TL;DR - Whatever you think about Ricky Gervais' comedy - the hour of transphobic jokes in his Netflix special released this week will have a violent impact.
The media lapped up Ricky Gervais' latest work this week: his Netflix special. It's a format where comedians are given an hour on stage with a live audience to do what they would do on their own tour.
Unlike panel shows, this format gives comedians the freedom to do what they want. Ricky Gervais chose to dedicate his hour to mocking, laughing about and taking aim at one of the most vulnerable communities: transgender people.
Punching down is lazy
People took to social media in swathes to share what they thought about this kind of comedy.
They were sharing Nish Kumar's two-minute piece on how lazy these kinds of joke are.
"What he's doing is not edgy or interesting, he's just the same as everyone rich white dude comedian who gets too successful runs out of ideas and decides to s**t on the latest minority group. In the 1970s that was my family, black and ethnic minorities. In the 80s, it was the gays. Trans people are just the latest to get it in the neck by comedians who are too lazy to do their job properly " - Nish Kumar
They revelled in James Acaster's bit on why punching down sucks eggs.
It was the latest slice of pie in the media and government's so-called ‘war on woke’. But it isn't working. Public opinion remains firmly on the side of supporting trans children to be safe and happy.
People want to know what the government is going to do about climate change. The LGBTQIA+ community wants to know what it's going to do about a trans healthcare crisis. All of us are worried about soaring inflation.
It's all too clear to so many of us - as Nish Kumar set out - that the trans community is just the latest vulnerable minority being put in the firing line to try and distract us.
Make no mistake: these jokes will do real harm.
I remember growing up when gays were the butt of the joke. For years I heard "that's so gay" on the playground. I internalised this homophobia. I hated myself.
That phrase came from TV. From ‘the only gay in the village’ - AKA the joke of the village. Gay kisses, but only after the watershed. Camp queer-coded villains in Disney.
When 'woke' people speak up about why these jokes are awful it's because we remember the pure hate they inspire. It's because we are thinking about the cruelty so many more children will have to endure.
And let's face it, on the playground Ricky Gervais' jokes are cruel bullying. In the streets, they are hate crimes. Yet he gets away with them and is paid handsomely to do so.
"You don’t have to be cruel to be funny." QueerAF contributor Jude Guaitamacchi
Kids should grow up free of bullying and prejudice.
Gervais' jokes will be repeated on the playground. They will empower people who think it's OK to attack transgender and LGBTQIA+ people.
There were 22,267 anti-LGBTQIA+ hate crimes in 2022. To put that in context, that's a 210% rise in attacks on LGBTQIA+ people in the last six years.
It's no coincidence that this rise matches the growth in anti-trans headlines. Whether because they inspire hateful attacks or fuel shame, depression and suicide in queer teens - the writers of these headlines and these jokes will have blood on their hands.
I take great hope from a generation growing up who are more and more likely to recognise and lean into their differences. When they grow up, our society will look different. We should be creating that society for them now.
That's why I'm not afraid to call these jokes out for what they are: lazy, hateful and yes - the inspiration for violence against LGBTQIA+ people.
Understand the LGBTQIA+ headlines with our (award-winning) weekly newsletter that's bursting with the latest queer content. It supports underrepresented queer creatives build their media career.
Imagine if a queer or trans person had been in the room when Ricky Gervais' Netflix special was being discussed?
The media doesn't have to keep making these mistakes. By hiring us we can help it make great decisions - like those made on Heartstopper. It was an international instant hit.
Gervais' divisive comedy, however, will come and go - while damaging Netflix's reputation.
Only a media industry that represents, hires and understands us can help shift the narrative on being queer in the UK.
We're helping queer media creatives start and build their career to change the long term of our media representation. We do this with immediate wins by modelling the change and filling the room with the story that needs to be told.
We do this without any ads, so we can get on with that work - free of corporate pressures. That's why we need you to take charge, and directly commission queer creatives. You get to tell us what we should fund when you sign up.
Become a QueerAF member today.