When Lil Nas X first retweeted a video back in August of him posing with Kevin Hart, Charlamagne Tha God and other guests from HBO’s The Shop, my neck hairs started to itch.
Lil Nas X was less than two months from coming out as gay and already he was hanging with Kevin Hart, a comedian who still doesn’t have a comprehensive understanding of homophobia, especially after last year’s backlash from his old homophobic tweets. I want Lil Nas X to win, and the overprotective gay sibling in me internally screamed, “who are these men and what business do they have with Lil Nas!?”
Unfortunately, my concerns were justified when the episode of The Shop: Uninterrupted premiered on Tuesday. Kevin Hart received most of the heat from social media when he basically questioned Lil Nas X’s fear of coming out. When Lil Nas explained that he was taught to hate homosexuality growing up, Mr. Hart retorted “Why?”
REALLY Mr. Hart?
Social media promptly pulled up receipts as to why Lil Nas X might’ve hated his sexuality growing up. Hart’s homophobic tweets dating back to 2011 were just a few examples. They included remarks like:
“U should ask the question like this, how many ‘gay’ men sweat when they wear dress shirts because real men don’t lmao p.s f*g.”
And Mr. Hart wonders why the queers might have reservations about coming out. His questioning of Lil Nas was so disingenuous, I couldn’t help but laugh from the ridiculousness of it all.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only scene from The Shop that raised my stress levels. As Mr. Hart recovers from a serious car accident, we still need to talk about how the entire episode was problematic and showed little acknowledgment of Lil Nas’ experience. Below are three more ways the show was a big mess.
1. Kevin Hart had THE NERVE to give Lil Nas X advice about being gay
After Lil Nas X gave his whole spiel about coming out as a music star, Hart had the audacity to say:
“Lil Nas X, in no way, shape or form should you ever have to defend ‘but guys this is what I am.’ That’s not it. It’s ‘guys this is what I’m going to do. My reason for doing this is because I know I do this well.’ When you have a voice and you simply say ‘this,’ there is no back and forth about what ‘this’ is. Nothing else needs to be said.”
Um, excuse me…whaaaaat???
My side of the barbershop was highly perplexed.
First of all, being gay is not something you “do” like 8 a.m. yoga at a fitness center. In fact, Lil Nas will most likely have to defend his sexuality because, *MESSAGE,* the world is still homophobic. Will he be going back and forth with Twitter trolls reminiscent of 2011 Kevin Hart? Not necessarily. But there are levels of defense against homophobia and heteronormativity that Hart wouldn’t know anything about because he moves through the world as a cis straight man.
So you can keep your paternal BS to yourself Mr. Hart, thank you.
2. Most of the men at the shop generally left Lil Nas X out of the conversation
Watching this episode reminded me of why barbershops can be so triggering for a lot of gay men. While the space can definitely be a place for community and personal conversations between men, it can also be the breeding ground for homophobia.
With this episode of The Shop, Kevin Hart, Maverick Carter, Kevin Love, Rob Gronkowski, Paul Rivera, CJ McCollum and Charlamagne tha God had the chance to center a Black gay guy in the conversation, something that’s rarely done. But instead, they dominated the conversation, leaving little room for Lil Nas to chime in. They even seated the guy at the farthest corner of the room!
At one point, the guys were having a great conversation about mental health and anxiety and I forgot Lil Nas X was even there. The 20-year-old talked about dealing with anxiety in his TIME magazine story, so surely he’d have something to say about the topic.
Even if the other men didn’t want to impose on Lil Nas’ personal life, how about a “Hey Lil Nas, how are you doing over there?” or “Hey Lil Nas, have any thoughts?”
But no, the young Old Town Roader was left alone with the desert tumble weeds.
3. Lil Nas X was the only publicly out queer representative at the barbershop
This brings me to my last annoyance of the episode — why was Lil Nas X the only queer person in the shop?
Was Billy Porter unavailable? Was Taylor Bennett on tour?
Again, Lil Nas just came out as gay, which can still be a confusing and vulnerable time, no matter how brave the action. Having a more seasoned queer person balance the conversation could’ve added insight to topics Lil Nas might can’t articulate yet.
The guys in the shop had a whole conversation about being an out athlete and the whole time I kept thinking, “Hmmm, it would’ve been nice to have former footballer Michael Sam in the room, who told Yahoo Sports a devastatingly powerful story about his post-coming out life.”
Once again, straight men took over a conversation that they can’t fully speak to because they’re not queer.
Ya’ll have to do better producers.
Until then, I think I’ll skip this barbershop.