On Tuesday, Netflix released a new comedy special from Ricky Gervais, Super Nature. And like clockwork, hours later, securities about Gervais, transphobic material began to pour in.
Old fashioned women, my God. You know, the ones with wombs? These fucking dinosaurs, chirps Gervais not five minutes later SuperNature. I like new women. They are awesome. The new ones we’ve seen lately, the ones with beards and dicks.
This type of blatant and unrestrained anti-trans content has become fairly easy to find on Netflix which, under the guise of free speech, continues to platform comedians who seem particularly obsessed with poking fun at the trans community. Look no further than Dave Chappelle, the legendary comedian who keeps getting into hot water with the LGBTQ+ community over transphobic jokes he’s told on several Netflix specials.
In October last year, Chappelles jokes inspired a massive walkout at Netflix led by LGBTQ+ employees. But if anything, in the months that followed, Chappelle doubled down on his position. Earlier this month, Chappelle headlined four Hollywood Bowl performances for the inaugural Netflix Is a Joke festival, where he added even more transphobic material to his repertoire despite promising to stop telling trans jokes at the end of his latest Netflix special, The closest. (The fourth and final show ended with him being mugged by an audience member who later told the New York Post that he reached his breaking point watching Chappelle make jokes about the LGBTQ+ community and homelessness, and found the new set kicking in.)
While both Gervais and Chappelle have been lashed out in public for their transphobic jokes, their anti-trans sentiment seems to come from two very different places. For Chappelle, it got personal. For Gervais, however, it seems to be just business.
For those familiar with Gervais’ work, this should come as no surprise. The star of the original UK version of Office always imagined something provocativethrowing barbs at the Hollywood elite during his multiple stints hosting the Golden Globes and reveling in his nervous, humor that pushes the boundaries. In all directions, SuperNature is exactly what you’d expect from the comedian, who tells similarly outdated, eye-rolling jokes about a whole host of marginalized communities and sensitive topics reaching beyond the trans community to shoot the Chinese, AIDS and handicapped children, among others .
Gervais considers himself an equal opportunity offender and even uses it to justify why he targets the trans community in his TV special. I’m talking about AIDS, starvation, cancer, the Holocaust, rape, pedophilia. But no, the only thing not to joke about is identity politics, says Gervais towards the end of SuperNature. The one thing you should never joke about is the trans issue. They just want to be treated as equals. I agree. That’s why I include them.
All along SuperNature, Gervais tries to play both sides, opening with a convoluted MerriamWebsteresque definition of irony as a vague defense for whatever he’s about to say. The concept, according to Gervais, means, when I say something I don’t really mean for comedic effect, and you as the audience laugh at the wrong thing because you know what the right thing is. It’s a way of satirizing attitudes. His true beliefs, he claims, do not match the jokes he tells. At one point in a line sandwiched between transphobic jokes, Gervais admits what, at this point, seems somewhat obvious: that he neither hates nor fears trans people.
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