BBC’s “The Office” became a huge success when it debuted in 2001, catapulting co-creator Ricky Gervais to stardom.
However, Gervais believes he wouldn’t be able to make the same show today due to the cancel culture that’s overtaken social media.
“I think now it would suffer because people take things literally,” said Gervais in an interview with Times Radio.
“There’s these outrage mobs who take things out of context,” explained Gervais, who played politically incorrect office manager David Brent in the acclaimed comedy series.
“This was a show about everything. It was about difference, it was about sex, race, all the things that people fear to even be discussed or talked about now in case they say the wrong thing and they’re ‘cancelled’. And the BBC have gotten more and more careful and people just want to keep their jobs. So people would worry about some of the subjects and some of the jokes, even though they were clearly ironic and we were laughing at this buffoon being uncomfortable around difference,” he added.
“I think if [‘The Office’] was put out now, I think that some people have lost that sense of irony and context. And so, I think it would be — usually, this is what happens, right? It isn’t a case of what’s right or what’s wrong, it’s a case of how many letters do we have to write? I’ve talked people down off the ledge before,” Gervais said. “Throughout my career I’ve said, ‘Listen, I’ll write the letter.’ I’ve explained it to people and gone, ‘No, no, it’s okay, ’cause this…’ and they go, ‘Oh, okay.’ Sometimes they’re just scared, and they’re even more scared now because people don’t take an explanation for an answer, they just say, ‘Well, I don’t want to see it, so let’s ban it.’”
Despite appearances, Gervais admitted he’s not immune to that phenomenon, joking that he’s “not cancel-proof, I just don’t care.”
He explained: “I genuinely don’t think I do anything that deserves to be cancelled. I can justify everything. I think some people think they can do anything. Some people think freedom of speech means, ‘I should be able to say anything without consequences.’ And it doesn’t mean that, we are responsible people. What I’m saying is, ‘I’m saying this thing, and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with it and I can explain it if you want.’ Because there is the other side of the coin and some people now, they don’t care about the argument or the issue, they just want to own someone, they want to win the argument, they want to get to the other side. There is no nuance or discussion anymore, it’s just formed into two tribes of people screaming at each other. So I keep out of that. I don’t think I do anything that is that bad or contentious that can’t be justified. And that’s always been my point.”
According to Gervais, he never sets out to deliberately offend.
“I’ve never been this person that says, ‘I can say anything as offensive as I want and ruin people’s day and you can’t touch me.’ I don’t do that, I listen,” he said. “But this is the difference: 10 years ago when someone said ‘I’m offended by that,’ I’d look into it. I’d go, ‘How can I change that? What can I do?’ Now I go, ‘I am good. Good. Everyone is, so what?’ I think that’s the difference, people have gone too far, they’ve blown their argument.”