For Some Dumb Reason Ellen Let A Homophobe Come On Her Show & Beg To Host The Gay Super Bowl
Last month, Kevin Hart stepped down as host of this year's Academy Awards after a social media backlash over homophobic comments he'd made in past standup routines and on Twitter. The general audience for the Oscars are gay people, women whose best friends are gay, and the families of those nominated, so an anti-gay bigot as host was probably not the best fit.
Hart apparently had second thoughts -- not about his bigotry, mind you, but about turning away from such a plum gig. Maybe he quit in haste, but he couldn't just show up in a tux on Oscar night as if the whole thing never happened. (It didn't work out for George in that episode of Seinfeld.) So, Hart turned to America's favorite harmless lesbian Ellen DeGeneres for a six-minute speed redemption arc. The whole thing was pathetic. Hart received instant and unearned absolution like DeGeneres was some corrupt priest a mob boss buys off with sizable donations to the church.
DeGeneres told Hart that she'd called the Academy to ask them to re-hire him as host. She claims he'd bring "sophistication, class, and hilarity" to the event. Hart has never brought those traits to his work on stage and screen, but hey, that's just my opinion. What's less an opinion is DeGeneres's assertion that Hart has "grown as a person." The evidence for such a claim is lacking.
As recently as 2015, when Rolling Stone featured Hart on its cover, the star had not confronted nor owned up to his bigotry in any meaningful way.
In 2010's Seriously Funny, he tells the audience, "One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That's a fear. Keep in mind, I'm not homophobic. . . . Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will."
That is... pretty homophobic. This is two years into the Barack Obama administration and well after "Will & Grace" ended its first run. These statements were like the Blockbuster Video of anti-gay bigotry. You're stunned to still see them around.
This leads into vignettes in which Hart reacts to imagined signs of Hendrix's blossoming homosexuality with interjections of "Stop, that's gay!" Discussing this bit today, Hart says, "It's about my fear. I'm thinking about what I did as a dad, did I do something wrong, and if I did, what was it? Not that I'm not gonna love my son or think about him any differently.
But a child, gay or straight, isn't going to realize that while their father is bullying them. Children aren't really capable of effective psychoanalysis. They're not old enough to smoke a pipe convincingly. As someone who was born with original cast recordings of Gypsy in one hand and Candide in the other, I know what it's like to be judged for appreciating things that are considered "gay." It's not even a matter of whether you're attracted to members of the same sex. You're called out for the way you speak and your lack of interest in sports. You're mocked for enjoying Rocky Horror more than Rambo. I was fortunate enough to have a father who didn't treat me the way Hart "jokes" about treating his own son. But so many other kids aren't as lucky. Black queer youth especially lives in the shadow of Hart's "jokes" and it's not a laughing matter for them.
Hart doesn't see his routine as essentially making light of child abuse. Instead, he expresses more regret over his inability to make anti-gay jokes than any remorse for having told them in the first place.
"I wouldn't tell that joke today, 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."
If Cindy Hyde-Smith said she wouldn't own slaves today because it's against the law, while wistfully whistling "Dixie" as she swept her own floors like a sucker, we wouldn't take that as the strongest condemnation against slaveholding. Hart spins himself as the victim here. He's had to sacrifice good material because everyone is so "sensitive" and love to make "big deals out of things." He lacks the empathy to consider that queer folk aren't expressing their pain over his comments just to get attention in an overly PC culture.
DeGeneres has rightly received pushback for letting Hart appear on her show and play the victim. He paints himself as the "target" of a coordinated "attack," because it takes a lot of work to comb through old tweets (he's apparently unaware of the search function). He also seems to not understand how apologies work. When the Academy asked him to apologize in December, he flat out refused because he felt he'd already gone through the motions while promoting the unfunny and also sort of anti-gay Get Hard movie.
"My team calls me, 'Oh my God, Kevin, everyone's upset by tweets you did years ago,'" he said in [an Instagram video]. "Guys, I'm nearly 40 years old. If you don't believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don't know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify the past, do you. I'm the wrong guy, man."
It's not enough to say you've changed like every abusive boyfriend in history. You have to demonstrate you've changed. You don't get "do overs." Eddie Murphy's last good movie was almost 30 years ago and we still think he's funny. The reverse is true of bad things people do. They don't magically vanish. You have to live with the consequences. It's not unreasonable that gay people might not fully trust you and don't relish seeing you host something that means a lot to them. Your "dream" might be to host the Oscars but they're under no obligation to enable that dream -- certainly not while Hugh Jackman still exists.
Now the headlines are starting to change. The headlines are "Kevin Hart Refuses to Apologize for Homophobic Tweets from the Past." The word "Again" was left out. Everybody took those headlines and started to run with it, so now, the slander on my name is all homophobia. Now I'm a little upset. I'm a little upset because I know who I am. I know that I don't have a homophobic bone in my body.
My brother, you literally "joked" about breaking your daughter's doll house over your son's head if you caught him playing with it. Your body at least has enough homophobic bones to form its own anti-gay swing band. If you don't own up to your obvious homophobia, you wind up sounding like the hippie naturalist who insists that they're "willing" the cancer cells from their body through positive thinking and kale smoothies.
This is also why it wasn't DeGeneres's place to "forgive" Hart. Yes, she's gay, but Hart's homophobia never targeted her. He never expressed comedic "concern" that he'd catch his daughter playing with his son's Transformers and would have to smack her with Bumblebee. Hart's toxic masculinity feared and resented signs of queerness in his sons. DeGeneres provided a safe space for Hart to redeem himself where he didn't have to confront or personally apologize to the gay men he's derided and whom he sees now as just obstacles to his own ambitions. That's shameful.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.