Have a Little Hart
A lesson in how not to apologise
by Radeen Moncrieffe
Back in December, actor and supposed comedian Kevin Hart was announced as the upcoming host for the 2019 Academy Awards. However, this appointment was short-lived as it led to the resurfacing of a series of hateful and deplorable homophobic jokes made by Hart earlier in his career. In addition to the frequent use of homophobic slurs and the use of the word “gay” as a pejorative term, Hart also refers to another user’s profile picture as “a gay billboard for AIDS” in a tweet dating back to 2010.
Perhaps even more damaging is a 2011 tweet where Hart describes how he would abuse his son if he played with a dollhouse: “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.'” When the Film Academy subsequently gave Hart the ultimatum to either make a public apology for his comments or face being replaced by another host, Hart instead chose to voluntarily step down. Despite this, Ellen DeGeneres, arguably the most recognisable and influential gay figure working in Hollywood, has offered Hart a chance at redemption by inviting him onto her show last Friday. In the interview, instead of offering another apology for how harmful his tweets were, Hart instead opts to wallow in self-pity and self-victimisation for a good six minutes, calling the outrage “an attack, a malicious attack on my character, to end me.”
This was expressed as though he was traumatised by the thought of having to take actual accountability.
To add insult to injury, DeGeneres not only allows Hart to say this unchallenged but goes on to express her desire for Hart to be reinstated as the host for Academy Awards.
During the interview, DeGeneres comments that “we are a huge group of people who love you and want to see you host the Oscars.” The “we” she is referring to is the LGBTQ community and her decision to speak on behalf of individuals who were affected by Hart’s comments is a problem.
No one member of a marginalized identity can forgive bigoted behaviour on behalf of the entire group, regardless of how influential or well-respected they are.
DeGeneres’ decision to posture herself as some sort of gay spokesperson and subsequently absolve Hart from his history of homophobic remarks does not mean the rest of the community is required to follow suit.
DeGeneres herself, was subject to a fury of visceral and harmful homophobic insults when she publicly came out as gay in 1997 which threatened an end to her professional career. However, that still does not mean DeGeneres is at all in any position to offer the forgiveness on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community. DeGeneres is now in a place in her life and career where she is for the most part protected against the violence that Hart expressed in his tweets. It’s further upsetting to see DeGeneres use her platform to allow Hart to paint the narrative that he is the victim in this situation, instead of allowing a space for those who were actually harmed by Hart’s comments to come on her show and question Hart directly.
Ultimately, Hart’s insistence that he is now reformed homophobe with no ties to his past is at odds with his resistance to double down on another apology. Yes, having to continuously apologise for something you have done in the past can be exhausting. But for someone like him with a platform that reaches millions of people daily and is reliant on presenting a sustainable image, offering an apology shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth.