Yeah, Ricky Gervais’s Golden Globes jokes were edgy. Congrats, Gervais, you got away with not apologizing for transphobia and even explaining around it just days ago. And this is his fifth Golden Globes now!
Let’s cut to the chase: In 2016, last time he hosted the Golden Globes, he dropped a sexist joke about Caitlin Jenner — yes, that she was a real woman, and, referencing a deadly accident in 2015, that she had the driving skills of a real woman. Caitlin didn’t respond directly to him; in an interview, she just stated that she would call and see if they “needed a new host.”
He was asked in The Hollywood Reporter before this year’s Golden Globes about the joke being brought up exactly like above, to which he gave practically a non-answer:
I just say I’m not [transphobic]. And there’s nothing else you can say, you know? Yeah, I’m not. I can justify the jokes, but I get it. Some people, when you deal with contentious issues or taboo subjects, the very mention of them is the sacrilege. That’s why they stay taboo. People straight away, particularly with a comedian, if you’re joking about a subject, they think you’re anti it as opposed to pro it. I’ve tried to explain this in Humanity. It’s an occupational hazard of being outspoken. I think offense is the collateral damage of free speech, and it’s no reason not to have free speech. That’s what I’d say — it’s the lesser of two evils. Having free speech and some people getting upset by it is the lesser of two evils because not having free speech is horrendous.
This would almost be a full response (not an acceptable one, obviously) if it weren’t worse than that, though. Back in 2018, Gervais had already doubled down in his Netflix special Humanity. He tries to explain that Jenner jokes were more about women’s stereotypes. But then, he also deadnames her and talks about her genitals (which you don’t, by the way, that’s just gross at least?).
Then he jumped immediately back into more obvious transphobia: “If I say I’m a chimp, I am a chimp,” he ‘jokes.’ “And don’t ever ‘dead-name’ me, from now on you call me Bobo.”
The content of most interviews regarding Humanity address the Caitlin Jenner portions. He hasn’t addressed the other portion since.
Most recently, he tried to aggressively assert his non-stance in transgender issues when he replied to a “parody” account. The original tweet was promoting a “parody” article regarding JK Rowling’s transphobia, which actively engages in mockingly transphobic humor, sneering at the appearance and pronouns of a non-binary person. The account presents itself with a clearly masculine icon, utilizing plausible deniability as a punchline regarding transgender communities’ “don’t assume gender” practices.
Gervais, who follows this account, responded to the tweet with a pretty poorly-executed joke: “Those awful biological women can never understand what it must be like for you becoming a lovely lady so late in life,” it read. “They take their girly privileges for granted. Winning at female sports and having their own toilets. Well, enough is enough.”
At best, this was poorly-executed. At worst, this plays into many of the same points that JK Rowling did unironically: that men are out to intrude upon women’s spaces. (He spent a ton of time on Twitter arguing about why his joke is good, actually.) And Gervais… well, he follows the “parody” account to begin with.
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Many have pointed out that this highlights Hollywood’s hypocrisy in who gets a pass in taking up important roles through problematic comments. Last year, Kevin Hart was set to host The Academy Awards, but many pointed out his repeated use of homophobic jokes as part of his routines and social media presence. As a result, days later, he was ousted as the host. Admittedly, the result was a far more engaging Oscars ceremony.
But the differences between Hart’s situation and Gervais’s are two-fold. Of course, it shows that more obvious gay jokes are going be flagged more easily than transphobia. After all, everyone loves to defend the sassy gay friend, right? (Even though trans women of color basically started everything sassy gay friends do now, so.)
Then there the healthy heap of subconscious racism in the decision. Gervais is a white British guy with a reputation for “classic” comedy, and Hart’s a Black American comedian. Hart is seen as disposable; Gervais is already being praised as indispensable. Gay jokes are unacceptable, transphobia in a Netflix special is perfectly okay.
The decision could just have to do with how Golden Globes just care a hell of a lot less than the Oscars, and are desperately trying to keep relevant in an era when award shows are seen as spectacles in the midst of universal enjoyment of a wider variety of films. After all, how does this guy come back five times?