Kevin Hart’s homophobia reflects bigger issue

By Campus Editor

Stand-up comedian Kevin Hart has played many roles, but there is one role he claims he will never play: a gay man.

Hart has gained a strong fan base that seems to support most of his career ventures with his appearances in popular films and several TV shows, but in a recent interview with “The Breakfast Club” on Power 105.1, Hart said he will never play a gay character—and even turned down one such role in 2008’s blockbuster hit “Tropic Thunder” because he is insecure about what people would think of him.

“I don’t think I’m really going to dive into that role 100 percent because of the insecurities about myself trying to play that part,” Hart said. “What I think people are going to think while I’m trying to do this is going to stop me.”

Plenty of other straight actors have played the roles of gay men in their careers, and Hart’s refusal to do so only makes him appear homophobic and hypocritical.

In his films, Hart has played many roles that could hardly be deemed appropriate if they accurately represented his real-life behavior. In one of his most popular films, “Think Like a Man,” Hart plays a happily divorced womanizer quick to hit on any woman he sees. A more recent example would be Hart’s role in “The Wedding Ringer,” in which he plays a condescending wedding planner whose methods are inconsiderate and impractical.

In his stand-up act, Hart enthusiastically tells personal stories that do not paint the best picture of him. For instance, he has no reservations telling personal anecdotes of getting drunk at bars and starting fights. Why is it that Hart is more comfortable playing reprehensible characters or telling stories that actually portray him in a bad light, unconcerned about what people may think of him, but when it comes to simply playing a gay male he feels insecure? It gives the impression that Hart believes that being gay is worse than being a bad person. 

It is also concerning that people would rather see Hart as morally bankrupt than as a gay man. Hart’s irrational fears of the repercussions of playing a gay character only highlight a larger societal issue: Some people are too judgmental and quick to label actors based on their roles. Just because somebody plays a gay character does not mean they are gay. Unlike children, most adults in the audience should understand that actors are playing roles of fictional people that do not coincide with their personal lives.

Yes, Hart’s comments do come across as homophobic, but his fear could be the result of the film industry’s problematic history of straight actors being shamed for playing characters of a different sexual orientation.

One major example of this is the flurry of rumors that surrounded Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s individual sexualities following the 2005 release of “Brokeback Mountain.”

It has been nearly a decade since the film’s release, and more recent releases show that the issue is just as prevalent today. Very little progress has been made.

More recently, Nick Jonas’ sexuality has been called into question since “Kingdom,” the TV show in which he stars, recently revealed his character is gay and showed a gay sex scene involving the actor. Despite this public reaction, Jonas has stuck by his decision to play the character and, in a Dec. 10 interview with BuzzFeed, said he was proud to play a gay character and regretted nothing.

Similar to Jonas, there are many other straight actors who would not think twice before playing a gay role and actually take pride in doing so, unlike Hart.

During the Jan. 23 premiere of “James White” at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, rapper and actor Kid Cudi—who plays a gay man in the film—told Billboard he did not even hesitate to accept the role.

“I knew I had a responsibility,” Cudi said. “There’s going to be some kid that’s going to see me in this film and maybe have the confidence to come out. I’m comfortable with myself as a man.”

It is important that we have straight actors filling the roles of gay characters. It demonstrates a growing support for the LGBTQ community and can help people struggling with their sexual identities to realize that they have allies. Gay roles should not be exclusive to gay actors.

To solve this issue, there need to be more actors like Jonas and Cudi who are not afraid to take on gay roles because of how people might interpret them. The more often straight actors embrace and portray gay roles, the more accepted the idea will become. Straight actors would receive much less backlash for playing gay characters, and maybe people like Hart would be less reluctant to play gay characters.