Ricky Gervais Responds to Backlash Over His Controversial Tweets to a Fake Transgender Person
By Antoinette Bueno
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Ricky Gervais is addressing his recent controversy over tweets that some have criticized as being transphobic.
Late last month, the 58-year-old comedian tweeted a reply to parody account Jarvis Dupont over Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling voicing her support for a woman named Maya Forstater, who wrote an essay on Medium about losing her job after speaking up about the negative impact of gender identity rights.
The Dupont tweet read, "J.K. Rowling is a TERF! Speaking as a trans woman, the thought that I will no longer be welcome in a fictional school for wizards has destroyed me," to which Gervais responded, "Those awful biological women can never understand what it must be like for you becoming a lovely lady so late in life. They take their girly privileges for granted. Winning at female sports and having their own toilets. Well, enough is enough."
When a Twitter user wrote, "Kindness is magic. Try to remember that," Gervais responded, "Exactly. We need to protect the rights of women. Not erode them because some men have found a new cunning way to dominate and demonise an entire sex."
Gervais did respond to Twitter users who were upset about the controversial tweets and noted that he was "playing along with a spoof account," and he also directly responded to a user who asked, "Can you clarify if you think the trans women are men or that there is another group of people that are men and up to no good?"
Gervais responded, "Sure. I think trans women are women. I wasn't talking about trans people."
"Jarvis Dupont is a spoof Twitter account, and the joke is that he's so woke that he's actually gone full circle and does terrible things," Gervais says. "And his latest [bit] is, 'I'm trans now.' And he gets all that wrong. And I responded by playing along with him, saying, 'Oh, you're so much better than biological women because they've had a lifetime to get used to it.' Now, people saw my tweet and they thought he's a real trans person, but I'm taking the piss out of Jarvis Dupont, who is actually a woman in real life."
"And this is the problem," he continues. "You can say, 'Listen, I was joking. It's a joke.' But that's not always enough for people. They go, 'Well, why were you joking?' Also, add to that the nature of Twitter -- it's so curt, there's no nuance, it's there forever out of context."
Gervais says despite any backlash, he isn't going to stop saying whatever he wants.
"People like the idea of freedom of speech until they hear something they don't like," he says. "So there's still a pressure, but that doesn't mean I'm going to water it down or back down and not say what I want. It's just another form of what we've been through many, many times -- it used to be called P.C. I think those things start off with very good intentions and then they're mugged."
"It's a good thing to not be racist and sexist and homophobic," he continues. "But it's not a good thing to not be allowed to make jokes about those things, because you can tell a joke about race without being racist. I'm happy to play by the rules. It's just that the 200 million people watching have different rules. That's the plight. When people say, 'He crossed the line,' I say, 'I didn't draw a line, you did.' It's relative. It's subjective."
Gervais stands by his past comments that he doesn't want to poke fun at people over things they have no control over, like their race or sex.
"They mustn't be the targets," he says. "You mustn't make those things the target to be ridiculed. You shouldn't laugh at something they can't help. Yeah, I think that's a pretty good rule. Again, it's not a rule of comedy. It's my personal rule. Deep down, I want people to know I'm not a racist or a homophobe or a sexist."
This isn't the first time Gervais has come under fire for transgender jokes that some have felt are offensive. When he hosted the 2016 Golden Globes, some criticized his jokes about Caitlyn Jenner in his opening monologue.
"I'm going to be nice tonight. I've changed," he said at the time. "Not as much as Bruce Jenner, obviously. Now Caitlyn Jenner, of course."
"What a year she's had!" he continued, before referencing Jenner's Malibu car accident in 2015, in which one person was killed. "She became a role model for trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. She didn't do a lot for women drivers, but ... You can't have everything."
Gervais still has no regrets.
"I was very careful that the joke was about her being a bad driver," he tells THR. "The joke was about stereotypes. I started off being correctly inclusive saying she's brave, breaking down barriers. And then I [said] she didn't do a lot for women drivers."