Hollywood is filled with comeback stories of stars who have made mistakes and found redemption.
The public loves them.
But if there is an art to the apology process, comedian and actor Kevin Hart ran afoul of it this week and toppled himself as host of the next Academy Awards.
The comedian made some comments on Twitter between 2009 and 2011 that included derogatory language about homosexuals.
When those tweets resurfaced on Thursday, there was an immediate opportunity for the “Night School” star to own it, apologize and move on.
But that’s not how he handled it.
Hart initially took the position that the past is the past.
He posted a video on Instagram in response to the controversy in which he made it clear that he believed he is well beyond that time in his life.
“Guys, I’m almost 40 years old,” he said in the video.”If you don’t believe people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man.”
Definitely not an apology. By shifting the onus to others for trying to hold him accountable for his words, Hart did not do much to improve the situation.
Comedians, in particular, are in a tenuous position right now.
So much of what used to be deemed funny no longer is. True growth for an artist means they recognize that.
Dave Chappelle found that out last year when he returned to the spotlight with two Netflix comedy specials.
Someone seemingly forgot to tell Chappelle that in the almost 13 years he had been off the scene, jokes about trans men and women no longer get a pass. There was immediate backlash against Chappelle’s quips.
Hart hasn’t left the stand-up circuit and seemingly knows better.
In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Hart addressed jokes he had made in the past about trying to prevent his son from being gay.
“I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now,” Hart told the publication. “I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”
This makes it all the more surprising that Hart – at first – declined to issue a mea culpa and shared over social media that the Academy told him to either apologize or be replaced as the Oscars host.
“I chose to pass on the apology,” Hart said. “The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times.”
The producing team behind the Oscars, Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd, along with the Academy, declined to comment when contacted by CNN. But it seems if others found Hart’s old tweets, they could have, too – and preemptively addressed the matter.
The comic pointed out that he has “moved on” and is “in a completely different space in my life.”
He also equated apologizing to “feeding the internet trolls.”
The problem is trolls weren’t the people who were hurt by Hart’s words or seeking an apology.
Despite the many strides made by the LGBTQ community, the world is far from being at a point where their concerns can be shrugged off.
We are no more post-discrimination against that community than we are post-racial.
And as comedian and actor Billy Eichner tweeted, “A simple, authentic apology showing any bit of understanding or remorse would have been so simple.”
“Like I tweeted a few weeks ago, Hollywood still has a real problem with gay men,” tweeted Eichner, who is gay. “On the surface it may not look like it. Underneath, it’s far more complicated.”
By the time Hart did apologize, it was late and in the context of his decision to step away from the hosting gig.
“I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past. I’m sorry that I hurt people… I am evolving and want to continue to do so,” Hart tweeted. “My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.”