Refresh For Updates The Ellen backlash – social media users objecting, vociferously, to DeGeneres’ possibly deal-making support for Kevin Hart as Oscar host – puts Hollywood in a tricky spot. While some stars will no doubt agree (at least privately) with LGBTQ rights supporters and activists who are condemning the talk host’s defense of Hart as a betrayal, speaking out against the beloved DeGeneres won’t be easy.
So far, Hollywood’s usual tweeters are mostly keeping quite (Deadline will update this post periodically throughout the day). William Shatner voiced his support for Hart and DeGeneres, as did comedian Rob Schneider.
See the tweets below.
“We don’t know each other and I’m just a voice in wind,” tweeted Shatner to Hart. “I read what @TheEllenShow said and I agree with what Ellen said. THEY win if you don’t do what your heart wants because of their bullying. Don’t let them dictate you & your life. Host the Oscars.”
Tweeted Schneider, “Comics are the ones who are supposed to say the horrible things we all think but don’t.”
Schneider apparently meant that comics say the things we all would like to say, but even a more articulate attempt would be ludicrous: One of those “things” Hart tweeted (and later apologized for) was, “If my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.'” Hardly anything “we all all would like to say,” which didn’t stop Schneider from calling for an Oscar boycott if Hart doesn’t host.
And Shatner’s message goes directly (if unintentionally) to the heart of the backlash: By dismissing Hart’s critics as bullies – or, as DeGeneres said, haters or, in Hart’s word, trolls – the Hart For Host supporters get everything exactly backwards, painting Hart as a victim of easily offended snowflakey grudge-holders. Half-hearted apologies aside, Hart referring to criticism as “a malicious attack on his character” reveals little genuine regret.
DeGeneres certainly seems to have misjudged how her support for Hart would be received. On the show, she tells Hart, “Don’t pay attention to them; they are a small group of people who are very, very loud. We are a huge group of people who love you and want you to host the Oscars.”
In a string of tweets, Jamar St. Rogers, a former semi-finalist on The Voice who disclosed his HIV+ status then and later appeared on DeGeneres’ talk show, expressed his disappointment, writing, “this is so disheartening. As both a former guest on your show and as a black gay man, to reduce Kevin’s critics as mere ‘haters” is dismissive and harmful.”
St. Rogers continued, “as a man living with HIV, Kevin’s jokes about someone’s [avatar] looking like a ‘billboard for a gay person with AIDS’ is appalling. It doesn’t matter how old these ‘jokes’ are. These ‘jokes’ are why HIV carries so much stigma.
“I love who you present yourself as. I really do. America listens to you. So when you give passes on ‘jokes’ like these, please understand that there are real life implications. I say this with love from one black gay man that is formerly suicidal.”
Mark Harris, author of the Hollywood history books Pictures At A Revolution and Five Came Back and husband of playwright Tony Kushner, also tweeted a series of messages about DeGeneres. “Hart was not railroaded out of a job,” Harris writes. “He was asked to apologize, He quit rather than do so. ‘The mob’ did not make this mess. And Ellen DeGeneres saying, ‘Don’t let those people win’ is ugly. ‘Those people’ are people who don’t prioritize a celeb’s hurt feelings above all else.”
This is a trial balloon–let’s see if “the mob” has quieted down enough to put Hart right back in the gig he wants. It represents contempt for any kind of public outcry as dumb noise that you just have to ride out. It’s meant to minimize real distress from non-famous LGBT folk.
It’s a shame that DeGeneres has decided to serve as the instrument of that kind of perpetually embattled Hollywood bubble thinking. So, as a member of the “mob,” I guess, I still say what I said before: Find another host this year…”
Harris also questioned who, exactly, DeGeneres spoke with at the Academy when she called to support Hart (“There is no one person empowered to characterize the Academy or the feelings of the Board of Governors this monolithically. Does DeGeneres mean the show’s producers?”) and addressed Hart’s description of criticism as a “malicious attack”:
This, in particular, is narcissistic nonsense that should raise many eyebrows about Hart’s apology. If you think those who criticized you are malicious, ill-motivated, and out to destroy you, then what they’re saying can’t be particularly valid, can it?
I admire a lot about Ellen DeGeneres. She genuinely went where no TV star had gone before. But on some level, the lesson she drew from her experience was, “If you ask for too much, they will take everything away.” That’s wrong, and even dangerous, for 2019.
The Kevin Hart story reminds me that being LGBT and insisting on decent treatment means constantly being told you’re shrill, you’re a hater, you’re a mob, get a sense of humor, lighten up, get over it, move on, don’t be so strident. It all means the same thing: Watch yourself.
DeGeneres responded to the backlash this afternoon, with the Hart episode of her show just hours away from airing in many markets. “However you feel about this, the only positive way through it is to talk about it. Thank you for being here, @KevinHart4real.”
And if Hollywood’s big names aren’t challenging DeGeneres, her own Twitter followers aren’t so reluctant. When the host tweeted this afternoon that she and and wife Portia de Rossi “both loved” Hart’s new film The Upside, the first response was, “ELLEN! READ THE ROOM!”
Here is a sampling of today’s responses to the controversy: