Kevin Hart’s promotional tour for his new movie, “The Upside,” was always going to be an uphill battle for him. After all, he is, in 2019, playing a poor Black man who’s a servant for an affluent disabled white man played by an able-bodied white actor. It’s already a cocktail for a public relations nightmare. And it was already going to be bad enough for him to have to answer questions about the movie.
I bet Hart’s PR team – if such a thing even exists – wishes that were all he had to talk about. But thanks to the comedian’s deliberately ignorant reaction to old homophobic tweets resurfacing, he’s been spending all of his air time making his own life worse while spouting harmful nonsense about the LGBT community.
It’s become a common practice for celebrities’ old tweets to pop up whenever they ascend to a new level of mainstream success. A performer wins an award and — boom! — old internet skeletons come back to haunt. This is how news cycles work. Kevin Hart had to deal with this when it was announced last month he would be the host for the Oscars. Immediately after the announcement, old tweets came to light and showed Hart dropping homophobic f-bombs (and disparaging dark-skinned women, but that part is glossed over, funny enough).
Whereas most celebrities just cue up their Apple Notes and offer a boilerplate apology about how they’ve changed and grown and wish no harm to the communities they offend, Hart has doubled down, refusing to apologize. His claim back in December was that he’s apologized already (though there wasn’t any record of him actually making an apology when the tweets originally came out years ago). He sent out a series of tweets finally apologizing and that seemed to be the end of it. Sort of.
His actions since, however, have indicated he’s a man less than willing to approach the situation with his hat in hand.
Now, he’s on his press run and talking to people like Ellen, going on Good Morning America and chopping it up with Stephen Colbert. On each stop, he’s refusing to offer any sign of true contrition for his actions.
“I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body,” he said on Ellen, unintentionally channeling the standard retort of every racist ever when asked if they are racist. He spoke about his 10 years of not making those jokes anymore or using that language, which is a sign of growth but not necessarily a sign of someone being an ally to the community. He spoke of trolls and haters out to get him, which is, again, a worthless argument that does no good for anyone.
He doubled down after Ellen and only made it worse. On Good Morning America with Michael Strahan, Hart continued to repeat the phrase that he’s “over it.” He didn’t really answer any questions directly except to express his belief that it’s done because he says it is.
That night, he talked to Colbert and offered the same defiance: “At some point you just have to be okay with you. I’m okay with me and all decisions that I’ve made in my life. This is the decision I’ve made to say I’m over it. I’m done. That’s it.” In the middle of all of this, Hart apologized again on his radio show: “Once again, Kevin Hart apologizes for his remarks that hurt members of the LGBTQ community. I apologize.”
Many will (and have) said that Kevin Hart gets to move on because he’s apologized. But that’s not the end of it. Hart does not get to say a situation is over until the people he’s wronged decide that a situation is over. And I would venture to guess that if cisgendered Black folks put themselves in the LGBT community’s shoes they’d understand.
How many celebrities have we “canceled” for their racism and not allowed back into our consciousness after their racism despite their apologies? That’s because apologies often aren’t enough, especially if there’s no actual desire for retribution within that apology. Where is the promise to further understand why his actions hurt or the willingness to engage with the community to learn about his words? Hart telling Don Lemon “it’s not my dream to be an LGBT ally” reeks of someone who just doesn’t understand what he’s talking about.
In short, Kevin Hart doesn’t get it. And in 2019, it’s his fault alone that he doesn’t get it. He has the means and the resources to learn and make things as right as possible and he simply refuses. He doesn’t want to heal a community he’s hurt. He wants it all to go away. What he doesn’t understand is that the more he fights to make it all go away, the less likely anyone is to forgive him.
Kevin Hart should know better, and he only has himself to blame that he doesn’t.