Why are some offensive tweets easier to forgive than others?

Kevin Hart just got fired from hosting the Oscars for homophobic jokes posted on Twitter roughly eight years ago. As a gay man, I celebrated the news. How could someone who has expressed such vile sentiments be given an opportunity so privileged? The case was clear-cut as far as I was concerned, a triumphant win for right-thinking members of society. Yet, when director James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 in July for a set of old but controversial tweets, I was outraged by the oppressive nature of our politically-correct culture. Which brings me to the question: am I an enormous hypocrite?

Sure, I can attempt to justify my reactions to these two career-damaging events. For one thing, Gunn’s offending tweets – primarily jokes about rape and paedophilia – are so absurd that it’s quite obvious they weren’t intended to be taken seriously. They are distasteful and insensitive, but don’t seem reflective of any intention to commit assault. On the other hand, Hart’s tweets and subsequent statements regarding the LGBT+ community do seem indicative of a genuine, hard-wired intolerance. Perhaps there’s some point to be made from that, although arguing in favour of a man who makes light of sexual assault hardly feels like a just cause.

Alternatively, it may come down to the output of the artist. Kevin Hart specialises in shrill stand-up routines and poorly-written lowbrow comedies, not a legacy that many would jump to protect. Meanwhile, James Gunn has written and directed a number of acclaimed films, from offbeat dramedy Super to the family favourite Guardians of the Galaxy. However, if it’s possible to separate art from the artist, then why am I so reluctant to watch a Roman Polanski feature? Admittedly, Polanski’s crimes are of a far more serious nature, but if art truly stands on its own then this shouldn’t be such a problem.

Of course, the truth is – and I’ve had a hard time admitting this – that rather than one party being lesser than the other, Hart’s comments about homosexuality are simply more hurtful to me personally, much like Gunn’s remarks would likely cause more pain to a victim of abuse. Forgiving one misdeed and not the other would be unadulterated hypocrisy on my part and that’s not something I’m willing to indulge in. Both sets of comments are condemnable but they were made almost a decade ago and to assume that these men haven’t changed at all in that time would be a highly cynical mindset. That’s why I forgive Kevin Hart.

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