Two simple words that many people have a hard time saying these days. One needs to look no further than the recent Kevin Hart debacle for proof of this. Shortly after being named as host of the upcoming Academy Awards, some of his old tweets which featured homophobic content resurfaced. The uproar it ignited caused the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, according to Hart, to request that he issue an apology for his past comments.
This should have been an easy layup for all parties involved. By apologizing Hart would remain the MC of cinema’s biggest award show, and the Academy would save face for not having done their homework when hiring Hart in the first place.
Instead Hart opted to pour gasoline on the simmering flames of controversy by refusing to apologize.
An hour later, after what I assume was an Arrested Development style “I’ve made a huge mistake” moment of clarity, Hart announced that he was stepping down as host and apologized to the LBGTQ community for his former remarks.
Again, this could have all been avoided by saying two simple words.
Now Hart has stated that his initial refusal to submit to the Academy’s demand was related to having already addressed the comments in the past and no longer being the same man he used to be. While I do not condone Hart’s actions in relation to this, both past and present, I cannot help but wonder about the selective nature of our current outrage society. Why is the Academy not receiving their share of lumps as well?
This is not the first time the Academy has had to break ties with an individual over despicable comments (see: Brett Ratner’s resignation as producer of the 84th Academy Awards after controversial remarks were discovered). In an age where most people have a lengthy social media history, it is baffling that organizations like the Academy, or major studios and networks, continually step into these clearly avoidable tweet-related bear traps.
I understand that the Academy is attempting to change its image on several levels – including expelling Roman Polanski from its membership ranks this year for his infamous sexual assault case in the late 70s, despite awarding him a Best Director Oscar in 2002 – but that does not let them off the hook for not doing basic vetting of Hart’s social media history.
It would be one thing if Hart’s tweets were recently uncovered through nefarious means via a site like WikiLeaks but, much like James Gunn and Rosanne Barr before him, who also lost high-profile jobs in 2018 over offensive tweets, the evidence was sitting in plain sight for years.
If the Academy represents the best that the film industry to offer, then why do we continually ignore the fact that they, and the industry overall, have a long history of turning a blind eye to problematic individuals who generate high ratings and box office profits? Where were the demands for an apology when Hart was hired to star in films like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Secret Life of Pets, or the six other films he has made between 2016 and 2018?
Again, this is not to let Hart off the hook. What he said was wrong and he should have apologized when the issue arose again. However, if we are going to hold Hart’s feet to the fire, it’s also time to start doing the same for organizations that don’t do due diligence before hiring these individuals in the first place.