For the first time in 30 years, it looks like the Oscars will not have a host. With an aspiring dictator in the White House, a completely dysfunctional government, and a shutdown endangering the livelihood of millions of people across the country (including furloughed workers, travelers, and those in the tourist industry in the D.C. area and other parts of the country with closed national parks and landmarks, etc.), the Oscars no doubt seem trivial and unimportant.

But there are always valuable lessons to be learned from pop culture. And the circumstances surrounding this particular event, and the resulting controversy, are yet another case study in how race, class, homophobia, and other issues of identity are an inescapable part of American life.

Comedian Kevin Hart was originally selected for the job of host. But in early December, shortly after the announcement was made, he decided to step down— amidst a backlash about past comments he’d made that were largely considered homophobic. In today’s society, holding celebrities, politicians, and other famous people accountable for things they’ve said in the past is a phenomenon that is supported by, and perhaps enabled by, social media. So it comes as no surprise that Hart’s accountability moment came because of tweets and other comments he’s made in which he’s repeatedly used slurs and said other harmful things that denigrated members of the LGBTQ community.

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