OPINION: The comedian’s comments about his daughter’s ‘hoe-like activity’ in his ‘Zero F**ks Given‘ Netflix special miss the mark
Why is giving no f**ks something we routinely aspire to in this generation? (A serious question.) Everyone’s so concerned with being unbothered and not giving a f**k. It sounds cute. It makes us appear in control. But what are we really talking about here?
Giving a f**k is a normal part of being human.
Our collective need to be the most unbothered person in the room and give the least amount of f**ks likely stems from some self-protection coping behavior we learned as a reaction to some trauma we all have yet to work out in therapy. (But that’s a conversation for another day.)
Whatever the reason, we need to stop that sh*t. We’re not robots. It’s OK to give a f**k. Giving a f**k is actually an important life skill. When you cultivate the art of giving a f**k, it’s easier to remember that calling your daughter a hoe isn’t a good idea. That’s what the f**ks are there for — to stop sh*t like that.
Why Calling Your Daughter a Hoe is Not a Good Idea
This whole scenario is — for lack of a better term — whack. It was a whack-ass joke made for a whack, weak-ass laugh causing us to have this whack-ass conversation about a statement that we all — including Kevin Hart — know was problematic.
The joke used his is Netflix special, Zero F**ks Given, was an unnecessary reach — with very little upside or reward. Was it the worst thing he could’ve said in the worst way — no. But was it dripping with insensitivity toward his daughter and her developing womanhood — YES! Was it in poor taste — YES! Was it a disrespectful statement — YES!
No one has to explain to Kevin Hart why the joke is problematic. (He went to public school. He knows.) And I’m sure he knew it was problematic when he wrote it. So the fact that he continued with the joke tells me that he was more concerned with landing a funny joke than with the message he was sending to his 15-year-old daughter.
To be clear, I’m not saying he doesn’t care about his daughter. I’m not saying he’s not a good father. I’m not even saying that he didn’t think about his daughter or deliberate on whether to include the joke or not. I’m sure he did. I am only saying that in the moment of deciding to move forward with the joke, the primary concern had to be about trying to be funny rather than the message he was sending his daughter. This doesn’t make him a bad father either, but it does make the action insensitive and irresponsible.
His joke conveyed to his daughter (and the world) that it’s OK to call her a hoe — as long as you’re joking. That’s acceptable. Even more, he has to know that as soon as one of his daughter’s classmates gets upset with her, a hoe joke is the first thing flying out of their mouth. It’s low-hanging fruit. Courtesy of him pulling that tree branch down.
I’m sure he probably doesn’t truly think his daughter is a hoe. But the point of the matter is, why even open that door? Why even set her up like that? For a joke? A laugh? It’s expected that comedians will tell embarrassing stories about their families. But there’s a line. It’s not a visible, clearly markable line, but you know it when you see it. At some point a joke crosses that line from merely being embarrassing to just being too much.
Part of fatherhood (or parenthood) is about protecting your children. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. What is said matters. What’s done matters. His daughter is a developing woman, and while no man probably loves her more than Kevin Hart, that doesn’t mean that his actions are always automatically going to be as sensitive to her needs as they should be. That’s a learned skill.
For me, this joke was a reflection of how many men in our society have been socialized to habitually pay attention to the slightest behavior in women for signs of promiscuity. They have been taught to categorize and label certain actions as “hoe-like” — when in reality, they’re just a normal part of growing into womanhood.
Was His Joke Reflective of Disrespect He May Have For Black Women?
Kevin Hart’s willingness and comfort level with making a disparaging joke like this about his daughter, a dark-skinned Black girl, could very well have been a byproduct of the culture of disrespect toward Black women that’s so commonplace in our society.
It’s also possible that this joke was simply made in poor taste by a comedian who’s struggling to find his comedic center again and is throwing anything at the wall to see what sticks. I’m honestly not sure which is true, so I won’t come down on either side. But I think his past statements toward Black women don’t help him in this regard.
