Thu | Apr 25, 2019

Michael Abrahams | Kevin Hart’s broken dolly house

Published:Monday | December 10, 2018 | 12:34 AM
Michael Abrahams

Kevin Hart landed the gig of his dreams when he was asked to host the Oscars next year. On his Instagram page, his joy was obvious, as he spoke of being “blown away”, as it had been a goal on his list for a long time, and that it was “the opportunity of a lifetime”.

Unfortunately, Hart’s celebration was short-lived. Just two days after making his announcement, he stepped down, after a furore erupted over homophobic tweets he had posted several years ago.

I have resisted jumping on bandwagons to either vigorously defend or crucify him, as being both a comedian as well as an ally of the LGBTQ community, I empathise with parties on different sides of this complex and convoluted issue.

The main bone of contention is a since-deleted tweet from 2011 in which Hart said, “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughter’s doll house I’m going to break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay’.” In another tweet, he described a Twitter user’s photo as “a gay billboard for AIDS”.

One of the things comedians do is speak about their fears, often in brutally honest and outlandish ways. They will say things that many in their audience think but would not be brave enough to say in public. Hart actually said, in his 2010 comedy special, ‘Seriously Funny’, that one of his biggest fears was his son “growing up and being gay”, adding, “if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”

He spoke about his fear, one which exists among probably most heterosexual men. It may sound unkind, but it is a harsh truth. And the fear may exist for different reasons, ranging from true homophobia, to fearing for the child’s life, as he may be subjected to bullying and discrimination, and be prone to depression and even suicide, issues gay men are at high risk for.

The problem with comedy, however, is that in speaking candidly about fears and opinions, comedians will offend. I cannot think of any comedian at the top of his or her game who has not offended anyone. I understand Hart’s comments. But I also understand why members of the LGBTQ community would take umbrage.

The fact is that queer folk have endured centuries of ridicule, scorn, discrimination and abuse, and are simply tired of it. I recall my grandmother telling me a story of a boy stoning a frog and laughing as the creature tried to hop away. As the boy hurled the missiles at the animal, the frog said, “What is joke to you is death to me.”

For some members of the LGBTQ community, Hart’s comments hit too close to home and were hurtful. He joked about breaking a dollhouse over his son’s head. He may have been exaggerating and utilising hyperbole to get laughs, but there are boys who have been assaulted, and even killed, by their fathers, stepfathers and other caregivers for being gay.

Hart’s comment about the “gay billboard for AIDS” also made light of a dreadful disease that has decimated the LGBTQ community. In addition, when comments like these are made in social media, they serve as a dog-whistle for homophobic bigots who spew their vitriol online, adding fuel to the fire.

When the controversy erupted, Hart initially responded saying, “Our world is becoming beyond crazy, and I’m not going to let the craziness frustrate me … . If you don’t believe people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. 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 I am becoming.”

Hart’s attitude, unfortunately, rather than being remorseful for his corrosive remarks, appeared dismissive, which worsened an already tense situation. Later that day, he posted that the Academy called him and told him to apologise for his “tweets of old or they would move on and find another host”, adding that he chose to “pass on the apology”, and that "the reason why I passed is because I've addressed this several times."

For example, in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he referred to jokes he had made in the past about trying to prevent his son from being gay, saying, "I wouldn't tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren't as sensitive as they are now.” However, “addressing” an issue is not the same as offering an apology.

Subsequently, he did apologise, saying “I sincerely apologise to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from the pas,t” as he withdrew as Oscars host, stating that he did not want to be a “distraction”.

I find it strange that after initially refusing, Hart eventually apologised. Even stranger is to be invited to do a gig, to accept, and then be instructed to apologise for comments made seven years ago, or else. It is, indeed, a weird sequence of events.

It probably would be an awkward ceremony for Hart after his comments have been brought to the fore, as possible nominees include openly queer artiste Lady Gaga, and the film ‘Boy Erased’, about a gay teen whose parents send him to conversion therapy.

So, since Hart has now formally apologised, can he host in 2020?

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.