Posts Tagged ‘ricky gervais’

Twitter: Be excellent to each other

In Comedy, Uncategorized on September 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm

The term cyberbullying is a powerful one, and it should be, because it is every bit as vicious and painful as bullying face to face. This is also why the word should not be bandied about to represent anyone who disagrees with you. If you say something stupid and people pull you up on it via Twitter, that is NOT cyberbullying. Over the last few days Twitter has become increasingly tense and I see factions being drawn up between ‘celebrities’ and ‘plebs.’ Everyone needs to learn from this and change their behaviour.

My philosophy in life is pretty simple: ‘How is that helping?’ When using social media or indeed talking to anybody, it’s an important question to keep in mind.

Obviously it’s not nice to just send abuse to somebody and there are trolls out there who set out purely to be mean. If you did not enjoy a piece of work performed by a famous Twitter user, do not @ their name into your conversation unless it is something you would say to their face. It’s rude and entirely unnecessary. You’d be surprised how many performers receive tweets out of the blue reading: “Why are you so shit/fat/ugly?” It’s not easy to just shake that off, nor should anyone have to. I don’t care if they are famous or not, there’s no need to go around purposefully upsetting someone.

At the same time, celebrities have to acknowledge they are in a very different position of power and use it responsibly. Charlie Brooker is wise to reveal troll messages without including their usernames, therefore avoiding a flame war while getting his point across. Ricky Gervais does the exact opposite, actively encouraging his millions of followers – who we already know just LOVE to shout ‘mong’ at his request – to send insults to specific people. Surely nobody can say this is responsible behaviour? It’s not ‘fighting back’ because it is completely out of proportion. It’s revenge, pure and simple.

This brings us on to the problem that has sprung up over the last few days. It is delicate territory and very emotionally charged, so please try to read and only then form a response. Debate is important and Twitter has created a fantastic global conversation that was simply never possible before now. As I’ve already said, it can be abused, but we must protect the sense that everyone can contribute in a civil, reasonable manner. This now feels at risk.

Dissent is not bullying. It might feel like it when there are numerous voices piling in to criticise your position, but if there are so many over a long period of time, you might want to ask yourself why they are all saying roughly the same thing. Don’t dismiss them all out of hand as an organised mob. When you tweet that something has upset you, your friends and followers send sympathetic messages, right? Similarly, if someone is upsetting your friend, you rush to defend them and try to help vouch for their good intentions. In the recent case with Nicky Clark and cookdandbombd, watching this spiral out of control was horrific for everyone. Friends and supporters from both sides piled in to contribute and it felt like the individuals were being swamped with comments, some less well phrased than others. I am sad it made BOTH of these individuals feel afraid to use Twitter, but the more it escalated with blogs, counter-blogs and newspaper articles, the more people joined the conversation and the more shouty it all became. Imagine all these people in a room, talking to each other with a conversation that goes on for a week. Of course it’d drive anyone up the wall.

Ultimately, I don’t think Nicky Clark and cookdandbombd are all that far apart in their positions on cyberbullying. They have both shown us the strong emotional impact Twitter can have and just how carefully we must use it. I’m sure both will agree celebrities are not expected to just put up with insults, but on Twitter should learn to differentiate trolls from people with genuine points to be made. Today I saw a doctor accused of cyberbullying and reported to the POLICE for taking her up on a passage written in her book. That way madness lies. If you cannot find common ground in a debate, then someone has to take the initiative to say ‘let’s agree to disagree’ and leave it there.

