I know what the word mong was used as back in the day when I was a wee lad running around a playground in the heart of the Black Country in the eighties. Mong meant retard or spastic or at its worst it was used as an offensive word to describe people with downs syndrome but ask any teenagers today what mong means and they’ll probably say idiot, fool or prat. Maybe Gervais should have called his Sky One show “A Mong Abroad” to hammer home the point that the word has evolved, and has changed, etymology I think it’s called. I don’t know any teenagers who think of mong as meaning Downs Syndrome, not one.
I’m a big fan of Ricky Gervais, I have been since the “11 o’clock show” and “Meet Ricky Gervais” were shown on Channel 4 well over a decade ago. His comedy has always been a bit risky and has always caused some offence to some people. But that’s OK comedy does that, not all of us are looking at the world from the same point of view and so we all laugh at and get upset by different things, and I think this is one of those things. People who’ve followed the career of Gervais understand perfectly what this is. Its matey humour, it’s down the pub joking about, something that we all do – only most of us aren’t going to end up on the front page of a newspaper for messing about are we?
Newspapers are picking this “story” up and are running with all kinds of arguments. They are picking up tweets from people who are offended and getting quotes from people associated with disability charities and quotes from the comedian Richard Herring. Well done for creating this “news” out of not a lot. I find it odd that a comedian like Richard Herring, who has a persona that is generally childish (and very funny indeed) on stage and certainly in his podcast ‘As It Occurs to Me,’ would deride a comedian for using a term that is seen as very childish and schoolyard in origin. I like Richard Herring a lot but I don’t care much for his views in this case. Plus has anyone noticed that journalists these days are lazy, and unlike hard working hacks in the old days that had to go out and beat the streets or chase the cops to get a story, they now sit back in their warm offices, sipping coffee and surfing Facebook and Twitter for stories. Not a day goes by that another celebrity storm erupts thanks to something they said on the internet. They are human beings and they do and say silly things sometimes just like you and me. We shouldn’t put everything under a microscope and then dissect it to try and find the deep or dark message behind it.
Ricky Gervais has proven himself to be a supporter of the disabled by creating positive characters that are disabled. Julie Fernandez was cast as Brenda in the office, a character who despite her disability still holds down a job and sees David Brent for what he is, a bit of a twit but oddly likeable. He also cast the very funny Cerebral palsy sufferer Francesca Martinez in Extra’s and is currently working with the tiny Warwick Davies. All of these people have disabilities of one kind or another and all of them have worked with Gervais. Maybe we should be asking them how offended they are by his tweets and twitpics, but then that might look like a balanced argument and the press can’t sell their shitty rags on the back of fairness and sense can they?
There is nothing wrong with touching sensitive subjects but you’ll always run the risk of offending blinkered, single minded people (who may even have an agenda) who see the head line and the word mong and nothing else, that’s what has happened here I think. These people (let’s call them… mongs) need to be told what to think and the journalists feed them the rest. This whole mong debate is truly out of hand and out of context in my opinion. Being offended is OK, but it doesn’t make you right.
Here are a couple of news stories that caught my eye on this matter:
The Christian Post with the unfortunately named reporter Ray Downs. (Unfortunate for this debate anyway, I’m not making fun!)
In this story we see this and I quote: “@Pippa777 tweeted: “@rickygervais as the mother of a child with severe learning difficulties, I say mong all the time! I mong out on the sofa regularly!!”” Which makes me wonder, are disabled people or families of disabled people really the ones offended or are people offended because they feel they should be?
The Daily Fail article by Emma Reynolds.
In this article we have a nice blue box a third of the way down the article that is entitled “Mong from Accepted to Unacceptable” and then she goes on to say that the Oxford English dictionary defines the word “Mongol” as…. Blah, blah, blah, but hang on. In this entire debate the word was mong not mongol. Mong we are understanding to mean idiot, mongol is clearly defined by the dictionary as a derogatory term for Downs Syndrome, but by misrepresenting the word mong as mongol in the article the author feels she is justifying criticising Gervais and his use of mong. Daily Mail, fails again but of course its knuckle dragging readership won’t be interested in observations like mine. They just need to be spoon fed the bullshit so they can get angry about something.
Daily Telegraph article by Tom Chivers
Towards the end of his blog post Tom Chivers says: “”Mong” can hurt someone just as much as “nigger”.” I disagree. The N word comes with a certain weight of racial injustice because of slavery and the hardships and brutality that black people suffered during a dark period of human history. No matter how offensive you find the word ‘Mong’ you cannot in all seriousness say it’s as bad as the N word. That in itself is a very mongy point of view and I’ve also noticed that Tom isn’t offended enough not to use the word as one of his search tags at the end of his blog post, hmmmm strange that.
I feel the word mong does mean idiot and I think Gervais is just running with the controversy now. They say there is no such thing as bad news. I hope he sells millions of DVDs and comedy show tickets and gets record TV viewing figures off the back of it. Keep up the great work Ricky.