I like jokes, I am sometimes politically incorrect, and irreverent, I try to strike a balance.While many will highlight who wore it best, who won, or who gave the best speech, I am going to dive into something a little bit different, transphobia.
I know comedy is irreverent too, especially Ricky Gervais style of comedy, I love the UK version of The Office, which is the only funny thing he has done, sorry Derek was absolute garbage. Gervais had some excellent jokes about the pay gap for men and women, they were tongue and cheek, and he pointed out something in a clever way.
Every joke he told about trans folk just went blue, they were cheap shots about Caitlyn Jenner going through a lot of changes, or a joke about the fact that she identified as woman, and her driving skills. I watched with a group of friends, and we all have a pretty open mind to humor, especially with identity politics. I think the problem, or the transphobia in his jokes, and the jokes I have seen in other award show play wrong and awkward because the folks telling the joke don't get what Trans means.
Right after the Caitlyn Jenner jokes, Gervais moved into talking about Jeffrey Tambor and his role on Transparent, mostly wondering about his appearance, and the clothes he wears in the show, and talking about whether he tucks his balls back. Tambor was not impressed, based on his facial expressions, and neither was I. Gervais was trying to get him to crack a smile, but his face was proving that Gervais was trying too hard to be funny, with something that was not, and just proved himself less talented.
Gervais threw out one of two jokes about Eddie Redmayne who starred in The Danish Girl, which delves into the world transgender pioneer Lili Elbe. When he announced Redmayne to present the award he called him "the actress taking Hollywood by storm" then interrupted himself and said "it's a dude?"
One of the problems is that Gervais wants to pretend that he is "edgy." To quote Louis Vertel "Ricky Gervais is as edgy as your friend who laughs at his own Cards Against Humanity plays." Not only did the winners of this show feel like the voters threw things at a dart board. The jokes from Gervais, especially about the transgender community felt the same way.
I do not identify as Trans, and my pronouns are he/his/him so I am speaking from a place of privlege, about a story that is not my own, but it is my goal to be an ally, and I want to challenge folks to think about this show, and the delivery of these jokes. Does making a joke about someone changing their gender or as most comedians put it "chopping off their balls" make you laugh?
Why do people think these jokes are topical? In the book "Whipping Girl Julia Serano states this transphobia stems from "oppositional sexism", the belief that male and female are "rigid, mutually exclusive categories, each possessing a unique and nonoverlapping set of attributes, aptitudes, abilities, and desires." Serano contrasts "oppositional sexism with "traditional sexism", the belief that males and masculinity are superior to females and femininity. Furthermore, she writes that transphobia is fueled by insecurities people have about gender and gender norms."
Do I think Gervais is thinking about any of this when writing his jokes? Hard no. I do not think he is smart enough. I am sure we will get many male comedians, and maybe some women after this talking about how the PC police were after Gervais. The problem is these comments lead to fear, hatred, and misunderstanding of a community. Gervais was tacky not edgy, and I can say that with certainty, time to grow up, and try a new shtick.