Oscar Host Debacle Sets Bad Precedent

In a year full of  events that upended the entertainment industry, the Academy Awards managed to top them all.

During a bizarre two-day period, Kevin Hart was appointed the host of the 2019 Oscars and then stepped down after a series of homophobic tweets from the late 2000s resurfaced, causing widespread backlash. The resignation occurred after multiple apologies were attempted for the comedian, all of which were rebuffed by Hart (even though, in his Twitter posts announcing his departure, he gave the apology the Academy allegedly wanted).

That’s left the Oscars without a host again—after much speculation as to who would take the job in the first place—and a Hollywood staple left disgraced.

Such a pattern has become commonplace throughout the industry, with celebrities’ past and current remarks getting the better of them. But even during a time when the line for decency lies at caution’s feet, it’s hard not to wonder whether every situation requires a banishment.

That’s not to say some don’t warrant it. In the most prominent example this year, Roseanne Barr was fired from her self-titled show in May due to racist remarks she made about a former Obama White House official and, in the aftermath, gave wildly varied reasons from medication (she claimed to be on Ambien) to mistaken race (“I thought the b**ch was white,” she yelled in a YouTube video). That resulted in the cancelation of her show (since revived and rebranded The Conners) and a fall from television royalty.

It also isn’t the first time for the Academy. In late 2011, when Eddie Murphy was set to host the following year’s ceremony, the group fired producer Brett Ratner after he made homophobic comments at a Q&A for his film Tower Heist. Murphy left in solidarity and Billy Crystal returned for his ninth stint, but it showed that the Academy took swift action for justified cause.

In Hart’s case, there wasn’t a maze required to navigate his responses. He immediately responded on Instagram with acknowledgements that he had changed (yet without referring to the specific tweets themselves) and then, in subsequent posts, felt remiss that years-old words could cost him the opportunity. They were consistent, apologetic (even without directly apologizing) and weren’t dismissive of the contents of the tweets themselves—Hart stated repeatedly that he had changed. Even critics of the tweets thought the situation provided him and the Academy opportunities to work with LGBTQ+ groups to rectify the mistake.

Instead, five weeks before the ceremony, the program is without a host. Rather then rectifying the moment, the ordeal became another casualty of the Hollywood of 2018, one where mistakes can bring down even the most acclaimed individuals.

That’s not to use the word “mistake” broadly—people like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein didn’t just make mistakes. They’re alleged to have preyed upon people and subjected them to various amounts of sexual harassment and assault. But in the essence of Hart’s tweets, it’s not hard to think that his opinion and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals has changed. Even in progressive political figures like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we’ve seen shifts in how people have come to accept members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Academy likely feels it made the right decision—in a year when viewership is down and the ability to excite viewers is harder, it wouldn’t have been the wisest move to stick with someone under intense scrutiny. However, in an industry already hard enough to break into, having every word you’ve said or written become a means of downfall isn’t always the best way.