Kevin Hart has tweeted some insanely disrespectful statements that have never gotten him cancelled or banned from the Oscars the way his homophobic comments have. Tweets like “#handsdown Dark skinned women take a punch @ da face better than light-skinned women” or “Light-skinned women usually have better credit than a dark-skinned women…Broke ass dark hoes..lol” are just some of the reasons why this narrative that he calls a “false narrative” is springing up in this moment.
In the Clubhouse social network chat that Kevin Hart participated in last week, the group discussed the general theme of disrespect towards Black women. The fact that Black women were being interrupted during that very discussion further underscored the point being made.
And while Kevin Hart discussed ‘Cancel Culture’ a lot, he’s never gotten canceled for anything he’s said about Black women. That doesn’t mean ‘Cancel Culture’ doesn’t exist. It does. It just seems to work for other groups way more than it does for us.
The Reality of ‘Cancel Culture’
On this point, Kevin is right. ‘Cancel Culture’ is a real thing. Our society has become very comfortable pouncing on people’s mistakes. We can cut people down, making them no better than their worst mistakes. We can sometimes suffocate their ability to grow, change, or adapt. ‘Cancel Culture’ is very real.
But ‘No Accountability Culture’ was also real — for centuries. So while we are possibly in a season of overcorrecting on the ‘Cancel Culture’ side, I think we just have to suck it up and understand that eventually we will find the sweet spot of accountability — a place that respects everyone but also gives people the right to grow and change and make mistakes without being socially demolished.
Do Black People Not Support Kevin or Is He Just Not Funny?
On more than one occasion, Kevin Hart has lamented about what he feels is a lack of support from Black people for Black celebrities. He’s referred to it on The Breakfast Club as a “crabs in the barrel” mentality.
The topic was also mentioned during the discussion in the Clubhouse chat last week, according to Complex, where he used the example of Hannibal Burress’s involvement in Bill Cosby’s fall from grace as an example of this problem.
Unlike ‘Cancel Culture,’ I don’t think this is actually a real thing. Black people have overwhelmingly supported Kevin Hart. Black People are the reason he was ever discovered by Hollywood. It was not because of white people. It was Black people. When he was just an unknown comedian, those were Black fans at his shows. It was our shoulders that he stood on to reach the steps of Hollywood. (That wasn’t a short joke.)
But Black people are real. And we know when you’re switching it up on us. Old Kevin Hart spoke to us. Old Kevin Hart was relatable in his comedy. New Kevin Hart is making comedy for the masses. And that’s cool. Get your money. But don’t expect the same fan base to rock with you when you aren’t speaking to us any longer.
That’s not crabs in a barrel, that’s intelligent people recognizing that you’re no longer serving the same product and them looking elsewhere. And sometimes, it’s just intelligent people recognizing that you’re being offensive and them looking elsewhere.
I won’t take away his humor or his accomplishments. I still consider Kevin Hart funny. But his recent comedy specials have not been. Zero F**ks Given was my least favorite special. I think that is a direct result of his focus on amassing commercial appeal because for him that equals dollars.
In many ways, I wonder if he truly even cares about whether we laugh at his special or rather that we simply view it. His comments are like click-bait as he’s said. More views mean more marketability. And more marketability means more money. But I think this sort of approach can be damaging to one’s reputation in the long run.
I’d love to see Old Kevin return to the comedic stage. I want to see Black people win, but I also want those winners to come with substance. Otherwise, comedians like him might just be taking up room from other newer, more talented Black comedians.
I’m a Grown Little Man is one of my favorite comedy specials, so I say all of this as a former fan. I think he has the potential to reach a higher comedic level than he’s currently occupying, and I think if he gave just a few more well-placed f**ks he could actually get there.
Kamaria Foyala is an attorney, poet, writer, and lover of all things created #ForTheCulture. She runs a blog, ‘Words of My Mother,’ has lived all over the DMV (heavy on the V), and enjoys skating, debating, and car karaoke. (Because, why not?!) She can be reached on Twitter at @like_tha_moon.
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