After a backlash of angry tweets accusing Ricky Gervais of being transphobic, following his presentation of the 73rd Annual Golden Globe awards, it is imperative that we define the consequences of censorship, and promote the necessity that is free speech.
Ricky Gervais has often come under scrutiny for being ‘offensive’, but has always dealt with it fittingly by employing a healthy dose of English wit and logic. His responses to various scrutinies in the past can be summed up with a statement made by Ricky on the Piers Morgan show, just after the 2015 Golden Globes award ceremony ‘just because you are offended, does not mean you are right’. Of course, everybody has the right to be offended, but it is the job of a comedian to push the boundaries and limits of a topic, so that their audience experiences a different perspective. If a comedian tediously explored ‘safe’ topics, and said the things that anybody else would say, then they would be very boring indeed.
Frankie Boyle, another comedian who is frequently under fire from the media, made an important distinction about how a joke is received, he said “people often confuse the target and the subject of a joke” – using this sphere of thought, it is surprising to see that people took to twitter to brand Ricky as ‘transphobic’, given that when he addressed the subject of the joke, Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, he made nothing but positive comments. The ‘female driving’ part of the joke, simply targeted a stereotype surrounding female drivers; it did not target Caitlyn Jenner or her transition.
The jokes made at the Golden Globes, and scrutiny thereof, tie in to a much larger and overarching theme; that of freedom of speech. I have to assume that the people who were “offended” by Ricky, and acted upon that offense by tweeting, are motivated by the desire to censor him. But these people only make themselves a prisoner of their own actions, given that freedom of speech is just as much about the right to listen, as it is about the right of a person to speak. By trying to censor Ricky Gervais, or any other comedian (or indeed any other person), the right to hear something is being denied. Ricky Gervais is an artist; a fantastic comedian who offers a unique perspective on the world. Freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently.