Comedians should be funny, challenging and insightful – SuperNature wasn’t an example of that (Picture: Netflix)
Barely five minutes into Ricky Gervais’s latest Netflix show entitled SuperNature, he made jokes about the concept of trans women attacking and raping people in public bathrooms.
The opening of the show starts with the English comedian’s sights aimed squarely at trans women.
Gervais began talking about genitals: ‘I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they? The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and c***s.’
I wasn’t shocked hearing this because trans people have increasingly become an overused punchline for comedians to punch down at.
He swiftly moved onto a scenario where a theoretical trans woman could rape someone – falling into the ‘trans women are predators’ outdated trope.
He continued: ‘What if he rapes me? ‘What if SHE rapes you?’ followed by clattering laughter from the audience. This introduction sets the tone for the rest of the show, one of ‘cancel culture’ and layers of trans panic.
This insistence on focussing on the physical aspects of trans people, or quipping that he wishes gender identity had existed when he was young because he would’ve leveraged that to try to get a new bike, ignores the nuance of trans identities.
It ignores the complexity and beauty of being transgender and it dilutes the conversation into quick laughs that aim to cheapen our existence.
Nearing the final act of the show, Gervais states, ‘Full disclosure: In real life of course I support trans rights. I support all human rights, and trans rights are human rights. Live your best life. Use your preferred pronouns. Be the gender that you feel that you are. But meet me halfway, ladies: Lose the c**k. That’s all I’m saying.’
The reality is that this punchline has been repeated in comedy for decades. It focuses on a trans person’s physical form and approaches gender from a binary viewpoint.
Trans people are trying to live their best lives but these repeated tropes throw clever and indeed necessary conversation out the window in favour of another stab at the trans community.
It’s simply a lazy performance that relies on prejudice (Picture: NETFLIX)
Gervais isn’t the only one to tap into this dangerous and ill-informed rhetoric about trans women.
Last year, the BBC published an article that stated ‘some’ women are being pressured into sex by trans women. The article originally featured an adult performer named Lily Cade, who declared that she once declined to shoot a porn scene with a trans woman.
Her contribution to the article was later removed after it was revealed she previously wrote in a past blog about trans women: ‘If you left it up to me, I’d execute every last one of them personally’.
On top of that, we’ve seen guidance from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that essentially says trans people can be excluded from single-sex spaces.
Trans charity Mermaids sums it up perfectly: ‘The guidance states that trans people can be excluded from single-sex spaces if their presence infringes upon the “dignity” or “safety” of others. This is very concerning as it suggests that sharing a space with a trans person is inherently dangerous’.
It sets a precedent that for example trans women, like myself, are an inevitable threat – that’s not a battle I want to fight everyday.
These narratives are fuelled by celebrities like Gervais whose irrational attitude that trans people’s lives negatively affect theirs has sent them spiralling.
Context around the environment for trans people in the UK is important, too.
The rhetoric pushed by Gervais in this latest Netflix show paints trans people as this threat, but the reality is that we’re far more likely to be the victim, according to a poll conducted by LGBT+ domestic abuse charity, Galop. They found that ‘in the last year alone, a quarter of trans people had experienced or been threatened with physical assault.’
It should be clear by now that trans people face rising verbal and physical threats in this country.
This conversation about Gervais isn’t the real conversation I think we should be having.
We should be focusing on how trans people have to wait years for their first Gender Identity Clinic appointment with the NHS. Or how the UK has slipped down on an annual ranking of LGBT+ rights across Europe, dropping 10th to 14th. The LGBT+ rights group IGLA claimed our drop was due to ‘widespread political and media anti-trans sentiment’.
If we must talk about Ricky Gervais, he has always been marmite and that’s fine.
Afterlife was an unflinching analysis about ego and loss and The Office was a staple ‘mockumentary’ of the 2000s relying on observational humour that was full of heart moulded by the dour surroundings of Wernham Hogg.
That legacy is now mired and replaced by Gervais’ deep desire – call it a borderline obsession, if you will – to be cancelled by his critics.
Throughout the show, Gervais makes references to those ruined by ‘cancel culture’, including Louis CK and Kevin Hart – both of whom still have well-paid professional careers in showbusiness. The reality is that ‘cancel culture’ lumps everything together – dismissing what are often valid concerns and replacing dialogue with a refusal to acknowledge potential harm caused.
I’m reminded of James Acasters’ brilliant show ‘Cold Lasagne Hate Myself’, where he mocks this idea of punching down on trans people and then getting backlash for it, by saying: ‘What’s the matter guys, too challenging for you?’ It brilliantly demonstrates Gervais’ decision to mire in a swamp of his own self-cancellation.
The show isn’t ‘too challenging’ for people, it’s simply a lazy performance that relies on prejudice. At its core, SuperNature is lazy and only offers an inch of concern at the closing act of the show, stating ‘in real life, of course, I support trans rights’.
Ricky, this is real life, actions can have consequences – that’s not a novel concept.
At its core, comedians should be funny, challenging and insightful – SuperNature wasn’t an example of that, in fact, it was positively the opposite.
Gervais is starting to demonstrate that when you run out of jokes, you start picking on an easy target.
Trans people are here – we’ve been here a long time and we’re not going anywhere.
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