I don’t care” was the recurring refrain of Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globe hosting gig on Sunday. Those three words were fired off after his every other crass or impolite zinger, whether he was chastising Leonardo DiCaprio for his youthful dating preferences, proposing to solve the problem of no female directing nominees by banning women from making studio movies, or simply calling James Corden a “fat pussy” (because he’s in Cats, geddit?). “I don’t care!” Gervais repeated, reminding us for the umpteenth time that he wouldn’t be doing this again.
It was the British comedian’s fifth go at hosting the most raucous and least prestigious of Hollywood’s major awards shows, and the strain clearly showed. Ten years ago, when he first took the job, there was a kind of gleeful ebullience to his nihilism: not all the jokes landed, but what he didn’t seem to care about were the consequences. This year, as he flatly drawled one weary putdown after another, it was clear he didn’t care about the entire shebang, his own role in it included: with his glory years as a TV star behind him, Gervais was out to prove nothing so much as how over it is he was. An uncharacteristically muted, less-buzzed-than-usual celebrity crowd, meanwhile, looked pretty over it, too. Even Gervais’ best, most pointed jabs – and there were a couple, whether he was bluntly calling Hollywood Foreign Press Association voters racist or impugning the industry for looking the other way with Harvey Weinstein – didn’t elicit the usual gasps or whoops, though exhausted nods were plentiful.
Perhaps the golden age – or even the grubby gold lamé age – of the awards host is simply behind us: in an age where awards ceremonies are mainly fodder to be broken down into various viral highlights, the role of an emcee to link all this future meme material seems increasingly redundant. Gervais’ particular presence as a provocateur, meanwhile, felt particularly extraneous in a year when others on stage were delivering punchier messages, albeit with fewer punchlines.
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While the host had preemptively admonished any winners for making political speeches in his intro – “You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing about this real world” – his words went unheeded by many, whether it was an absent Russell Crowe sending a message about climate as evinced by the Australian fire crisis in his stead, an awkward but earnest Joaquin Phoenix imploring the industry to make environmentally-minded changes, or Patricia Arquette and Michelle Williams both using their platforms to take an early stand against Trump in the 2020 election, the latter via an impassioned feminist pro-choice plea.