Netflix was released this week Ricky Gervais’ Latest Comedy Special, super nature. Before you watch it, it’s good to know that the Netflix comedy special is filled with transphobic nonsense. For those who’d rather protect their eyes and ears (and avoid giving Netflix the clicks on the special), Diversity provided some of the “highlights”. and they don’t leave much to the imagination. As well as targeting the trans community, Gervais hit it down with some wider anti-LGBTQ+ rants and a slew of misinformation about HIV. GLAAD has issued a statement Netflix’s latest Gervais special is rightly being called “dangerous”.
If this all sounds painfully familiar, that’s because almost exactly what happened when Netflix first released Dave Chappelles The nearer in October 2021, less than a year ago. Following this release, Netflix was heavily criticized for spreading dangerous and hateful anti-trans rhetoric. Netflix employees went on strike in protest and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos doubled down on keeping the special live, while claiming that the special and “on-screen content” in general “does not directly lead to real-world harm.”
As a side note for readers who might believe Sarando’s claim that such Netflix specials don’t equate to real-world harm, they really do. Studies have shown that the portrayal of a minority group in the media has a direct impact on how people think about them in their daily lives. The Geena Davis Institute has conducted extensive research on this subject, and the Think Tank for Inclusion & Justice underlines the importance of this representation communities like trans people can have in the real world. Nor is it a mistake that in just the past week, a trans woman was falsely blamed for the Uvalde school shooting and another trans girl was assaulted in Texas. The real damage is already there.
Whether it’s because a trans person sees these jokes and people laugh and decide it’s not safe to come out, or because someone decides that mainstream hatred of trans people means it’s okay, attacking us on the street and in bathrooms, it actually “translates to real-world damage.” When it comes to protecting trans people, especially trans children, Studies by organizations such as The Trevor Project show that a supportive environment is one of the biggest factors in reducing the risk of suicide. An environment where people gather and explain why a famous comedian’s transphobic jokes are actually harmless and why trans people are “too sensitive” is not a supportive environment.
While super nature Gervais Special appears to be a direct iteration of the Chappelle situation, it might surprise some viewers who have been watching Netflix Originals or are looking forward to their upcoming shows. Netflix’s latest adaptation of Alice Oseman heart stopper Graphic novel was praised for its LGBTQ+ representation, based on the work of an LGBTQ+ writer and featuring a cast of queer talent playing the roles on the show. Netflix also recently released an adaptation by Michael Connellys The Lincoln Attorneywhich is currently #1 on Netflix, and the production replaced the character of Patrick Henson with a black lesbian named Izzy Letts.
An environment where people gather and explain why a famous comedian’s transphobic jokes are actually harmless and why trans people are “too sensitive” is not a supportive environment.
However, it’s not just Netflix’s recent releases that offer positive LGBTQ+ representation. The streaming platform released on June 16th Dead end: Paranormal Parka fantasy horror comedy series based on Hamish Steeles DeadEndia Graphic novels created by a trans creator tell queer narratives and showcase queer talent. Shortly thereafter on the 22nd of course. The Umbrella Academy Season 3 will drop on Netflix, which will see Elliot Page returns to the series as Viktor Hargreeves. So much of Netflix’s recent hit content and future plans are queer-friendly and queer-driven, so why are they plating tired old comedians who have nothing better to do than take pot shots at the queer community?
The answer is not easy to say and can only be guessed at, but looking at recent events a picture is beginning to emerge. Netflix is struggling in 2022 as the rise of other streaming services threatens its one-time monopoly. In Q1, Netflix reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers and revealed they expect to bleed millions of dollars in subscribers. This caused their stock values to plummet, and they’ve been doing it ever since carried out mass layoffs.
While all of this is happening for Netflix, stranger things Season 4 is about to end, Season 5 is announced to be the last of the show as the series completes its planned story. stranger things has been a constant magnet for the streaming platform and has defined Netflix as its heart. Now Netflix needs to figure out what their plan is if subscription numbers continue to fall freely if they go into a post-stranger things Epoch.
Whether it’s JK Rowling posting a inflammatory tweet to be trending right before a movie trailer, or Donald Trump yelling at clouds to distract from other issues, these moves come from the same playbook with the same end goal.
For now, it seems like this plan for Netflix is ingrained in supporting transphobes with offensive comedy while hoping more people enjoy the narrow-minded humor than actually unsubscribing afterwards stranger things ends.
After Dave Chappelles The nearer dropped on Netflix, it was one thing for Sarandos to stand by their guns and refuse to take the special down. It might have been understandable to insist that it remain as a power move, but then to distance himself from Chappelle going forward. Far from distancing itself, Netflix has continued Chappelle’s $20 million special deal, and in February 2022 it was announced he was producing Chappelle’s home team, a series of Netflix specials featuring Chappelle’s comedians of his choice. Netflix also had Chappelle appear as part of the Netflix is a joke comedy festival.
Given that Netflix’s response to the call to be in bed with a virulent transphobe was to snuggle closer, her response to the backlash surrounding the Ricky Gervais special shouldn’t come as a surprise. Within hours or super nature‘s release, people criticized the Netflix special, but on the same day, Ricky Gervais reported that Netflix had just ordered another special from him with the title Armageddon.
Of course, the reaction to Ricky Gervais’ actual Netflix special taking place was superficial. It’s very clear that Netflix and Gervais knew what was about to happen. in the an interview Back in January 2022, Gervais said he wanted to be canceled, and that The Los Angeles Times reported on that one Wednesday he announced that people were going to complain about the special. It’s impossible that Netflix didn’t also know that their own special’s content was explicitly anti-LGBTQ+, and yet they not only released it, they did so less than a week before Pride month. This was clearly a calculated move to attract attention, and we’ve seen it before. Whether it’s JK Rowling posting a inflammatory tweet to be trending right before a movie trailer, or Donald Trump yelling at clouds to distract from other issues, these moves come from the same playbook with the same end goal.
Netflix seems desperate to play both sides. While hiring queer creators to produce LGBTQ-friendly fictional content, they also commit to publishing comedy specials by people who will actively harm the queer community for years to come. At the end of the day, Netflix wants its cake and it wants to eat it too. Pretty soon they will have to realize that this is not an option, something will break, one side of this fight will win and Netflix won’t be able to keep sitting on the fence trying to grab every dollar bill that goes you can. Of course, Netflix gets a lot of press surrounding the Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle specials, but you’ll also learn that at some point, not all press is good press.♦
Editor’s Note: We have reached out to Netflix for comment, we’re awaiting their response.