The Anti-Chinese Racism of Ricky Gervais (and David Brent)

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The new film David Brent: Life on the Road, is an attempt by actor Ricky Gervais to resurrection the ‘David Brent’ character that started his successful career in the ‘mockumentary’ entitled The Office (which originally ran from 2001-2003).  This apparent ‘fly on the wall’ documentary about an office and its staff, show-cased Ricky Gervais as a comedy actor through the antics of the office manager David Brent.  Brent is portrayed as an inadequate ego-maniac that has somehow risen through the ranks to a position of high authority over a substantial staff, and who ‘dominates’ and ‘belittles’ all and sundry at the point of contact, to prove to himself that he really does possess ‘authority’ over the working lives of others.  David Brent is a racist and misogynist, who continuously derides the Disabled and every concession such people require to manage their daily lives.  It is interesting that Gervais feels the need to portray his ‘Brent’ character with such intensity, and it seems to me that we might be seeing a psychodrama unfolding, whereby Gervais works through his owning inner feelings through the antics of his ‘Brent’ character.  The obvious and continuous racism in this new film is legitimised and excused through the presence on screen of the British Black actor Dom Johnson, who plays a kind of ‘side kick’ to Brent’s racism.  Gervais seems to be saying that as a long as there is a compliant Black actor alongside Brent – the racism is fine because a Black person seems to be allowing it to happen.  However, in real life, Gervais is an ardent animal rights campaigner who has backed a number of campaigns attacking China (and Chinese people) in various stereotypical and racist myth-making ways.  He continues this attack on Chinese people (as there are no Chinese people in this film, or in fact in any Gervais’s other screen outings).  In fact, Gervais (as Brent), alongside a fellow actor, twice embark upon the most appalling anti-Chinese racism that I have ever seen on British TV.  Of course, none of the press has picked-up on this ‘new’ anti-Chinese racism from Gervais, but instead fixate on his use of the ‘n’ word – legitimised by Dom Johnson.  I think the truth must be stated clearly – both the ‘real’ Ricky Gervais and ‘fictional’ David Brent are ‘anti-Chinese’, and as this racism is generally and unquestionably accepted throughout British society, it is viewed as something of a ‘politically correct’ joke to complain about it.  It is interesting to note that whilst starring as a Disabled character in the sit-com ‘Derek’, Ricky Gervais has been well-known for his anti-Disabled comments.

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