Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globes Gags? They Didn’t Go Far Enough

Is there a community so far-removed from reality, so ripe for ridicule and so utterly, utterly deserving of it as Hollywood?

At the Golden Globes on Sunday night, Ricky Gervais did nothing more outrageous than give voice to what everyone watching at home was already thinking: just why were Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie nominated for their anaemic, unremarkable turns in The Tourist, a movie so bad it can rot your vision-balls into gelatinous gloop?

What exactly is the point of Tim Allen? And if Charlie Sheen wants to terrorize hookers in his hotel room, should he really expect us to sweep it under our collective memory carpets?

It seems to me, amidst all the outrage and hand-wringing of the Hollywood punditocracy in the wake of Gervais’ performance, everybody is asking the wrong question. Rather than wondering if he went too far, we should really be asking ourselves whether he went far enough: the answer to both, in any case, is an emphatic no.

It used to be, there were two reasons for watching the Golden Globes. The first one was that – by the standards of your average Hollywood awards ceremony – it is reasonably relaxed and informal, and conducive to bizarre behaviour that wouldn’t wash at the Oscars, like Harrison Ford turning up last year to present an award whilst obviously stoned out of his gourd.

The other is that it’s generally always been a decent barometer of who will be winning what at the Oscars the following month. To suggest – as some have done – that Gervais brought the Golden Globes into disrepute on Sunday night stretches credulity: they weren’t held in all that much repute to begin with.

These ceremonies, of course, exist purely to publicize the organizations behind them and to place their members within schmoozing distance of A-list talent. This is especially true of the Golden Globes, which was founded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in the early 1940’s for the sole purpose of increasing their access to previously-distant stars. Anybody who thinks they have a genuine interest in rewarding artistic merit is, to put it politely, as deluded as a level-seven Thetan.

Yesterday’s outburst from one anonymous HFPA stooge – who decreed of Gervais that, “For sure, any movie he makes he can forget about being nominated” – amounted to a stark promise of future bias that actually did more to undermine the awards than any number of cracks about John Travolta’s sexuality.

What if – and given the overpowering badness of his recent cinematic output, it’s an admittedly big ‘What if?’ – Gervais directed or starred in a genuine masterpiece? Well, here’s What if: the Golden Globes would bestow their tarnished wares on whatever billion-grossing piece of cinematic offal Johnny Depp took a paycheck for that year, out of pure spite and an unhealthy obsession with having him on their red carpet.

But it’s the celebrities themselves who came out of the whole affair looking insular, small-minded and astonishingly bereft of self-awareness. Between the months of December and March, Hollywood does little else but celebrate itself, administering pats on the back with one hand and congratulatory hand-jobs with the other. This time of year is known as ‘Awards Season.’ On Sunday night, Gervais correctly declared it Open Season.

The witless comebacks of Tom Hanks – who yearly smarms his way through these things like the self-regarding president of the world’s most exclusive golf club – and Robert Downey Jr, who was frankly a lot less smug and a lot more bearable back when he was a drug addict, only made Gervais’ barbs seem all the more well-aimed. Suck it up, guys: your egos don’t need any more massaging.

The internet has birthed an age of cruelty. We can all go online and mercilessly insult total strangers knowing that we’re safely insulated by our anonymity. Gervais’ routine on Sunday night actually ranked at the lower end of the scale, but he said it to faces and that took guts. What’s more, the HFPA really should have known it was coming – you don’t hire Ricky Gervais to deliver bland platitudes of worship. Gervais refused to give the organisers pre-approval on his script, and they consented to his demands: it’s nobody’s fault but their own.

Ultimately, you could argue that Gervais has done the organisers a real turn. He’s elevated a minor, meaningless awards ceremony into something that people are actually talking about. If the noses of a few coddled and cosseted multimillionaires got bent out of shape along the way, so be it.