had to address it when I did Get Hard promo with Will Ferrell, because of my joke that I had about my son. I had to address those tweets in 2012 in a very, very heavy junket where I was asked questions about homophobia based on those tweets, and I had to address it and apologize and say I understand what those words do and how they hurt. I understand why people would be upset which is why I made the choice to not use them anymore. I don’t joke like that anymore. That was a guy that was just looking for laughs and that was stupid. I don’t do that anymore.”
It should be noted that during the junket for Get Hard in 2015, journalist Louis Virtel asked Hart directly about that film’s somewhat homophobic slant, and Hart responded that “funny is funny.”
Speaking on Ellen, Hart also defended his decision to step down from hosting the Oscars, noting that his whole reason for hosting was to bring fun to the event:
“When I was given that ultimatum, this is now becoming like a cloud. What was once the brightest star and brightest light every just got real dark. The Oscars is no longer about Kevin Hart stepping on that stage and taking an intense night where people are so uptight and making it loose and fun. That’s my reason for doing it. I’m gonna bring fun to the Oscars. I’m gonna make the Oscars fun. Now all of a sudden it’s a little darker because the conversation isn’t about me hosting the Oscars, the conversation is about Kevin Hart’s tweets 10 years ago and homophobia. I don’t wanna step on that stage and make that night about me and my past when you’ve got people that have worked hard to step on that stage for the first time and receive an award. I’m now taking away from all those moments because that night is focused on something else now. That’s how I see it.”
As someone who’s been watching the Oscars for a long time, I can attest that the best Oscars hosts go out of their way to make the ceremony not about them. While I don’t think Hart’s enthusiasm for making a dream of his come true is misplaced, I do think it’s a bit folly to go into the Oscars thinking everyone’s going to be looking to the host.
Regardless, Hart offered another apology on Ellen, albeit one that still felt like he was frustrated about doing it in the first place:
“Because I saw it like that, I said I would much rather step down and apologize again, while stepping down. Once again, I’m sorry if these words hurt. I’m sorry! But either my apology is accepted or it isn’t. Either I can move forward or I can’t. But you can’t grow as a person without mistakes.”
Then things got even more interesting/strange, as DeGeneres revealed that she’s been talking with the Academy and claims that they still want Hart to host the Oscars if he’s willing. DeGeneres said she still wants Hart to host the Oscars, and told him to ignore the “haters”:
“There are so many haters out there. Whatever’s going on on the internet, don’t pay attention t them. That’s a small group of people being very, very, loud. We are a huge group of people who love you and wanna see you host the Oscars.”
Characterizing the resurfacing of these old tweets as an “attack” is unfair. Hart’s homophobic past has been well known for some time now, and it wasn’t as if a small group of “haters” began looking for an excuse to boot him from the Oscars as soon as he was announced as host. His past simply became more visible once it became clear that he’d be hosting an awards show that, frankly, has had a very large, very loyal LGBTQ audience for decades and decades. If your host has not only said things that are hurtful to a significant portion of your audience, but also becomes indignant when asked to apologize for those hurtful words, that’s a problem.
Look, I love the Oscars. I know, they’re a silly awards show, but I’ve loved this celebration of movies ever since I started watching them as a kid. I don’t need the Academy to make the Oscars “hip” or bring in an edgy comedian who’s going to appeal to a younger demographic. I watch the Oscars because I love movies, not to see a comedian make jokes about Hollywood. My favorite ceremonies in recent memory were the ones hosted by Hugh Jackman and Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin because they celebrated the art of moviemaking in grand fashion. It was an event, not a stand up set.
Would Kevin Hart have made a great host for the Oscars? Maybe. But his attitude in response to his own hurtful words kind of spoiled the whole shebang, and even though he apologizes in this Ellen interview, he still seems indignant about the entire ordeal. There was no mob, this was no attack. To imply so is to shove the actual issue—which, again, is hurtful to a lot of people—aside in favor of making this all about Hart. The meat of the problem here isn’t even necessarily that Hart said these hurtful words in the first place, it’s that when confronted with these bad jokes, instead of expressing regret, Hart responded with anger.
Let’s all just agree to move on and hire John Legend and Chrissy Teigen as his replacement, deal?