Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Ricky Gervais and the battle of the fans

Any stand-up comedian who mimes typing at a typewriter when mocking the internet doesn't understand the internet. And should probably update his imaginary props.

I'm a fan of Ricky Gervais. He flings around a wild silliness that works on a hundred levels, he's made cultural statements that millions of people listen to, and, as a rule, he is bloody funny. Ricky Gervais has blown the scalp off the comedy industry by becoming only slightly less famous than the Queen of England. And, like the Queen, he seems to live a life so sheltered from the norm that he couldn't possibly truly relate to the plebs. Not these days anyway.

At least it seems that way from his blog. Every second post is about his enormous success, spending endless cash in Harrods or The Ivy, travelling first class to New York, having dinner with David Bowie, or buddying up with American superstars. I understand that most celebrity blogs are used for marketing purposes, and Ricky Gervais garners more attention the more he attaches himself to big names. But he's already extremely rich and famous; he doesn't need the blog, and therefore must get pleasure out of it or he wouldn't keep it. He enjoys sharing stories about his wealth and power. His aura of happy carelessness means he should write about whatever he wants, and as a fan I read whatever he wants, which means I stumble across the wealth and power stuff a lot. His blog never used to be about that; most of the posts used to be photos either of his cat or of him pulling stupid faces. He used to make fun of the person he would one day become. And he can pretend he's being satirical when he revels in his celebrityism, but can you really tell me he doesn't seem to think he looks cool in this?

Or this?

Is there really any explanation as to why he stands on such a dizzyingly high pedestal? What has he done that's so divine? Okay, The Office. Extras was also good, but so was, say, Black Books, and Dylan Moran (who wrote and starred in Black Books) hasn't got a pedestal. Gervais's stand-up comedy is funny; but then, Dylan Moran's is funnier. Gervais also did a stream of crappy cameos that he previously satirised in Extras, and a couple of glib American movies that I've forgotten already. He also did Life's Too Short, which was utterly without joy. His "discovery" of Karl Pilkington has also contributed to Ricky Gervais's popularity, but that's thanks to Pilkers; not Gerv.

From what I can see, the primary reason for Ricky Gervais's great success is his exposure. So he should be grateful for the fans he has. But instead, he's trying to war with them.

I say "trying to" because from what I can see, Ricky Gervais's reaction to his fans is a kind of everlasting flame war. He digs through the internet and finds the most obscure little articles that criticise him, then he drags them up on his blog and beats the journalist into a fine spreadable paste. Then he scans through thousands of tweets on Twitter and replies to those that insult him.

He also reads fan forums. Yeah, I know! You want to tell him to stop! No! NO! No, he mustn't! If you're famous, don't look yourself up! The anonymity of the internet stretches over an enormous scale, from revolutionary shared intelligence to serious physical danger. Fan forums are somewhere in between those two. I wrote a stupid dissertation on the topic of fandom last year, and one of the oh-super-original findings was that fan-idol interaction really doesn't work. It's strange. It makes normal people strange. And Ricky Gervais goes to his fan forum, Pilkipedia, and reads criticism about his work. Then he goes back to his blog and indirectly abuses the people who wrote the posts. He might as well post on the fan forum himself. For all we know, he does.

I've been on Pilkipedia for about five years, though have made about that many posts there. It's a very large community, and isn't comprised of the geeky teenagers Ricky Gervais insults it for. His most critical fans are smart (if pretentious) media types, and they write it for fun, not because they hope he's watching. The ones who hope he's watching are the ones who desperately agree with him, possibly in the hope that he'll contact them saying "omg you witty bastard; would you like a job?"

So in discovering that his fans don't love everything he does, Ricky Gervais has gone on the assault. On his blog, and on Twitter. And who follows his blog and Twitter feed? His fans. Who don't love everything he does. So obviously the fella is deluded and thinks he's speaking to people other than those who actually want to read what he has to say. Maybe he thinks he's only speaking to celebrity fans. Maybe, in the end, they're the only ones that matter.

1 comment:

  1. Just saw this. Brilliant and accurate, then and now.