Imagining a Different Ending for the Kevin Hart / Oscars Scandal

Is there a scenario where everyone wins, and that makes us all a little better? How would we play for that?

December 10, 2018

I believe that the world is a better place when there is less prejudice against LGBTQ folks - when there is less prejudice towards any group, actually.

I also believe that the world is a better place when there is greater representation of racial minorities on high-profile stages.

So, I’m wondering if there is a way that the recent Kevin Hart scandal (ugly homophobic tweets from years back revealed, social media fury, down step) might have ended in a way that accomplishes the above. 

How about this ending: Kevin Hart steps to the Oscars stage in a fly tux, opens with a hilarious joke, then looks the audience and the cameras square in the eye and talks about the gay people he knows who have enriched his life, and have slowly eroded the prejudice that he once held. He says, with a little catch in his throat, that all of us have prejudices, all of us do things that hurt people and that we regret, and that all of us can grow and change and improve. He challenges people to face their prejudices, to get to know people outside of their normal circles, to open their eyes to the wonder of human diversity, and to be kinder, more welcoming, in a word: better.

Let’s remember that Kevin Hart is a remarkable talent. Not only is he hilarious, he is a comedian who codes black in an identifiable way and also steals the show in performances for mass audiences, as in the film Jumanji 2 (we were on a family vacation, it was raining cats and dogs, there was really nothing else to do). In doing so, he offers the nation a great service: increasing black pride, reducing anti-black prejudice and spreading general hilarity.

I don’t think Kevin Hart’s race offers him any kind of direct protection when his anti-gay tweets are laid bare, but I don’t think it’s irrelevant either.

Can’t you see a family in Buffalo or Toledo or Oklahoma City watching the Oscars – mom, dad and eleven year old twin boys – and seeing Kevin Hart make his jokes, tell his story and offer his apology, and see the thought bubble form inside the father’s head: “Hey, I’ve thought some of those thoughts and made some of those jokes, and listening now to Kevin Hart, I’m a little embarrassed. But he changed, I can too.”

Play that scene across a variety of audiences – gay, straight, family, couple, single, black, white, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, atheist, teenagers, trans, whatever. Doesn’t Kevin Hart being on stage doing that bit provide a service? Couldn’t it make people better? Maybe some coaches stop making homophobic jokes. Maybe some dads look at their sons and think, in an explicit way, “I’m going to love you whoever you choose to love.” 

So, what would it have taken to get there?

Well, Kevin Hart would have had to have been willing to offer a public apology (he did it in a video, I imagine he would have been willing to do it on stage). And he would have had to believe that people would have been willing to accept the apology once it was offered and not, say, shut down the show.

I think human beings are generally better than their worst tweets. Kevin Hart is most certainly a better person than that bundle of ugly homophobia from years back indicates.

I imagine that the people who, upon hearing about those tweets, immediately took to social media to demand Kevin Hart’s scalp might, just might, have taken a different approach had they been offered the opportunity to have dinner with Kevin Hart instead.   

Perhaps Kevin Hart would have had the grace to tell a story of contrition, and they would have had the – what’s the word here? Maybe generosity? – je ne sais quo to help him. Perhaps a friendship could have formed, a prejudice could have dissipated, new possibilities might have emerged, people might have been better after than they were before. And the nation might have been stronger.

Let’s play for those possibilities.


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