With every new year comes the influx of social media posts and people saying, “new year, new me.” This is a slogan that many of us have come to live by, year after year. We like this sentiment because it gives us hope that we can change, evolve and improve ourselves. It gives us the motivation to pursue self-transformation. Yet, when the homophobic tweets of comedian Kevin Hart resurfaced, many people immediately assumed the worst of him; they were stuck in the narrow-minded belief that he was not capable of the change that we so often seek.
The tweets, which were posted in 2009, came to the public’s attention almost immediately after Hart announced that he would be hosting the Oscars this year. In response to the backlash, the Academy of Motions Picture Arts and Sciences gave Hart two choices: apologize publicly, or step down as host. He chose the latter, but still apologized on Twitter. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he said on December 6, 2018. Continuing his apology in another tweet, he said, “I’m sorry that I hurt people... I am evolving and want to continue to do so.”
Most of the people who attacked Hart after seeing his old tweets had limited knowledge of the situation. There are two clear reasons for the negative response to Hart’s Oscars hosting announcement: internet trolls are bored and looking for a career or life to destroy; or they are unwilling to do the research before attacking someone for something that they addressed and apologized for ten years ago.
Put yourself in Hart’s shoes. When he posted the hurtful tweets, Hart was in his late 20s. So, imagine ten years from now. It is 2029 and you are applying for your dream job. The interview went very well and you go home with great confidence that you will get the job. Your potential employer thinks you are a perfect fit and wants to hire you. However, while doing a background check, he discovers a misguided social media post from your last years in high school, maybe your early years in college. You have changed since that post, you have moved on. But this does not matter. You are rejected for the position. You were judged solely based on something that was said by a past version of you, deprived of the opportunity to show that you have changed. While there is a big difference between posting something in your teenage years and posting something in your late 20s, the motives are typically the same. As Kevin Hart explained in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, he was “a guy that was just looking for laughs,” as teenagers posting on social media are just looking for a platform to share their experiences and fun.
Too often we put celebrities on a pedestal; we expect them to be completely perfect, not allowing them to make any mistakes. We forget that they are human. I am completely against what Hart said ten years ago, but I am completely for the growth and progression of people. We should admire Hart for abdicating his well-deserved role as Oscars host in a sincere act of sticking to his beliefs and dignity, not just apologizing to satisfy the unquenchable detractors. Hosting the Oscars is something that many actors and comedians see as the hallmark of success. This is shown by Hart’s expression, joy and gratitude on his Instagram hosting announcement. “I am blown away simply because this has been a goal on my list for a long time….To be able to join the legendary list of [hosts] that have graced the stage is unbelievable,” said Hart. In this sense, Hart gave up his dream job because he was unwilling to sacrifice his integrity to satisfy a multitude of insatiable internet trolls. The sincerity of his apology is revealed by the fact that he apologized to the LGBTQ community, once again, after stepping down from hosting the Oscars, because he did not want to distract from the celebration and recognition of the nominated actors, actresses and artists. “You can’t grow as a person without mistakes. You don’t know what perfection is unless you’ve experienced imperfection,” said Hart in the interview with DeGeneres. Instead of unrealistically expecting perfection from Hart and other celebrities, maybe we should admire Hart for being able to embody the growth and self-respect that we all aspire to achieve.