Ricky Gervais’s performance at last night’s Golden Globes was enough to make Gene Kelly turn in his grave. Once upon a time, Hollywood was synonymous with elegance and class but Gervais’ tirade of nasty and smutty jokes proved that tabloid culture has leaked its way into even the highest tier of entertainment. Call me a prude but a joke about Judi Dench “licking her ass” hardly screams high society.
If there’s a place for cheap humour, it’s at Friday night work drinks after one too many, an episode of South Park or in a best man’s risqué speech. It’s certainly not on the stage that birthed the #MeToo movement, one that should respect its power for mass influence.
The awards were certainly not free from activism – powerful speeches were given by actors including Jennifer Aniston on climate change, Joaquin Phoenix on veganism, Michelle Williams on abortion rights and Patricia Arquette on the conflict between Iran/US. But any meaningful message is dampened when the man at the helm is making schoolboy jokes about paedophiles.
Describing his Netflix show After Life, Gervais declared “It’s a show about a man who wants to kill himself. Spoiler alert, season two is on the way, so in the end he obviously didn’t kill himself. Just like Jeffrey Epstein.”
When a joke about Greta Thunberg – “You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg” – features in the same broadcast as heartfelt pleas about climate change you can’t help but feel confused about the message Hollywood is trying to send.
Gervais joked about actors trying to seem woke: “You say you’re woke but the companies you work for … Apple, Amazon, Disney. If Isis started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you? If you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech.” But at least they’re trying to use their platform for good and this shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Last night, Gervais really did come across as an idiotic clapping monkey – grabbing your attention but for what you’re not really sure.
And oh the nastiness! It made Tom Hanks – that classic and humble reminder of old Hollywood – turn in disgust, birthing the first real meme of 2020, one that can be used to respond to Piers Morgan tweets for the rest of year.
Speaking about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s three-hour run time Gervais joked: “Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere, and by the end his date was too old for him. Even Prince Andrew was like ‘Come on Leo, mate. You’re nearly 50-something’.” From calling James Corden a “fat pussy” to implying that Joe Pesci looked like baby Yoda, Gervais acted like a school bully, trying to win favour by bringing everyone down around him. We’re pretty sure that behind that meme Tom Hanks is thinking: “Is this really what entertainment has come to?” And I definitely agree.
Make the headlines about the fashion, the acting, the fact that for the first time ever an Asian-American actress won the Best Actress award – Awkwafina for her role in The Farewell. I want to look up to anything that has at least a little craftmanship to it, so that Hollywood feels above me with its otherworldly talent.
I want to be shocked by progress not scandal. Provocative words are easy and cheap and being an actor, a comedian, a director, a writer or any job affiliated with the industry should be neither. Gervais’s f**k it attitude, announcing several times that he didn’t care what anyone thought of him, should be aspirational of Big Brother contestants not A-list comedians.
Presenting Gervais, like a teenager acting up to shock his parents, is a step in totally the wrong direction. It sends out the message that Hollywood is a place with no morals or respect, where true talent can be exchanged for a few expletives and where the big issues hide in the corner while the village idiot dances under the big, bright spotlight.
This Golden Globes marked Gervais’ last as host, here’s hoping this will pave the way for the talent and messages to be heard away from his overbearing voice.
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