The Oscars are still a little more than a month away but it seems this year, for the first time in decades, the show will not have a host? Today Vox has an article titled “Why no one wants to host the Oscars.” With a title that blunt and an article this long, you’d fully expect that at some point we’d get a clear answer to the question, but ultimately the author seems to dodge a bit from the obvious conclusion. We’ll get to that in a moment but first, the piece points out that the last time the Oscars did not have a host was in 1989 and that show, in particular, was considered an embarrassing disaster.
After the ceremony, 17 Hollywood luminaries, including Billy Wilder and former Academy president Gregory Peck, wrote an open letter to the show’s producer, Allan Carr, declaring that the broadcast was “an embarrassment to both the Academy and the entire motion picture industry. It is neither fitting nor acceptable that the best work in motion pictures be acknowledged in such a demeaning fashion.”
But it seems, despite the verdict of history, the show is planning to go without a host this year. So again, the question is why. And here’s where the article seems to offer plenty of data points that it never quite connects into a coherent explanation. For instance:
The previously announced host Kevin Hart definitely won’t be keeping the gig. Hart confirmed as much on January 9, following a weeks-long fiasco involving homophobic tweets and jokes he made in the past. He was stepping down amid an extended controversy over what many see as his refusal to truly apologize for those tweets and jokes, and a misguided attempt by Ellen DeGeneres to help rehabilitate Hart’s image and reinstate him as host.
By the way, the “misguided” involvement of Ellen DeGeneres was captured in a previous Vox story titled “Ellen DeGeneres still wants Kevin Hart to host the Oscars. Her support has sparked new backlash.” It reads in part:
Plenty of onlookers have voiced concerns that Hart never truly apologized for making the homophobic comedy to begin with, and that despite DeGeneres’s enthusiasm for Hart, he seems to have learned very little in the ensuing debate…
Many people have also argued on social media that both Hart and DeGeneres have minimized the people who are offended by Hart’s comedy. Before stepping down in December, Hart initially referred to his detractors on Instagram as “trolls”; on her show, DeGeneres characterizes the reaction as coming from “haters.”
Are you seeing a pattern form yet? Let’s return to today’s Vox story for some more data points:
Seth MacFarlane, who came under widespread criticism after performing an ill-advised musical number called “We Saw Your Boobs” during his 2013 turn as Oscars host, said in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly that the gig has “all eyes on it,” which makes it a prime target for criticism…
It’s risky to hire someone who’s too edgy, in an attempt to appeal to a younger crowd. After all, 2018’s ratings were the lowest since 2008, when Jon Stewart — then the very popular host of The Daily Show — hosted for the second time. Finding someone more appealing to a young 2008 crowd than Stewart is hard to imagine, but he may have been too political for some, including many of the older viewers in the audience.
And yet it’s not like playing it safe is a surefire strategy, either. A “safe” Oscars ceremony that purposely abstained from edginess, from offering any social or political commentary whatsoever, would keep Hollywood from showing the world the progressive, inclusive image it wishes to project — especially in 2019…
Much of the chatter in 2019 Hollywood — particularly in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite and amid the ongoing #MeToo movement — centers on diversity, inclusion, and re-envisioning a business that has long been dominated by white men and characterized by workplace practices that are frequently exploitative and sometimes downright abusive. At festivals and in backroom conversations, in interviews and at cocktail parties, plenty of people are talking about broadening who even gets to tell stories in Hollywood.
If I can sort of sum this up. The Oscars wants someone progressive and edgy, but not too edgy. Comedian Seth MacFarlane took a beating for being the latter when he hosted in 2012. In 2016 the controversy was #OscarsSoWhite and in 2018 the focus was on #MeToo. This year, Kevin Hart was pushed out as host over some old Twitter comments and Ellen DeGeneres was reprimanded online when she tried to go to bat for Hart.
So when you ask the question ‘Why is it so hard to find a host?’ it seems the answer is right there, staring you in the face. The Academy says it wants edgy jokes but at the same time, there is no one on earth who is woke enough to suit the critics.
What the Oscars are experiencing is exactly what many comics have been talking about for the past several years: You can’t tell jokes on college campuses anymore, or really anywhere, because someone is always offended. Comedy is the canary in the progressive coal mine. Given all the progressives in the room and around the country watching the Oscars, it seems inevitable this event would face exactly this sort of pressure. The only surprise is that it took until 2019. Rather than reach the obvious conclusion, the author closes the piece by endorsing a host-less Oscars in the name of change and diversity:
Change comes slowly — though there was an uptick in films by black filmmakers last year, women actually directed fewer films in 2018 than in 2017. But Hollywood wants you, and the rest of America, to know that it wants to lead the way toward a brighter, more diverse future. There’s a good chance that message might be more clearly communicated through a vibrant array of Oscars presenters, rather than one person popping up to crack some jokes.
The left doesn’t benefit by relieving social pressure but by stoking it. That’s why it makes perfect sense that no one is eager to host the show. Simply put, it’s an impossible job. You can’t tell jokes, much less edgy jokes, to a room full of scolds who believe taking offense is the height of social progress. Kevin Hart should count himself lucky.