I have been in this situation, which could’ve been so much worse. I wrote this blog: and sent it to Emma Kennedy via DM (she was following me at the time) because there had been a debate around a particular joke Frankie Boyle had made. I thought it reasonable enough and wanted her opinion on it, potentially keeping the discussion private, as it was clear this issue meant a lot to her. She immediately blocked me and complained that someone had “told me I should be laughing at breast cancer jokes.” She received multiple messages of sympathy about how I – thankfully unnamed! – was a “monster,” a “troll” and trying to upset her. I had intended the complete opposite and was astonished, truly hurt that my blog had caused her pain or prompted me to be considered in such a way. I then received numerous messages from celebrities, many of them her friends and colleagues, who assured me she had been “out of order” and totally unreasonable. They insisted I had nothing to apologise or feel bad for. They did it via DM, mind you…

I know it’s hard when two people you follow start to fight on Twitter, but sometimes we need the guts to stand up and say ‘listen, you over-reacted there and their intention was not to be cruel. Don’t make this turn ugly.’ Or, if it’s too late, sit back and write a really long blog.


Derek: Gervais the manipulator

In Comedy on April 12, 2012 at 11:55 pm

I expected Derek to be a total car crash of a project, all from a man who spent weeks on Twitter insisting ‘mong’ does not refer to the disabled. Ricky Gervais did not deliver an offensive show, but it did confirm all the absolute worst aspects of his post-Office career. (SPOILERS BELOW)

Watching the final scenes of Derek made me suddenly realise why Gervais is so massively popular in America. He takes emotional manipulation of an audience to new unheard of levels. At the death of care home resident Joan, we had the full barrage of heavy-handed clichés – tinkly sad piano music, our ‘hero’ weeping and going back over and over again on all the wonderful, moving moments they had shared, while the edit kept cutting to him speaking to the corpse and placing her now lifeless hand upon his head. All of it so desperately wanted to bring a tear to your eye I expected the scent of freshly-chopped onions to start wafting from the television.

Compare, if you will, to the magnificent Rev. There the death of a care home resident was treated with total class and respect for its audience. They were not spoon-fed the expected responses. Reverend Adam Smallbone instead accepted the news in rather stunned silence, both in character and in soundtrack for those of us at home. He soldiered on with the work at hand until at the most inappropriate moment the grief, regret and guilt at not saying goodbye leaked out in a genuinely moving breakdown. Again, no tinkly piano required and only a few words spent on what he was feeling, because the performance said it all. The audience was allowed to fill in the gaps without everything being dictated to us.

This brings us to another point: Gervais can’t act. He can a bit and he’s shown more than enough times (The Office, Extras, Derek, The Invention of Lying) that he squeezes out the tears at the drop of a hat, but when it comes to playing anyone remotely different to himself, it falls apart. His attempts at slapstick in Derek were embarrassing, as the slips were so clearly sign-posted even Derek himself would’ve seen them coming a mile away.

But why was he afflicted with learning difficulties anyway? Does one need to have a disability to be kind and gentle? The nurse character played with great emotional fragility by Kerry Godliman was far more empathetic without requiring exaggerated tics or a jutting out jaw. Gervais compared Derek’s ‘stupidity’ to Baldrick (Blackadder) and Father Dougal (Father Ted), but completely misses the point that these were never meant to be realistic characters. Their ignorance was so ludicrous that it could only exist in a sitcom world. Derek tries to place us in a real world and it cannot be the same.

Of course, everyone expected it to be a totally offensive portrayal of a man with at best learning difficulties and at worst Down syndrome. This was his own fault after Gervais posted a series of pictures on Twitter of him pulling what he called “a mong face.” He insisted the word no longer meant DS and the new generation did not associate it with disability, instead referring to ‘an idiot.’ So when the teenage girls in the pub loudly mocked Derek, why did they use terms like ‘granddad,’ ‘paedophile’ and point out his coat and plastic bag? We all know full well what word these girls really would’ve used when seeing Derek: ‘Mong.’

It would’ve shown great intelligence and class to include that term in this scene, where Gervais could show once and for all that the term is deeply hurtful and offensive, something his many Twitter followers really don’t seem to have grasped. It would have been a fitting conclusion to the ‘mong-gate’ saga and a reason for Derek to exist. As things stand, I can’t see the point in this show at all.