Books & Culture

To Hell With These Gilded Charlatans

The hero we need doesn’t care about money or social status or celebrity. He is the true rebellious independent who actually fulfills the human potential that all of us carry.

Ricky Gervais just does not care. He delivered a scalding opening monologue at the Golden Globes on Sunday, in which he lambasted the excesses of Hollywood culture, the creative laziness of most large studios, and the hypocrisy of constant virtue signaling from a wealthy and largely out-of-touch Hollywood elite.

That Gervais’ irreverence was desperately needed in a Hollywood venue was made abundantly clear by the shocked and disgusted look on Tom Hanks’ face. These people are rarely told to go to hell. And here they were, on live television, with a British comedian doing just that. To their faces. 

What is even more remarkable is that this is not Gervais’ first time. 

When Gervais first hosted the show a decade ago, he joked about the Hollywood Foreign Press accepting bribes for Golden Globes. He didn’t care that they were technically his employers for the show. “I’m not going to do this again anyway,” he added with a smirk. He was clearly wrong. He has masterfully hosted the show four times since.

But that attitude of not caring, prominently displayed to higher degrees in each subsequent show, is precisely what makes him so powerful and successful. He is not starstruck by celebrities. He is not politicking to curry favor with the powerful producers and executives in the audience. He is not there to be Hollywood’s friend. He is there to do his job.

One of the most poignant moments came after he made a joke with the punchline that convicted sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein obviously didn’t kill himself. The crowd immediately booed.

“Shut up,” Gervais commanded, “I know he was your friend, but I don’t care.”

That was not the only time that evening that Gervais made it abundantly clear that he didn’t care what these pampered and glorified entertainers thought or how they felt. Each time he said, “I don’t care,” he was rejecting the power of an out-of-touch cultural elite and the vested corporate interests to which they have sold out.

Because ultimately, Gervais’ audience for the night was not the actors, directors, producers, and executives in that star-studded hall. His audience was the people. The people who have started souring on the garbage that their self-appointed overlords produce. The people who harbor far more populist notions than most in Hollywood would care to admit. 

Instead of taking risks to build a new culture, we are like scavengers, rapidly deconstructing the edifices our ancestors constructed.

And those people desperately wanted someone to tell the failing cultural elite to go to hell.

And that will be the standard take from most right-leaning commentators. But it goes further than that. 

Because ultimately, Gervais doesn’t care what the TV audience thinks either. He isn’t following the audience. He’s leading it. Not only is he criticizing the elite but he is also doing their job for them. And that’s what makes him just so damn charismatic.

Many believe that the American people do not want an elite. Not true. 

Most Americans do not begrudge wildly successful people—we understand that these people produce a great deal of cultural, economic, and spiritual value when they are doing their jobs properly. A good society requires some type of elite with a bright vision, a self-motivated sense of purpose, and a strong commitment to their societal responsibilities. 

A nation’s cultural elite should comprise those who are able to rise above the strong primal concerns that drive most of the public—those who effectively can raise a higher standard of principle. And while many NeverTrumpers and leftists ape principle on a daily basis, very few in our society actually have any principles beyond survival and self-interest. 

The truth is that while creative America may have sold out to corporate America, corporate America sold out to the American consumer a long time ago. And because of this, our music, films, news, products, and services iteratively have evolved into two optimizing parameters—increasing profit and decreasing risk. And unfortunately, the combination of these two goals is killing us.

We care way too much about what the consumer wants and way too little about what the consumer needs.

Instead of taking risks to build a new culture, we are like scavengers, rapidly deconstructing the edifices our ancestors constructed. That’s because yet another remake, sequel, or spinoff is guaranteed to turn a profit as the public binges for another day on memberberries.

Our music has been debased, ultimately appealing to the primal and base desires that even the most unsophisticated listener can comprehend. Instead of challenging listeners to grow through the consumption of music, we have commodified it into a carefully designed drug.

Even the public’s altruistic desires have been filtered, distilled, and packaged to be sold on social media as yet another opioid that promises to make you feel good. Just ask Colin Kaepernick how much Nike paid him for his home-brewed wokeness.

The public doesn’t want to turn into a cultural drug addicted mass. They yearn for something greater than bland materialism. They want something to believe in. But the cultural elite has turned into highly effective materialistic drug pushers. It’s hard to win a fight against an elite working hand-in-hand with the smartest neuroscientists, engineers, chemists, psychologists, and marketing professionals to make the perfect narcotic.

We all find ourselves struggling to understand what we want. What we truly want. But most of us have a sense. After all, few of us want to identify with the avaricious pragmatist, willing to compromise anything for an extra buck, or with the social climber and gossip, who carefully manipulates and politics his way through a social group. No. We’d prefer to identify with the hero who stands strong, against all odds, for what he believes.

This hero doesn’t care about money or social status. He doesn’t care what other people think. He is the true rebellious independent who actually fulfills the human potential that all of us carry. And while that life may be far more unstable, it heals the soul from the scars of a life of quiet desperation that far too many of us live.

But ultimately, this hero need not be ripped and dashing or a caped crusader punching bad guys and saving the world. At the end of the day, a cutting British comedian telling a bunch of entitled spoiled celebrities to go to hell will do just fine.