Russell Brand Wasn’t an Anomaly

The former TV host and actor was a mascot, at best, for a media culture that routinely dehumanized and hypersexualized young women.

By Sophie Gilbert

In the summer of 1999, when I was 16 years old, I remember walking to a train station in West London from a babysitting job when a 40-something man in a Range Rover pulled up, told me he was on television, and then announced to his young son (also in the car) that I was “Daddy’s new girlfriend.” I don’t know who the man was; I didn’t get in the car, not because I was afraid but because I’d just bought Californication for my minidisc player and wanted to listen to the album on the way home. But what he did wasn’t abnormal for the time. This was two years before the 35-year-old TV presenter and radio host Chris Evans (not the actor) married the 18-year-old pop star Billie Piper in Las Vegas, after a months-long relationship that started when he gave the teenager—so young, she hadn’t yet learned to drive—a Ferrari filled with roses. A year later, in 2002, the BBC Radio 1 host Chris Moyles offered, live on air, to take the singer Charlotte Church’s virginity on her 16th birthday, claiming that he could “lead her through the forest of sexuality” now that she was legal.

I’ve often wondered how Millennial women in Britain survived the aughts: not just the incessant fat shaming and the ritualized alcohol abuse, but also the cheerful, open predation that was everywhere in popular culture then. This weekend, the London Times and the TV documentary series Dispatches revealed coordinated allegations that the TV star turned conspiratorial wellness personality Russell Brand had victimized multiple people from 2006 to 2013, including a 16-year-old girl who says he picked her up on the street when he was 30, referred to her as “the child” and cradled her like a baby when he found out she was a virgin, and then later choked her with his penis until she—fearing she would actually suffocate—punched him in the stomach. The dual reports also allege that Brand raped a woman he knew at his home in Los Angeles and attempted to rape another until she screamed so hard that he flew into a rage. (Brand has said he “absolutely refutes” what he describes as “a litany of extremely egregious and aggressive attacks.” [ . . . ]

Russell Brand And Ricky Gervais Are Just What Your Brain Needs


Listening to Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais discuss everything from ‘The Office’ to God and atheism is exactly what your stay-at-home self needs right now.

It’s day 2,346 of staying home, and if you’re like me, you’ve streamed yourself into a coma. I actually watched the John Gotti biopic starring John Travolta the other day, that’s how bad it’s getting (It wasn’t as bad as you’d think).

If your brain and soul are hungry for something deeper, two surly, foul-mouthed British comedians are here to the rescue. In the most recent episode of his podcast “Under the Skin,” comedian Russell Brand interviews fellow British comedy luminary Ricky Gervais. I became a fan of Brand’s podcast after his two amazing conversations with Jordan Peterson, both of which also provide excellent intellectual calisthenics.

The hour-long episode covers everything from Gervais’s love for animals, their narcissism, and the nuances of God, spirituality, and religion. While you may not agree with either, seeing these two exceptionally bright, self-effacing, piss-and-vinegar comedians exchanging barbs and wisdom is just the mental stimulation you need today. Their own search for the truth might even prompt the sort of self-reflection we all could use at this time. Here’s a sneak preview.

On Class and (Dis)Respect for Authority

Brand and Gervais are millionaires many times over and enjoy even greater fame in Britain than in the United States. Still, neither came from wealth or acclaim. Brand was an only child raised by a single mom. Gervais’ signature edgy humor is inextricably tied to growing up in the working class. Knowing where they stand in society can be tricky.

As Gervais explains, “We’re court jesters — we have to be court jesters. We have to have low status. We’re in the mud with all the other peasants, teasing the king. … But we have to keep our low status somehow, I think. I feel I want to.”

On Narcissism and Reality TV Culture

Gervais is the creator of the original “The Office” series, and Brand talks about feeling sorry for his character, David Brent. The pair both see him as a sad figure, engaged in ever more absurd acts in order to reach a place of acceptance or worth. Compared to our reality TV culture nowadays, this character isn’t even absurd anymore.

s Gervais jokes, “Big Brother” contestants make deals with the producers to get on the show. “‘Let me in there, and I’ll start a fight and take my clothes off.’” It facilitates the emotional destruction of people who just want to be loved — and the public eats it up. As Brand puts it, “There’s been a glorification of idiocy in culture.”

Gervais laments the toll this takes on fame-seekers. “This obsession with seeing normal people destroy themselves. … These people keep going back to fame and going, ‘Do you love me yet?’ No, they don’t love you, they want you to fail!”

On God, Spirituality, and Atheism

Gervais is a well-known atheist. While both men have substantial criticism for organized religion, Brand’s travels through addiction and mental illness have given him a firm belief in some kind of god and a sense of interconnectedness. Continue reading