With Kevin Hart’s down­fall, host­ing Os­cars got harder

Texarkana Gazette - - NATION/WORLD - By Lind­sey Bahr

LOS AN­GE­LES—The “most thank­less job in town” just got even more dif­fi­cult.

The Os­cars have a long­stand­ing host prob­lem, but Kevin Hart’s swift down­fall over old anti-gay joke tweets has led to big­ger ques­tions about the gig and the li­a­bil­ity of so­cial me­dia his­to­ries.

It’s just the lat­est con­tro­versy for the or­ga­ni­za­tion that puts on the Acad­emy Awards, which is try­ing to com­bat de­clin­ing rat­ings for its mar­quee event while weath­er­ing the pres­sure of be­ing a fo­cal point for the short­com­ings of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try as a whole.

“I think it’s em­bar­rass­ing,” Matthew Bel­loni, the edi­to­rial di­rec­tor of The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, said about the acad­emy’s de­ci­sion to pick Hart. “It shows that they ei­ther didn’t vet this host prop­erly, or they did vet him and didn’t think this would be an is­sue. And both are a lit­tle trou­bling.”

Hart seemed to fit the bill for what the acad­emy was look­ing for.

“He checks all the boxes for a show like the Os­cars,” Bel­loni said. “He’s a le­git­i­mate movie star. He’s a funny guy and can han­dle the standup el­e­ment of the show. And he has a gi­gan­tic so­cial fol­low­ing. And to the acad­emy, that’s im­por­tant. They want some­one who can bring a new au­di­ence to the show.”

But Os­cars hosts have al­ways been sub­jected to a lot of scru­tiny.

Poor or even medi­ocre per­for­mances can haunt peo­ple for years (Anne Hath­away and James Franco). Off-color jokes have a way of fes­ter­ing in the cul­tural con­scious­ness (think of Seth Mac­Far­lane’s “we saw your boobs” song, or Chris Rock’s Asian jokes). And even when things go de­cently enough, ev­ery­one is handed the right en­ve­lope and no­body walks away of­fended, the hosts can still be blamed for poor rat­ings.

“Os­cars host has be­come a not very de­sir­able job in Hol­ly­wood. Very few peo­ple see an up­side,” Bel­loni said. “You put a huge tar­get on your back.”

Peo­ple have stepped down from be­ing the pub­lic face of the event amid con­tro­versy, as pro­ducer Brett Rat­ner did in 2011 for anti-gay slurs. But Hart’s case is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Rat­ner’s of­fen­sive re­marks came af­ter he had se­cured the gig. Hart’s tweets were from al­most a decade ago and were well known.

But in 2018, an un­sa­vory so­cial me­dia past can cost some­one their job. Just this past sum­mer, the Walt Dis­ney Co. fired di­rec­tor James Gunn from the third “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie for old tweets in which he joked about sub­jects in­clud­ing rape and pe­dophilia. As with Hart, the tweets were am­pli­fied by so­cial me­dia out­rage.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter Hart was con­firmed as host on Tues­day night, some jour­nal­ists be­gan tweet­ing re­minders of Hart’s past com­ments. By Thurs­day morn­ing, a few pub­li­ca­tions had writ­ten ar­ti­cles about them. The out­rage es­ca­lated, Hart com­mented but did not apol­o­gize, stok­ing even more out­rage, which cul­mi­nated with Hart’s an­nounce­ment on Thurs­day night that he was step­ping down as host of the 91st Acad­emy Awards.

As the dust set­tles, the sit­u­a­tion has proved vex­ing for some in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness. Ac­tor D.L. Hugh­ley com­mended Hart for his de­ci­sion.

“A Co­me­dian says some­thing that of­fends peo­ple and refuses to apol­o­gize?” Hugh­ley tweeted. “(Ex­ple­tive) ‘em if they can’t take a joke! Well done #Kev­inHart.” Snoop Dogg posted an even more col­or­ful In­sta­gram video in sup­port of Hart.

The ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion GLAAD wishes Hart hadn’t stepped down, how­ever.

“Hart’s apol­ogy to LGBTQ peo­ple is an im­por­tant step for­ward, but he missed a real op­por­tu­nity to use his plat­form and the Os­cars stage to build unity and aware­ness,” said GLAAD Pres­i­dent and CEO Sarah Kate El­lis.

The film acad­emy has yet to ad­dress Hart’s de­par­ture. Hart said the film acad­emy told him he had to apol­o­gize or he’d lose the gig. He bowed out on his own, and with an apol­ogy.

Now ev­ery­one has an opin­ion about who should be named host. A woman? A co­me­dian? Not a co­me­dian? Some­one in the LGBTQ com­mu­nity? All of the above?

Many keep com­ing back to Whoopi Gold­berg, who has hosted the awards four times. Some have said Ellen DeGeneres, who hosted one of the Os­cars’ high­est-rated shows, or Tom Hanks, who has a long­stand­ing acad­emy re­la­tion­ship.

Oth­ers have said Kee­gan Michael-Key and Jor­dan Peele, Will Smith or Lin-Manuel Mi­randa. Busy Phillips threw her own name out there (“I AM AVAIL­ABLE,” she tweeted). Philips also pro­posed Issa Rae, Sarah Sil­ver­man, Ali Wong, Sa­man­tha Bee, Robin Thede and Aisha Tyler, or “any other woman work­ing in Hol­ly­wood right now who wants to.”

Stephen King sug­gested Pat­ton Oswalt (He’s “funny, sharp-tongued, and he knows film,” King tweeted.) Some have even pro­posed Philadel­phia Fly­ers mas­cot Gritty. Or no host at all, which has been done sev­eral times be­fore, and as re­cently as 1989.

But the film acad­emy will need to move quickly. The 91st Os­cars are less than three months out.

Photo by Jor­dan Strauss/Invision/AP, File

■ In this 2017 file photo, Kevin Hart ar­rives at the pre­miere of “Ju­manji: Wel­come to the Jun­gle” in Los An­ge­les. On Thurs­day night, Hart an­nounced he was bow­ing out of host­ing the 91st Acad­emy Awards af­ter pub­lic out­rage over old anti-gay joke tweets reached a tip­ping point.

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