The comic actor Kevin Hart has confirmed that he’ll be hosting next year’s Academy Awards.
The star, best known outside the US for Get Hard and the Ride Along films, is next to be seen on the big screen alongside Bryan Cranston in The Upside, the English-language remake of the French social comedy Untouchable.
Hart said hosting the Oscars was “a goal on my list for a long time” and described it as as the “opportunity of a lifetime for me as a comedian.” He said he would rise to the occasion and make the upcoming Oscar night “a special one.”
”Welcome to the family,” came the Academy’s confirmation.
In recent years, the job of hosting the Oscars has become somewhat of a poisoned chalice, with the 2018 viewing figures falling röntgen lowest in the show’s history.
With the industry – and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in particular- still reeling from accusations of a lack of diversity, choosing another black host – after Sammy Davis Jr, Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rick – is being seen as an attempt by the organisers to cast off the OscarsSoWhite hashtag once and for all. The Academy clearly sees the lack of minority ethnic representation as such a key issue that in responding to last year’s Me Too scandal, its moves to increase the diversity of its membership expanded from gender to race too.
As well as adding diversity to the line-up, the choice of Hart will also have been a clear attempt to boost the flagging audience; as a rough indication, disregarding country of origin, if every one of his 34.6 million twitter followers were to tune in, he would secure 8 million viewers more than last year’s ceremony, fronted by US chat show host Jimmy Kimmel, who has a third of the number of Twitter followers.
But while his own fans have unsurprisingly praised the decision, Hart’s appointment at such a sensitive time has, to say the least, raised a few eye-brows, considering his much publicised comments and actions.
The founder of the Awards Watch website Erik Anderson wrote, “Considering how many of the Oscars’ biggest fans are women and gay men it’s quite something for the Academy to hire a guy who beat one wife, cheated on another when she was eight months pregnant and said one of his biggest fears is his son growing up and being gay.”
It’s the stand-up routine referred to here that has raised the ire of the Guardian’s Benjamin Lee, a long-time critic of Hart’s, who’s expressed surprise at the appointment, given that the Academy sacked director Brett Ratner as a producer of its awards show in 2011 for saying that rehearsals were “for fags.”
Lee has described Hart’s Get Hard, in which he appeared alongside Will Ferrell, as “one of the most shockingly regressive gay panic comedies in recent memory, an almost two-hour film based around a fear of anal sex.”
In his commentary on the Academy’s choice of host, Lee concludes, “Hart’s obsession with making unfunny, disrespectful and inappropriate jokes about a community he has shown nothing but bile for along with a string of unrepentant responses to any criticism paints him as someone entirely undeserving of a spot on the Oscars stage. If the Academy wants to progress and remain relevant, handpicking a man with a history of homophobia is a flashing red siren of an issue, a middle finger up to the LGBT community and a sign that Oscars might no longer be quite as white but they remain aggressively straight.”
If the clamour for his removal grows, the Academy might dismiss claims of Oscar being “so straight” by pointing to the two recent years hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, but with a recent spate of stars, such as Roseanne Barr and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, being toppled by tweets – contemporary or historic – the momentum might be too powerful to resist. Barr’s comments came well after her show was on air and Gunn was fired after historic comments were unearthed by political opponents, but with Hart’s past being public and recent, the Academy’s appointment could perhaps be seen as either brave or naïve.
Assuming that he rides out the storm, you’ll be able to see whether Hart and the Oscars are a good fit on 24th February 2019, LA time.