Ever since it was announced that Ricky Gervais would return after a hiatus to host the 2016 Golden Globes, the question had been not whether he would be back to his old antics of ruffling Hollywood feathers, but whose feathers he might choose to ruffle.
The answer came early Sunday night, when Gervais began his opening monologue by targeting Caitlyn Jenner. “I’ve changed,” he said, promising to try and be nicer than in previous years. “Not as much as Bruce Jenner, obviously.” Though he let up on the reality star momentarily, acknowledging her work “breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes,” he invoked one of Jenner’s more unfortunate experiences of the previous year—a fatal car accident over which she was sued—muttering, “She didn’t do a lot for women drivers, but you can’t do everything.”
Though Gervais took plenty of time to mock the Hollywood elite during his monologue (“you disgusting, pill-popping, sexual deviant scum,” he spat at the crowd), he also veered into unexpectedly political territory, spending much of his energy on issues relating to sexuality and gender. Calling out an essay Jennifer Lawrence penned addressing the gender pay gap in Hollywood, he joked that he’s getting paid the same for hosting this year as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler got paid last year—combined. He also called movie studios’ move to reboot movies with all-female casts a smart one: “Guaranteed box office, and you don’t have to spend too much money on the cast.”
While his jokes about the pay gap were on the money, if searing, Gervais arguably went too far on the humor he aimed at transgender issues, referring to Jenner by the name she used before transitioning and joking about what Jeffrey Tambor does with his genitals when performing his transgender character on Transparent. Gervais’ decision to draw attention to the spotlight transgender rights came under in 2015 doesn’t do much to advance them if he’s reinforcing the kinds of speech and attitudes that encourage mockery and discomfort over acceptance.
But, as expected, he didn’t seem particularly concerned with whether his jokes offended anyone. “I want to do this monologue and then go into hiding,” he sneered, taking a sip of his beer.