Thursday, 20 October 2011

Ricky Gervais: What's the problem?

So Ricky Gervais said "mong" on Twitter and people got upset? Big deal. He told us he didn't mean Down's Syndrome. He says the modern meaning is just "dopey". Ah that's fine then.

Except it's not.

Firstly he posted these pictures (an almost obsessive amount of them - there may even be more that I've missed)

Secondly, "Mong" is still used as an insult to disabled people.

Richard Herring, a long standing supporter of disabled rights and no stranger to offensive comedy wrote a couple of blogs about this which you can read in full here and here. It was a proud couple of days to be a Richard Herring fan, as he turned out to be the only "name" comedian who publicly stood up against Gervais' rather cavalier use of language.

Herring stated " I found the anger towards me quite surprising and largely amusing, but was also getting a lot of support from people who was glad I had made a mini stand. Ricky Gervais is a powerful figure in the industry and I know it is hard for a lot of people to say anything negative about him for fear of what might happen to their own standing. Funnily enough it's because I don't care about the repercussions or publicity that I am in a position to say that I don't think it's a brilliant thing that he's done."

It was also very  interesting to compare the mainly considered tweets from Herring's fans to Gervais with the mainly abusive ones from Ricky's fans. The abuse from his fans was even directed towards the mother of a disabled daughter who was interviewed on the Jeremy Vine show on the BBC.

The "debate" seemed to take a turn and gervais fans were soon talking about offensive comedy, and why shouldn't Ricky be offensive. Some fans accused Herring of being too scared to offend anyone. Others said that the Hitler Moustache could be offensive. This was a (and yes, I'm really going to say this. Let me clear my throat...) red herring.

I kept reminding people that Gervais kept stating that "mong" doesn't mean Down's Syndrome

<-- Look back at these lovely pictures. Remember them? Someone on Twitter asked me why I thought these were mocking the disabled, as if the offense was all in my head. It stacks up. The phrases, the pictures, and of course the clip from Science where he says "Even mongs can say it (mong). That's part of the beauty of the word. They don't see it as a perk I'm sure"

(Video that was here previously removed due to me not realising it was a spoof. Because I'm a twat.)

Ex comic, Christina Martin wrote a great blog where she talks about her experiences with people's reactions to her brain damaged brother and gave us quite an insight into Gervais's character:

"So, I did some stand-up at the Bloomsbury Theatre a few Christmases ago. I was really excited about it as I was on the same bill as Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Mark Thomas, Josie Long, Chris Addison, loads of really good people. Gervais was also on the bill. 

We had a massive green room, full of food and stuff that we were autographing for auction. As it was Christmas there was a lovely festive feel and everyone was having fun backstage.

I was waiting for Gervais to turn up but he never did. After a while it was explained to us by the organiser that he refused to share a green room with anyone, in case we bothered him. Can you imagine Stewart Lee going all fan boy over Ricky Gervais? Please!

They'd had to make him up an impromptu dressing room out of one of the spare rooms backstage. Food and drink was removed from our room for him, and the stuff to be autographed was collected and taken to him when we were all done signing it.

When the show started we all stood in the wings, cheering each other on and watching each others' sets. Then the organiser informed us that Gervais didn't want anyone standing in the wings when he was on, and that we were all to go back to the basement dressing rooms before and during his performance. Twenty performers, many of them top names, being bossed about by this diva-ish man. "

Francesca Martinez (a very funny comedian with Cerebral Palsy) who has  worked with Gervais in Extras where they did some amazing satirical work on the issue of disability. This is what's disappointing me. There is no sature here at all. It's just him pulling "mong" faces and saying "mong". There doesn't seem to be any purpose other than to upset people. He denies "mong" is anything to do with disability, but... THAT IS BULLSHIT.

Talking of Francesca, she has made her feelings pretty clear on the matter.

She followed this up with:

Now, I'm a fan of Gervais's TV work and The Office and Extras were both amazing pieces of work. And yes, I'll still watch his new show with Warwick Davis; "Life's Too Short". But I don't hold him remotely as highly as I did. I feel let down.

Anyway, before I go, let me leave you with this excellent blog that you must read. Incidentally, all of the blogs I have quoted are worth reading. Every one is much more considered and articulate than this addled mess.

Wow - this blog just looks really horrible. I don't know how to change the colour of the cut n paste text. I think I know but when I actually do it it looks even worse. But hey ho. 

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