Ricky Gervais took aim at celebrity hypocrisy and arrogance at the Golden Globes, and it was delicious.
If there’s one thing that celebrities love, it’s telling the rest of us – the little people – how to live. The only thing that they perhaps love more than that is the flood of adoration from the simple-minded that comes after they’ve given us their latest ever-so-Woke proclamations or furious political statements. Social media has been a godsend for the attention-hungry celebrity, who can now bask in their own glory constantly, as desperate fans shower them in praise in the hope that maybe, just maybe, their fawning tweets will get a like or a retweet or, praise be to God, an actual reply from their social betters.
If social media is a world of echo chambers and social bubbles, then celebrity is that a thousandfold. The rich and famous are constantly told how wonderful they are, how their social consciousness and campaigning is so inspiring. Dissenting voices can be filtered out and ignored, and the adulation must be intoxicating. Celebrities work in a feedback loop of self-congratulation and mutual admiration, egging each other on as they stand up for the great unwashed. Never does a social issue or news story go unmentioned – you might have read about the fires in Australia, but were they really real before Russell Crowe made a heartfelt statement about them? Did you know what to make of the situation in Iran before Rose McGowan – of course – chimed up to make her point?
It’s not that celebrities can’t have opinions. Of course they can, just like the rest of us. But those opinions are as worthless as a chocolate teapot most of the time, ill-informed and arrogant, driven by egos the size of a planet and dripping in hypocrisy. When Emma Thompson flies from the USA to London in order to take part in an Extinction Rebellion march – because God knows, it couldn’t make an impact without her – we have a right to question if that is about environmentalism or egotism.
So Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globes tirade, as contrived as it may have been, was especially welcome this year.
Now, I’m not a fan of Gervais by and large, but I’ve admired his free speech in comedy campaigning, something much needed these days. I’m aware that effectively roasting Hollywood has been his Golden Globes schtick for a while, though as someone who abhors the very idea of award ceremonies, I have never actually seen one before. But while it might all be in good fun and not to be taken seriously, last night’s show seemed especially visceral in its attacks, with barbs that, despite his opening comments that “they’re only jokes”, seemed often to be more like savage little stabs at the flagrant hypocrisy and corruption of Hollywood than humorous little digs. Cracks about the celebrity connections of Jeffrey Epstein, the sweatshops of Apple and the blind eyes turned to corruption and abuse when there was money to be made and egos to be stroked… there seemed to be more than just joking at work here. Certainly, the audience reaction from a crowd used to being treated like little Gods was fascinating – jabbing jokes received with near silence or groans of displeasure, camera cutaways to movie stars looking very unamused by the whole thing and Gervais clearly relishing giving even less of a fuck than usual. No wonder there seems to have been a concerted effort by YouTube and others to remove at least the video clip, with most uploads now being audio only. All the better not to see Tom Hanks looking like he wanted to throw up, I guess.
Gervais ends by telling celebrities that they are the privileged ignorant, attention seekers and narcissists, who should shut up and collect their empty awards without having to preach to the masses. A good point, obviously ignored because celebrities think that they are very important and therefore have to tell us how to think. As long as we don’t start to think about how it is that the rich and famous like to tell us what to do while doing the opposite, express dismay when activities that they have turned a blind eye to for years are finally exposed and demand that we give and give and give to their chosen causes while they live the life of larry, demanding obscene amounts of money for what is not, by any comparison to pretty much any other job in the world, hard work. Events like the Golden Globes are obscene displays of wealth and excess, and for those multi-millionaires than having the nerve to tell the rest of how to live is little more than an insult. Frankly, I prefer my celebrities to shamelessly celebrate their wealth and excess and shut the fuck up about everything else. At least that feels honest.
We might argue that Gervais is also a millionaire and so should shut up himself, but maybe it takes someone who is simultaneously one of their own and an outsider from the glitz and emptiness to hit home with the dead souls of Hollywood. They’re hardly going to listen to us, are they?