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Embattled Netflix releases Ricky Gervais’ transphobic, defiantly anti-‘woke’ special

Ricky Gervais in his 2018 Netflix comedy special, “Humanity.” Gervais’ latest special, “SuperNature,” premiered Tuesday.
(Ray Burmiston / Netflix)

Netflix has released another comedy special with transphobic material.

In his new stand-up special “SuperNature,” which hit the streaming service Tuesday, Ricky Gervais begins making jokes about “old-fashioned women,” “new women” and transphobic concerns about public restrooms almost immediately, before launching into an extended bit against “cancel culture” and “woke comedy.”

The hourlong special arrives amid Netflix’s attempts to navigate slowing revenue growth after announcing last month that it lost 200,000 subscribers during the first quarter of 2022. Since then, the streaming giant has cut jobs and contract positions, including those related to social media accounts that were focused on promoting content to people of color and the LGBTQ community.

Netflix employees can get on board with working on ‘harmful’ content or quit. And after Disney’s Florida travails, Hollywood may avoid politics even more.

“SuperNature” is not Netflix’s first stand-up special by a high-profile comedian featuring transphobic material. In October, the streamer faced backlash following its release of Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer,” which was also called out for transphobic jokes. In addition to public outcry over Chappelle’s remarks, Netflix employees staged a walkout in protest of the company’s decision to support the special.

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Gervais is no stranger to such outrage and makes clear in his special that he is expecting more.

“I’m going to leave it in to annoy people,” he notes as he jokes about identity politics.

“I talk about AIDS, famine, cancer, the Holocaust, rape, pedophilia, but no, the one thing you mustn’t joke about is identity politics,” says Gervais. “The one thing you should never joke about is the trans issue. ‘They just want to be treated equally.’ I agree. That’s why I include them.”

As such, he includes trans folks — particularly women — throughout “SuperNature.” Even before his bit involving anti-trans misconceptions around public restrooms, Gervais makes a punchline out of Eddie Izzard’s gender identity. He jokes about getting “canceled” for transphobic tweets that reduce women to anatomy. Gervais even engages in a lengthy hypothetical that he admits is “childish and misinformed” about being a pretend trans lesbian named Vicky.

Towards the end of his special, Gervais makes sure to note that “in real life” he supports trans rights, but not without once again taking a shot at trans women.

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“I support all human rights, and trans rights are human rights,” says Gervais. “Live your best life. Use your preferred pronouns. Be the gender that you feel that you are. But meet me halfway, ladies. Lose the c—. That’s all I’m saying.”

Gervais also makes it a point during his special to argue that words, unlike physical attacks, don’t count as “actual violence.” But “SuperNature” arrives at a time when state lawmakers nationwide are passing legislation to restrict classroom discussion about LGBTQ people, ban children’s access to gender-affirming care and prevent trans students from competing in sports or accessing locker rooms that align with their gender.

Earlier this month, as if to prevent any repeat of the fallout following “The Closer,” Netflix added new language in its staff guidelines around company culture. The added language explicitly states that Netflix would not “censor specific artists or voices … even if we find some titles counter to our own personal values” and makes clear that the company expects its staff to fall in line.

“Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful,” the guidelines state. “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”


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