Black celebrities always seem like they have to go above and beyond to get the “mainstream” recognition. A lot get criticised for dressing up as women, changing their image to fit into the “mainstream” or even changing their features to appear lighter.
Although they have a strong back catalogue of work and get appreciation and praise from their core fans, they want more. Now there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to grow as a professional or changing/altering your image to grow in your field, we all have to become better versions of ourselves at least once in our lifetime. But where is the line between changing yourself for the better and playing the clown just to be noticed.
Kevin Hart stars alongside Will Ferrell in Get Hard and this isn’t the first time he has been criticised for how he portrays himself. He’s been criticised by fellow comedian Mike Epps for dressing up as a woman in SNL and getting sexually assaulted by Shaquille O’neal in Kevin’s BET show The Real Husbands of Hollywood. The film has yet to be released publicly but from the trailer and exclusive screening at SXSW, there are a range of racial stereotypes and the use of the N-word (possibly by Ferrell).
Kevin Hart has got a lot of flack for this because a number of his fans and black people feel that he’s sold out by adhering to the stereotypes to boost his career. A lot of people have called for people not to go and watch the film because they feel that we shouldn’t support “the blatant racism”. From what I’ve seen of the trailer and synopsis of the film, it is more of a criticism of rich, sheltered white males who don’t have a clue about people outside of their tax bracket and race. From what I’ve grasped from the film is that Kevin Hart’s character is using Ferrell’s character’s ignorance to make some money on the side.
I do understand the criticism, but is it unfair? Kevin is a huge star within a certain audience spectrum. He has multiple films which he has starred in, featured a in range of films since 2003, a hit TV programme and is arguably the biggest stand up comedian on the planet right now. With all of these accolades, he is still regarding by a number of publications as “a rising star.” Is he a rising star or have they not done the research?
Working with someone has internationally well-known as Will Ferrell will boast his career. And possibly have a good ripple effect on other films which are similar to the ones he is involved with. A lot of black films are judged off the success of previous ones, even if they are not from the same director, have different a cast and completely different story lines. Mainstream cinema put them all in the same box and if Kevin Hart is able to be in great box office films then surely we can hope for a good effect on the rest. We may not have to wait 3-6 months for the next Best Man film to be released in the UK after its US release or have it be shown in multiple cinemas rather than just one in each city.
I do think that Kevin Hart shouldn’t have to “sell himself out” by adhering to negative stereotypes to star in a film, however, it isn’t the end of the world. If we don’t like what he’s doing, when a black film comes out we need to go and see it. We need to drive the ticket sales up so we make sure that when the next one is released, the cinemas take the film when it comes out instead of waiting several months.