The Kevin Hart Oscars scandal has moved with Trump-level speed, all while being Trump-level dense. The story so far: On Tuesday, Kevin Hart swooped in as the official host of this February’s Oscars. By Thursday night, he had resigned, after attention was drawn to past homophobic tweets. (The show may now go host-less.) On Saturday, Nick Cannon dug up old tweets by Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, and Amy Schumer, in which all three used homophobic slurs. Today, Silverman, at least, responded, retweeting a thread that argued that, as allies of the LGBTQ community, the three were not speaking maliciously, and thus were not the same as Hart’s epithets.
Billy Eichner has also weighed in. The comic and host of Billy on the Street had apparently been asked by many for his two cents on the scandal-within-the-scandal. And Sunday night he did.
“I think Nick’s point is a compelling one,” Eichner began. “I obviously do not and cannot speak for the entire LGBT community (obviously). But here’s my personal opinion: Just don’t use that word. It’s as simple as that. There are so many other words to use.”
And yet, he drew the line at condemning Silverman, Handler, or Schumer.
Now, because I am a grown up and not a child, I do take context nuance and intention into consideration. I think these are comedians who felt they can use that term because they have very large, dedicated gay male followings, myself included. They feel like they’re ‘one of us.’ So I think in some cases it was being used with what is intended as some sort of endearing, if irreverent, affection. And I do think there is a sizable difference between using this one word in this type of context and saying with some amount of gravity and truth that you’re going to smash a dollhouse over your child’s head if they exhibit stereotypically gay behavior.
The last part was in reference to an old Hart stand-up bit, in which he joked about how mad he’d get if his son turned out gay. Eichner continued:
HOWEVER – that is an explanation, not an excuse. I agree that the best thing to do is to just not use the damn word! As a gay man, unless it’s perhaps a gay friend of mine saying it to me at a LIVELY BRUNCH, I don’t like hearing it. Even when I know it’s coming from an ally – and certainly when I know that it isn’t. It’s not a fun word for us to hear at this point. We’ve come too far. So maybe just drop it. I’m not into censorship and I know some gay men may disagree but, like I said, there are so many other words to use.
Eichner had one final point to make, and that was about “cancelling” anyone, including Hart. He dislikes both homophobic slurs and what he called “‘cancellation’ culture.”
[M]any of us, myself included, have made jokes/tweets in the past that we deeply regret. Kevin decided to quit on his own volition. He had his reasons and that’s obviously his prerogative. But I’m not into people being permanently ‘cancelled’ over something like this. To me, ‘cancellation’ is childish. I’m into conversation, not cancellation. I’m into owning up to past mistakes, acknowledging blindspots and hurtful remarks, talking through it, discussing it, learning, moving past it and making progress together. And with that I would like to announce my candidacy for President of the United States. Just kidding.
Well, now Eichner may as well run in 2020. It’s not like anyone else is any more qualified, or certainly as mature.
It’s worth nothing that Cannon, when he called out Silverman, Handler, and Schumer, played a classic, questionable “both sides” argument, ignoring any context or intent that may distinguish the sides from each other. He then effectively stepped away after lighting the fuse, watching the world burn from afar.
Eichner, meanwhile, over four screens’ worth of carefully chosen words, encouraged discussion, all while navigating a complicated issue. He asked us to listen, to empathize, but to stand firm, demanding that people who’ve been called out for past behavior must at least first admit they did something wrong. Perhaps nuance is not what you’d expect for someone who’s made his career yelling at strangers, but the future is a strange place.