Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the Oscars late Thursday night, following intense backlash to old, homophobic tweets he posted between 2009 and 2011.
The now-deleted tweet that drew the most attention read, “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.'”
But there are many more tweets that still live on Hart’s feed containing offensive, derogatory language referring to queer people.
Comedian and actor Billy Eichner was one of the first people to draw attention to the tweets. He said, “Many of us have jokes/tweets we regret. I’m ok with tasteless jokes, depending on context. What bothers me about these is you can tell its [sic] not just a joke-there’s real truth, anger & fear behind these. I hope Kevin’s thinking has evolved since 2011.”
But instead of addressing what drove him to say those things in the past, explaining how his opinions have or haven’t changed, and apologizing to the people he offended with the slurs, Hart posted a series of responses on Instagram saying the Academy Awards asked him to say he was sorry, but he refused.
Eichner and other queer voices on Twitter pointed out that despite a veneer of acceptance and change, Hollywood still has a real problem with gayness. The industry's image of liberal wokeness is bolstered by the fact that a lot of the films up for awards consideration focus on marginalized communities, including If Beale Street Could Talk and Roma. And after years of criticism, the power brokers behind awards shows have begun choosing hosts that represent a wider swath of Americans. But entertainment moguls are ultimately profiting off these groups by making movies about them. And as some pointed out, the least an Oscar host could do is try not to offend queer people and women, who make up a vast swath of the industry.
Cancel culture has a way of setting off celebrities, especially as it can often cost them jobs or other opportunities. Eichner pointed out that owning up to a problematic mindset can be scary, especially if it could force Hart to examine flaws or shame he's repressed.
When Hart finally apologized in a real way, after he'd already stepped down from the Academy Awards gig, a lot of his critics said that if he'd simply expressed remorse for his past behavior from the get-go, he'd likely still have the hosting job. Instead, the whole mess has the internet asking whether Hart, who has a number of projects in the works, will be “cancelled” for good?
The thing is, despite his adequate but late apology, it doesn’t seem like Hart is actually that woke nowadays either, eight years after the problematic tweets. He came under fire for throwing his one-year-old son a “Cowboys and Indians”-themed birthday party on Thanksgiving this year, which had a lot of his followers criticizing his insensitivity and ignorance.
Meanwhile, conservative-leaning folks are holding the whole Oscars saga up as evidence that liberals are overreacting, and actually doing harm with their social justice crusading. Breitbart News posted straight coverage of Hart stepping down from the hosting gig, but captioned a tweet, "You will NEVER be woke enough." Jon Gabriel, the editor-in-chief of right-leaning blog Ricochet, blamed Hart’s critics for getting a black man fired, implying they’re culpable for the Oscars’ representation problem.
But white conservatives are getting the concept of representation fundamentally wrong with this stance: being black does not make Hart woke by default. He used homophobic slurs in a number of public tweets. Despite seeming relatively into mindfulness—Hart’s Instagram dispatches were full of affirmations and language about positivity—he blamed society for the backlash to his actions, instead of taking responsibility for them himself.
Naturally, after the news broke that Hart was stepping down, the conversation online turned to who should replace him, with many calling for a female host.
This whole hosting shit-show points to an interesting trend, in the end. Good things tend to happen when the Oscars fuck up, like when it was accidentally announced that La La Land won Best Picture, but really it was Moonlight. That was great, wasn't it? Maybe this huge mistake on Hart's part will wind up being a win for marginalized people, too.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Kara Weisenstein on Twitter.