Kevin Hart, Apologies, and Accountability

Kevin Hart has had a tumultuous few days, following his Oscars host announcement. Soon after The Academy declared Hart would host the 2019 ceremonies, people began digging up old jokes the comedian had made on Twitter. What particularly angered folks was a number of homophobic jokes Hart had made, both on Twitter and in his stand-up. Through the anger, the replies, and Hart eventually stepping down from hosting, there’s one common theme – accountability, or in this case, the lack thereof.

Stop looking for reasons to be negative…Stop searching for reasons to be angry….I swear I wish you guys could see/feel/understand the mental place that I am in. I am truly happy people….there is nothing that you can do to change that…NOTHING. I work hard on a daily basis to spread positivity to all….with that being said. If u want to search my history or past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me. I’m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I am becoming. You LIVE and YOU LEARN & YOU GROW & YOU MATURE. I live to Love….Please take your negative energy and put it into something constructive. Please….What’s understood should never have to be said. I LOVE EVERYBODY…..ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY. If you choose to not believe me then that’s on you….Have a beautiful day

A post shared by Kevin Hart (@kevinhart4real) on

In the various Instagram responses Hart has put up since these anti-gay jokes came to light, it’s become clear the comedian isn’t holding himself accountable. Neither of the social media posts are real apologies for his hateful jokes. It was not until his announcement that he would step down as a host that he actually said “I sincerely apologize.” Hart didn’t want to apologize, because he didn’t want to admit he was fully at fault for his own hurtful words.

Now by no means is Kevin Hart the only comedian to ever make homophobic jokes. There are so many comedians working today who have a history of insensitive jokes. Furthermore, Hart spoke about making homophobic jokes last year, saying “anything where it puts you in a place to tease someone’s sexuality… I don’t play those games. I pretty much respect any and everybody, and I make sure that, within my stand-up, that I’m conscious of that, and I’m aware.” By those remarks, it would seem that Hart thinks homophobic jokes are bad.

But then why not apologize from the start?

It’s a question of where to place the blame. In his first Instagram post since his homophobic jokes resurfaced, he claimed to be about positivity. He said that he’s matured since that time, and that he works hard to make the world happy… but he doesn’t say anything that addresses his decidedly negative jokes. Instead, he places the blame on those seeking an apology for his hateful remarks.

Likewise, his second post put the blame on those seeking apologies. This time, his claim was that he’d addressed these jokes before. However, research shows that his previous statements aren’t apologies either. Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2015 about his homophobic stand-up, Hart said this:

“The funny thing within that joke is it’s me getting mad at my son because of my own insecurities — I panicked. It has nothing to do with him, it’s about me. That’s the difference between bringing a joke across that’s well thought-out and saying something just to ruffle feathers… 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. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”

The problem with this statement is that it’s not an apology. It’s him saying it’s about his “own insecurities” – i.e, the insecurity that he could raise a gay son, something that causes him to panic. His statement is essentially that actually, that joke is really good, and people shouldn’t be so sensitive about people being homophobic. He puts the blame on the people he’s insulting with his comments, taking no accountability for his comments. For someone who appears to be about “positivity,” Hart doles out very little of it.

Ultimately, Hart’s addresses fall short because he doesn’t want to be held responsible. His avoidance of who he was manifests as an inability to look objectively at his shortcomings. In his pursuit of positivity, Hart avoids looking back on his negative comments, and the understandable backlash that comes with them. Hart doesn’t want to live with his mistakes, and if you try to get him to own up to them, that’s your fault.

It’s interesting to compare this Oscar drama with Disney’s similar scandal when they fired James Gunn. Gunn, the director of the two Guardians of the Galaxy films, was fired after his past blog posts containing similarly homophobic jokes resurfaced. However, when looking back, Gunn had issued an apology via GLAAD back in 2012. His apology, unlike Hart, actually addresses his own personal shortcomings:

“A couple of years ago I wrote a blog that was meant to be satirical and funny.  In rereading it over the past day I don’t think it’s funny.  The attempted humor in the blog does not represent my actual feelings.  However, I can see where statements were poorly worded and offensive to many.  I’m sorry and regret making them at all”

In this statement, Gunn takes full ownership for his mistakes. While Gunn claims he was trying to be satirical, he makes it clear that he knows he failed. Gunn doesn’t get angry at those who reposted his own words – after all, he’s the one who wrote it. When Disney fired Gunn in August, they were firing someone who had actually taken accountability, unlike the Oscars, who tried unsuccessfully to get Hart to do the same.

James Gunn

This question of accountability is a common thread throughout many social discourses in the world today. In light of the #MeToo Movement, we’ve seen several high-level entertainers make half-hearted apologies, looking to shift focus or blame. What an apology should boil down to, in its most basic form, is “I am sorry for what I did wrong.” Hart failed with his initial posts because he did not express remorse, instead choosing to deflect.

With these kinds of firings comes the question of forgiveness. Now that Kevin Hart has issued an actual apology, when will he be accepted again? Could he host the Oscars next year without the scandal? People should be open to forgiving public figures, but there needs to be a reason for forgiveness. In order for someone to move past an insult, and forgive the offender, the offender has to display that he wants forgiveness. All Hart displayed in earlier posts is he wants people to like him as much as he does. Hart failed to take accountability for his jokes, so yes, he shouldn’t host the Oscars this year. We’ll see if 2019 shows a Hart that has moved on from this mindset, and not just from moving on from negative press.

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Jon Barr
Jon Barr is a writer, actor, and TV phanatic. Yeah, like the Philly Phanatic. Because Jon's from Philadelphia. Well, he lives in L.A. now, but, he WAS- you get it.

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