In December 2018, we learned that comedian Kevin Hart would serve as the host of the 2019 Academy Awards. For comedians, hosting the Oscars is a big deal. It’s what sets you apart from the pack — from those ordinary comedians who tour in smoky small clubs year-round to make a living so they can keep the lights on and one achieve a semblance of success.
But for a small group of performers – “comedian royalty” – life plays out differently. Their talent and the public’s appreciation of these skills allow them an extended hiatus from the long nights and irascible promoters. They’re A-listers in big films, they perform in arenas and they have demand and receive exorbitant fees for their services. They make millions of dollars every year.
These comedians include: Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld have reached levels that put them on the Mount Rushmore of comedy. One of those highly treasured markers remains the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor with another being tapped to host the Oscars.
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Hart has emerged as the preeminent comedian of the last 10 years. With movies, concerts, commercials endorsements, he’s everywhere. When it was announced that Kev’ from Philly would host the Oscars, the world cheered for him – at least most of the world.
Others weren’t so pleased. Several years ago, Hart posted homophobic tweets that popped up periodically for one reason or another. Each time, he’d apologize and the conversation would die down.
But about one month before the 2019 Oscars, social media users resurrected the buzz relating to his homophobic tweets. This time Hart chose not to apologize.
Paraphrasing Hart, he noted that he’d apologized over and over. Why apologize again and to whom?
Hart referenced those on social media who began to demand that he be replaced from the Oscars.
Eventually he acquiesced once more but he also decided to step down from hosting the Oscars as to not be a “distraction.” Some LGBTQ individuals rejoiced while others shrugged. But many counted it as a win for “social justice warriors” or cancel culture.
Cancel culture or call-out culture is defined as a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – either online or on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be “canceled.”
Some argue that cancel culture counts as little more than a bunch of millennials and Gen Z women’s studies majors online making a fuss about anything they deem to be offensive and who hope their condemnation will stick.
Some say it doesn’t hold any weight because those who are canceled never face any real consequences for their actions. Others believe cancel culture is very real and has taken down entertainment giants like Bill Cosby and R. Kelly both for their alleged sex crimes.
But if cancel culture is real, why did Kevin Hart just sign an eight-figure Netflix deal in which he’s slated to star in four films? Or what about his new original SiriusXM podcast? Oh, and I can’t go a day without seeing the comedian in one of several Chase commercials. Canceled where? Cancel culture is internet culture. And like many things in “internet culture,” the norms don’t quite translate to the real world. Disgraced celebrities like Cosby and R. Kelly and their prison stays aren’t a result of a bunch of Twitter accounts saying they’re canceled. They’re the legal consequences for having committed illegal acts.
Sure, you can personally choose to cancel whoever you’d like for whatever reasons that may suit you.
After all, this is America – the land of free speech. But unless there’s a judge and a jury involved the celebrity or public figure whom you may loathe probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. At best, cancel culture serves as a means of calling out people for their unsavory and sometimes hurtful behavior.
At worst, it’s simply more internet noise that goes away as something more interesting emerges for headline news.