What are words worth? My take on the Gervais special
Someone asked me the other day if I was offended by the latest Ricky Gervais Netflix special. When I asked why I should be, their answer came down to him having a go at trans people. And Trans is the T from LGBT, so it’s part of my community.
I am a fan of Ricky Gervais and so I watched it. Was I offended? I suppose I was. Gervais is a much better comic than this special suggests – his body of work has shown him able to shine a light on what lies behind the spoken word. And when he broke off from a hideous belittling of trans women to announce that ‘in real life’ he doesn’t think this way and that he’ll say whatever it takes to make a joke funny, I groaned.
Was this where I was supposed to unclench my buttocks? His ‘catch all’ get-out came over as a context-driven version of ‘some of my best friends are black‘. Like a concentration camp worker insisting he doesn’t want to shovel bodies into gas ovens, but hey, the wife likes nice things, whatcha gonna do? Twitter is top-heavy with folk who include ‘live laugh love’ in their bio then spout some of the most offensive views possible.
I’ve enjoyed his power play pops at high-vis targets – the Hollywood glitterati, animal abusers, men and women on the take, but how is a trans person in any way asking for mockery?
At the tail end of last week, Attorney general Suella Braverman called trans detractor JK Rowling her heroine, and insisted schools do not need to accommodate trans pupils, calling on them to ignore and marginalise trans children … because under-18s cannot legally change their gender. She wants to take away their voice. It’s another form of power play, this time shooting bullets from a different gun. I lived through and marched against the Tory Section 28 rule banning schools from telling me it was OK for me to be gay. And now I see the same happening to those who identify as trans.
Researchers found using trans kids’ pronouns, their correct name and wearing the clothing they want significantly cuts the risk of attempting suicide and experiencing depression or anxiety.
I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on what it means to be trans. I do know what it feels like to be told you’re not as good as everyone else because of who you are.
When asked to defend his comedy, Gervais told BBC One’s The One Show: “These are just jokes. They don’t mean anything.” Try telling that to the Twitch Mob out in force to defend him when others voiced objections. He told The Spectator, his jokes were aimed not at trans people but at trans activist ideology. His love-the-sinner defence makes me wonder if he watched how Graham Linehan set his life on fire and decided he wouldn’t mind some of that.
‘Supernature’ opened with an announcement that Ricky Gervais is a ‘man who doesn’t need to do this’. And I wish he hadn’t.