On Sept. 3, rapper Lil Nas X was a guest on the HBO show “The Shop: Uninterrupted.” The show, which is a collaboration between HBO Sports and LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s digital media company, Uninterrupted, is meant to “gather distinguished individuals who can speak honestly on sports, music, world events, business and other subjects integral to the culture.” The show is supposed to provide “a sanctuary for free-flowing and spirited discussion” like a chair in a barbershop might. Lil Nas X was joined by Kevin Hart, Charlamagne tha God, Rob Gronkowski and others for the conversation.
As more and more media outlets pivot to digital media, roundtable discussions designed to create disagreement or controversy seem to be everywhere on the internet. All too often, a short clip from an interview in which someone has said something offensive or discriminatory will be widely spread online, receiving millions of views and tons of commentary both positive and negative. As this sound-bite culture becomes more normalized, much of the digital content being created comes at the expense of marginalized identities.
The topic of Lil Nas X’s sexuality and public coming out were central to a clip that has now gone viral on social media. As Paul Rivera, marketing director and moderator of the show, breached the topic, Kevin Hart interrupted, saying, “He said he was gay! So what?” When Lil Nas X attempted to explain the internalized hatred he felt as a kid, saying, “It’s just like knowing growing up, I’m growing up to hate this shit,” Hart seemed confused and asked, “Hate what?” In response, Lil Nas X said, “Homosexuality, gay people. Come on now, if you’re really from the hood, you know.”
Kevin Hart’s attitude on the show is especially interesting considering the scrutiny he faced for homophobic tweets and comments which caused him to step down from hosting the 91st Academy Awards. This is the same man who tweeted that he would break a dollhouse over his son’s head if he caught him playing with one and say, “Stop, that’s gay.” He also said his son growing up to be gay was one of his biggest fears in a 2010 stand-up set. It seems impossible that he would be confused about why people would be wary of coming out. “Kevin Hart acting like he doesn’t know why Lil Nas X would be scared to come out is like someone who stole the thing you lost helping you look for it,” tweeted writer Phillip Henry.
Another sound bite that exploded on the internet took place on The Breakfast Club, a show that Charlamagne tha God co-hosts. Lil Duval, who was the show’s guest, used transphobic language and said that he would kill any sexual partner if he found out that they were a transgender woman. These comments were met with laughter from the two male hosts, Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy. This segment came shortly after author and transgender rights activist Janet Mock appeared on the show to promote one of her books. In a response, Mock wrote in Allure, “The hosts laugh after using my image as a literal prop — just days after I was a guest on the same show — for laughs, vitriol and a deeper call and justification for violence.” The Breakfast Club’s choice to invite Lil Duval on the same program as Janet Mock shows a lack of conviction and dedication to morals.
Because any publicity is considered good publicity, many media outlets seem to be more interested in the amount of clicks they can get than they are in protecting and defending marginalized communities. A clip of a 40-year-old world-famous comedian grilling a 20-year-old rapper about his sexuality can gain a media outlet fleeting popularity, but can have a lasting negative effect on those who view it. When searching for their next “hot take,” media outlets need to look past their analytics and potential engagement and focus more on who they give a voice to.
Annick Tabb is a senior double-majoring in political science and English.