By Buddy Early, February 2019 Issue.
I made it through 2018 without any major crises to speak of — no deaths in the family; no loss of employment; no waking up to find a picture circulating the internet, one showing me chowing down on a half-pound of buffalo wings with the hashtag #leavesomefortherestofus. And then the end of the year brought a scare. I almost had to boycott the Oscars.
For the 48 hours that comedian Kevin Hart was slated to host the 2019 awards fest, there was a very good chance that I would, indeed, have to boycott. It would’ve been a huge sacrifice, since I haven’t missed a single ceremony since Hart was in diapers and before he even knew what a gay slur was. I’m an Oscarphile, if that’s such a word. Furthermore, I’ve always thought Hart was kind of charming, if not necessarily a stellar comedian.
But there I was, faced with the reality of boycotting one of the few nights each year on which I allow myself emotions. In case you missed it, a quick internet search will turn up the series of Hart’s decade-old tweets that resurfaced after his hire. They included the mention of breaking a doll house over his son’s head if he tried to play with it, because “that’s gay;” saying someone’s profile picture “look like a gay billboard for AIDS;” and alleging that “real men don’t (sweat) lmao ps fag.”
There are more.
Hart’s initial attempt at an apology was to say that he’s “moved on” since those tweets and basically that he is not the same man. A day later he tried to save face by releasing the statement, “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.” No mention of how damaging his words were, or how wrong. It was pretty much the old “I’m sorry if my words have offended you.”
Hart apologists — and Hart himself — pointed out that the comedian had, in fact, covered this before. They refer to a 2015 Rolling Stone interview, where Hart merely stated he would not say those things in the present day because people are more sensitive. Again, no mention of how wrong, distasteful and harmful the remarks were, or any acknowledgment that his words reach millions and can have a huge influence. Nope, just an admission that the tweets were ill-advised.
Last summer I wrote in this column about the unusual phenomenon where LGBT people often accept things they would not tolerate if the target was another minority group. (The “If businesses don’t want to sell to gay people, that’s their right” argument.) LGBT folks’ acceptance of Hart’s tweets and non-apologies falls into that category, if you ask me. If the Academy had hired a host who was known for making anti-black, anti-woman, or anti-Jewish tweets (and offered no sincere apology), LGBT people would be among the first to stand up and say, “No way!” At the risk of plagiarizing myself, I implore everyone reading this to advocate for yourself in the same manner you’d advocate for other marginalized groups.
Here’s the thing about boycotts: if you’re not actually sacrificing something, you’re not really boycotting. I’m not necessarily boycotting Fox News, Chick-fil-A or vaginas; it just so happens I don’t like what any of those things have to offer. Boycotting takes a sacrifice. If you pick and choose what you will boycott based on how important something is to you, then I’d say that’s a question of your integrity.
This is not to suggest that you have to boycott anything at all. Maybe you don’t believe boycotts are effective. Maybe you think they’re stupid. Or maybe you just can’t keep tabs on every single boycott and have decided to give up on all of them. (Let’s be honest about that last one — It’s almost impossible to be informed about everything I’m supposed to be boycotting; you really need a part-time assistant.) Whatever the case, don’t insult the rest of us by arguing that your non-boycott is actually the right thing to do.
I couldn’t bring myself to watch the Oscars with Kevin Hart as host, sacrificing one of the things that is incredibly important to me. Thankfully, that’s a sacrifice I won’t have to make. I know a lot of people think I’m ridiculous on this matter, but I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I stand by my principles. So, whatever you choose to not boycott, please don’t try to “explain it away” to make yourself feel better. My guess is it doesn’t work anyway.