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After Hart, finding Oscars host won’t be easy

Dec 10,2018
The “most thankless job in town” just got even more difficult.

The Oscars have a longstanding host problem, but Kevin Hart’s swift downfall over old anti-gay tweets has led to bigger questions about the gig and the liability of social media histories.

It’s just the latest controversy for the organization that puts on the Academy Awards, which is trying to combat declining ratings for its marquee event while weathering the pressure of being a focal point for the shortcomings of the entertainment industry as a whole.

“I think it’s embarrassing,” Matthew Belloni, the Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director, said about the academy’s decision to pick Hart. “It shows that they either didn’t vet this host properly, or they did vet him and didn’t think this would be an issue. And both are a little troubling.”

Hart seemed to fit the bill for what the academy was looking for.

“He checks all the boxes for a show like the Oscars,” Belloni said. “He’s a legitimate movie star. He’s a funny guy and can handle the stand-up element of the show. And he has a gigantic social following. And to the academy, that’s important. They want someone who can bring a new audience to the show.”

But Oscars hosts have always been subjected to a lot of scrutiny.

Poor or even mediocre performances can haunt people for years (Anne Hathaway and James Franco). Off-color jokes have a way of festering in the cultural consciousness (think of Seth MacFarlane’s “we saw your boobs” song, or Chris Rock’s Asian jokes). And even when things go decently enough, everyone is handed the right envelope and nobody walks away offended, the hosts can still be blamed for poor ratings.

“Oscars host has become a not very desirable job in Hollywood. Very few people see an upside,” Belloni said.

People have stepped down from being the public face of the event amid controversy, as producer Brett Ratner did in 2011 for anti-gay slurs. But Hart’s case is a little different. Ratner’s offensive remarks came after he had secured the gig. Hart’s tweets were from almost a decade ago and were well-known.

But in 2018, an unsavory social media past can cost someone their job. Just this past summer, the Walt Disney Co. fired director James Gunn from the third “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie for old tweets in which he joked about subjects including rape and pedophilia. As with Hart, the problematic tweets were amplified by social media outrage.

AP