There is a curious variety of person, to whom it seems imperative to be seen to be intellectually superior to others. They ingest small fragments of academia and then bandy around this limited knowledge in a bid to flutter their peacock wings in front of other – often similarly motivated – people.
Russell Brand is one of those people. A smattering of ill-placed trivia where they will compare, for example, the sex life of Napoleon with that of some modern day figure in the hope that a) they won’t be pressed further and b) other people accept this crude reference as evidence of genius. Brand might, for example, liken his sacking from Radio 2 in “Manuelgate” to the McCarthy witch-hunts, or Communist Russia, or worse. I’ve heard him –wrongly – reference Russian authors, ancient religious practice and early art movements and the reciprocal laughter from his similarly cerebrally ambitious demographic.
But it’s ok. We’re all products of various constituent elements and no-one’s being harmed by these parading ball-sacks. Perhaps there are some who would say that writing a blog is a form of showboating. These same people may feel that I lack the intellect, or insight, to contribute prose with any meaning, and they very well may be right*.
In fact, Ricky Gervais might be one of the aforementioned doubters. As he is certainly one of the aforementioned show boaters. Writing disparagingly about religion in print and on social networking sites. His is a sanctimonious and occasionally aggressive stance and represents the very worst elements of Atheism. Which I say as an Atheist.
Like anti-abortionists (I don’t use the pro-life label, as it’s fucking absurd), some Atheists are ridiculously confrontational in their assertions:
“Religion is absolutely indisputably unprovable. It is a fairytale and, despite everyone you love adhering to it, anyone who believes it is a FUCKING IDIOT, RIGHT? IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT LOVE… LOOK AT ALL THE WARS RELIGION HAS CAUSED – YOU ABSOLUTE TWATTT!!”
No Ricky, no.
Marx espousing his famous “[Religion as]… the opiate of the masses” was not just that one small statement. He elaborated. Marx knew that religion was providing the poor with a focus that should have been wielded at their oppressors, but he also knew it provided some satiation… some hope… some beauty.
Many religious people today– globally – are very poor. When you mock the generations of tradition and values for great swathes of poor people, you only serve to exacerbate the social and economic tensions between us. In Italy, for example, the very poorest are religious before they are educated and that education is of a lower standard than other parts of Europe and entrenched with religious dogma. It’s not the social norm for most people to have a decent free education and then reach a point where they can make decisions about the authenticity of theology. That is not to say there aren’t poor people who are Atheist, or that there aren’t rich, well-educated, religious people. What I am suggesting is that discrediting the value system of others, many of whom are sustained by religion through poverty, is cruel.
It’s this same cruelty and mentality of a perceived higher consciousness and intellectual superiority that has allowed for the abomination that is Derek, to be commissioned. Actually, not commissioned, no. It’s been commissioned because Gervais has a strong comedic pedigree and Channel 4 want some of that hot action. They should be fucking ashamed of themselves.
I wrote about Derek in April of last year after the pilot came out. You can find it here:
I hated the pilot, and I hated the first episode, which I watched to see if it had been modified for public consumption in any way. It hadn’t.
I hate it, not because I don’t think disability is off limits for a sitcom. It is absolutely imperative that there are disabled characters and creatives at every level of cultural production. And there is no reason why disabled characters can’t be the targets of a joke either.
The idea that people who don’t like Derek are suffering from an inverse prejudice, or a liberal inability to accept the progressiveness of humor in autism is wrong. I like the way Gervais tries to explain his position to the rest of us thickos like we don’t have the capacity for accepting something so progressive and edgy.
He thinks he’s George Carlin, Bill Hicks or Lenny Bruce. “I’m pushing the fucking envelope, here…!” thinks Gervais as he sanctimoniously wafts his hand as if to dismiss the protesters. “Hey guys, if you don’t want to join me on my journey; get out the fucking space rocket of magical creativity…” Gervais seems to utter with his every arrogant huff of his slightly-less-fat-since-he-moved-to-Hollywood chest.
I don’t know what Ricky Gervais has been doing in the last couple of years, other than somehow managing to garner the support of a tiny minority of disabled rights activists. But he needs to take his head out of his arsehole.
It’s like The Emperor’s New Clothes… somehow somewhere around fifty media types have sat around various desks all afraid to tell Emperor Ricky his nut sack is showing.
I wrote much of what was wrong with Derek in my first blog on the subject, and I have no wish to repeat myself, but allow me to write a checklist:
- Not funny. Never, ever funny. Not rare laughs, but no laughs.
- Hideously melancholic piano score as soundtrack for entire programme.
- Gross sentimentality in the form of stylized tableaux of Home Manager sitting up all night with animals, as aforementioned heinous track plays, as well as a round of applause from many elderly people in a room etc.
- A repetitively underlined attempt to juxtapose a middle-aged, white, comedy actor pretending to have a learning disability by jutting his chin out and moving his eyes around, with him literally being referred to as- and I quote – “[The]…nicest man in the world” by another character.
- In one particularly galling attempt to prove Derek haters they are on the wrong team, a Year 8 sociology project of writing a script in which a member of the council comes to inspect the home and calls Derek “handicapped” and suggests he needs testing, to be responded with a we’re-all-God’s-children style “What does it matter if I’m tested? Will it change anything?” Fuck you Gervais. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. You are not being subversive, simply by being offensive and then tempering it with the sort of sentimentality the even six-year-old attendees of a Hello Kitty themed birthday party would projectile vomit at.
- There was a joke at the expense of a non-disabled benefit claimant, when asked which benefits he claimed, responded “All of them” with no regard, or sensitivity to the current political climate for disabled claimants.
- Not funny. So not funny, needs repeating.
Hicks, Carlin and Bruce et al would die a SECOND DEATH before being associated with a project that was so transparently lackluster. It’s not just the bigotry. It’s not even just the fact that Gervais essentially does an offensive impression of someone with a disability for thirty minutes, and any attempt to suggest he’s not doing that is completely undermined when he goes on Twitter using words like mong and pulling more of the same faces. Those great comics spent years creating nihilistic, energetic, sometimes important bodies of work. They wouldn’t fuck it up with a “Derek is the nicest man in the world” style pitiful back-peddle to try and balance something you claim is progressive.
It’s horrible that this programme has been made. It’s awful that he wrote it, worse that they commissioned a pilot, and a really damning indictment of humanity that this has made it to series.
There are some really funny people in the world, some of whom are disabled, who could have made something genuinely subversive and interesting.
If you missed Derek (you lucky, lucky bastard) might I suggest you recreate the magic by watching The Black and White Minstrel Show on mute, while you play the motion picture soundtrack to The Piano?
* They’re not.