Arts & CultureIssue 002

Ricky Gervais – disaster or godsend for award season?

By 5th May 2020 No Comments

By Peter Knight

As award season draws to a close for another year some notable moments stand out from the Golden Globes, Oscars, BAFTAS and Academy Awards.

The season began on a controversial note with Ricky Gervais’ now infamous speech as host of the Golden Globes. Beginning his speech by stating that 2020 would be ‘the last time I’m hosting these awards’, Gervais bluntly stated, ‘I don’t care anymore.’ What followed was one of the most irreverent dressing downs of Hollywood ever broadcast of television, with Gervais swinging back and forth between more innocent material, for instance comparing Joe Pesci to Baby Yoda, and some highly controversial topics such as pedophilia in the Catholic church when he spoke about ‘a big year for pedophile movies: Surviving R Kelly, Leaving Neverland… Two Popes’, and Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide. When the latter topic drew some tense reaction from the crowd, Gervais’ responded, ‘Shut up. I know he’s your friend, but I don’t care.’ He further added, ‘You had to make your own way here on your own plane didn’t you?’

Gervais also attempted to highlight the moral hypocrisy of Hollywood, particularly in his mocking of Apple’s The Morning Show which he described as ‘a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China.’ In making a point about the companies that apparently ‘woke’ celebrities are willing to work with, Gervais joked, ‘Apple, Amazon, Disney. If Isis started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?’

Perhaps Gervais’ most significant statement came at the end of his speech, however. Addressing the room he stated bluntly, ‘if you do win an award tonight, please don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world […] if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God and f**k off.’ It was this final sentiment that drew praise from many political commentators, as Hollywood award season has for several years now been seen as a platform for, arguably, out of touch celebrities to make political statements.

While Gervais’ speech shocked and amused in equal measure, nobody seems to have been more shaken by the sentiment than Tom Hanks, whose permanent look of indignation throughout all of Gervais’ speech quickly became a viral sensation on social media; this made even more amusing as Hanks has been known to use his acceptance speeches in the past as political platforms.

However, another celebrity who seems not to have been listening, or at least chose to ignore Gervais’ advice, was Brad Pitt who used his acceptance speech at the Oscars where he won the award for Best Supporting Actor in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Pitt began his acceptance speech by saying, ‘they told me I only have forty-five seconds up here, which is forty-five seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week’, a reference to Donald Trumps’ acquittal during his Impeachment proceedings. Pitt then followed by suggesting Quentin Tarantino make a film about it and ‘in the end the adults do the right thing.’

Gervais’ scathing attack on the celebrity establishment at the beginning of award season certainly left an impression on audiences, and watching celebrities play into Gervais’ accusations so blatantly makes for watching that is at best amusing and at worst uncomfortable.

However, some positive moments from award season came in the form of many deserving films receiving recognition, such as 1917 –  which won three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and seven BAFTAS – and Parasite which won four Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture; the first foreign film to do so.