‘Is it OK if I still don’t want my son to be gay?’ What Kevin Hart should’ve said as he quit Oscars

‘Is it OK if I still don’t want my son to be gay?’ What Kevin Hart should’ve said as he quit Oscars
Hi, I am stand-up comedian and actor Kevin Hart. Films I star in are unlikely to win any Oscars or be remembered when I am dead, so believe me - hosting the Academy Awards was my best shot at immortality.

Like anyone ambitious enough to have a Hollywood career, I have said thousands of things I did not mean in public to please and pacify other people. But enough is enough.

So, I am not going to say that I won’t apologize, then walk it back, nor am I going to couch my frustration in sentimentality, or the psychobabble of self-empowerment (though look how far that’s got me!). I am also not furiously deleting my old tweets right now.

Next year I will be 40. This places my childhood in the late eighties, in one of the tough districts of Philadelphia. I could pretend that the playgrounds there (or the broader black community at the time) held a sophisticated attitude to homosexuality, or that I floated through my formative years without picking any of them up, but both things would be a lie.

This is not a justification, it is simply fact: like many people my age, growing up I was a homophobe by present-day standards. Similarly, when I began performing in inner city clubs as Lil’ Kev the Bastard, what me and my audience found funny diverged from current sensibilities (even now Eddie Murphy’s Raw hasn’t yet been moved to special sections of libraries, to be watched under supervision.)

Now the riffs I did about “my biggest fear being that my son is gay” may have been reflective of my own anxieties as a father, or rooted in common prejudice. The tweets from nearly a decade ago about “FAT FAGS” and “real men” and someone’s profile pic looking like a “gay bill board for AIDS” were openly hostile, and not delivered with much irony. They weren’t even funny enough to justify the vitriol – but they were still jokes.

I did not attack or harass homosexuals, nor was I in a position to discriminate against them. Even if I was a bigot towards them, well we all have our blind spots and prejudices. This does not characterize me as a person. I am not a hate monger, I am an entertainer who is most famous for being very short.

Besides I have genuinely changed, both from what I have read, and personal experiences that have expanded my worldview. I find it exhausting that instead of this progress being recognized, every single time something good happens to me, this gets pulled up. It does not seem like a fair system of justice. It does not feel very Christian.

Are there any traces of my bigotry left? Maybe there are none, but possibly homosexuality still makes me slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps, I don’t find camp mannerisms endearing, or I grimace if I see men kissing. Maybe sometimes I find things funny that I have been told not to. Even if I did, is that so bad in itself? What opinions is a man allowed to hold in his mind, supposing he already watches his tongue.

And you know what, maybe I still don’t want my son (well two of them now) to be gay. Is that OK with you? Perhaps I feel like I wouldn’t relate to him, or be afraid that he would face a tougher life, or perhaps I want him to settle down and have a traditional family. I am not going to disown him, but it’s my business what I want for my children.

And it’s definitely none of yours to tell me that I can’t throw them a Cowboys and Indians party for Thanksgiving.

Now should I have been hosting the Oscars? On a practical level, nothing about my past would have been an issue. I wouldn’t have started ranting off-script about “gays and Jews in Hollywood” I wouldn’t have called for death camps in Missouri, or asked a female footballer if she could twerk. Perhaps, a certain part of the audience would be too annoyed to see me up there, standing next to Nicole Kidman or Bradley Cooper, to enjoy the ceremony. But if anything, going on my past record my gig would have been tame, middlebrow, and forgettable.

What I resent is people who don’t care about the Oscars, or combating actual homophobia, digging up old tweets and videos to turn me into an example of yet another person who doesn’t deserve a place in public life. Newspapers that a day ago proclaimed me the perfect host, gleefully jumping on the bandwagon. Apologies that are always picked apart and never enough, as some random person on Twitter decides whether he “forgives” me.

So, this is who I am, and I won’t explain myself any more. Like the rest of you I will sit down and watch the Oscars from home, and will try not to be bitter. And if you are kind enough to invite me back next year (or the year after, or whenever, really) I will gratefully accept the job.

Yours, Kevin Hart.

(as imagined by Igor Ogorodnev)

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.