Today’s big question

Why Ricky Gervais’ Netflix special has been condemned by LGBT activists

Comedian defends show by saying his ‘target’ was ‘trans activist ideology’

Ricky Gervais has defended his right to make “taboo jokes” following an outcry over quips about transgender people in his new Netflix special.

In SuperNature, the stand-up comedian makes a series of jibes about trans people and Aids, joking that “old-fashioned women… the ones with wombs” are “f***ing dinosaurs”, said The Times. The 60-year-old adds: “I love the new women. They’re great, aren’t they? The new ones we’ve been seeing lately. The ones with beards and cocks.”

In another section of the show, Gervais imagines an exchange between a trans activist and a woman who is anxious about someone with a penis entering the ladies’ toilets. “What if he rapes me?’ ‘What if she rapes you, you f***ing Terf whore!’”, he jokes.

The creator of The Office also jokes that Aids was “amazing” in its 1980s “heyday” when gay men would “make life-or-death decisions about oral sex”. Referring to modern medication, he adds: “Now it’s: ‘Give it here, I’ll take pills for the rest of my life’”.

‘Anti trans rants’

LGBT campaigners have described SuperNature as “dangerous” and “anti trans”. Robbie de Santos, director of communications at Stonewall, told The Times that “it is disappointing that Ricky Gervais has once again chosen to use his global platform to make fun of trans people”.

On Twitter, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation described the show as “full of graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes” and said Gervais “spouts anti-gay rhetoric and spreads inaccurate information about HIV”.

However, some have been supportive of Gervais. Writing in The Telegraph, Michael Deacon said the trans joke is “crude but it isn’t bullying” and is, in fact, “about bullying: the bullying of women by aggressive activists”.

The BBC noted that the controversy comes “amid a broader debate around what is acceptable to joke about in a comedy”.

Last year, Netflix staff complained about a stand-up special by US comedian Dave Chappelle, which they said was transphobic. Jimmy Carr was also criticised earlier this year for a joke about Gypsies and the Holocaust during a Netflix special.

Confronting ‘dogma’

Gervais has defended the programme, saying he wanted to take the “audience to a place it hasn’t been before”. He told BBC One’s The One Show that “most offence comes from when people mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target”.

Speaking to The Spectator, he explained who he intended the target to be. “My target wasn’t trans folk, but trans activist ideology,” he said. “I’ve always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression.”

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