Last year I saw a preview for what looked like a promising comedy show called Derek, and initially I was excited about it because I love Ricky Gervais and the show looked unique and funny. Unfortunately, it was only airing in the UK so I quickly forgot about it. Yesterday I happened upon a review for the show which said that as of this week, Netflix was now offering all 7 episodes of the show. *excited!* That review was not terribly kind to the series, claiming it is not funny and throwing allegations that Gervais uses the character of Derek to mock mentally disabled people. Now I was slightly reluctant, but gave it a go anyway.
Derek, the main character of the series, is the winner of the Epic Cunt of the Week Award. I am so glad I did not listen to the idiot reviews out there that claim this show is unfunny and that it uses the mentally disabled for humour. Derek is the most kindhearted of people, and he dedicates his life to being a caretaker in a home for the elderly. The show has funny moments, but it is not primarily a comedy. Honestly, I am wondering if these reviewers actually watched the show at all. Derek is not a mockery of people who are mentally disabled, in fact there is nothing disabled about him. His behavior and mannerisms are certainly uncommon, but he can care for himself and for the 22 elderly individuals in the home quite fine.
There is an episode which deals with the issue of whether or not Derek is “mentally handicapped”. A government employee is surveying the various people who work at the home, and he questions whether or not Derek is autistic. Derek is beyond capable in caring for all of these people, but this “normal” man sees Derek’s idiosyncrasies and assumes disability. He asks Derek, point blank, if he has ever been tested for autism. Derek’s response is not only priceless, but cheer-worthy for those of us with, or are close to someone with, neurodiversity.
Derek’s act of cuntitude is that he highlights the general ignorance of “normal” people, people who think they are standing up for the “mentally disabled”. He shows that “normal” people actually hold quite the prejudice against people who’s mannerisms and idiosyncrasies are uncommon. Derek exposes the stereotypes held by many normal people about those who seem to express neurodiversity. Maybe Derek is autistic… and so fucking what? His ability to care for others, to empathize, to dedicate his life to kindness actually makes the normal and seemingly “able” people look like the ones who are disabled. Normal people can learn from Derek that labeling someone as “mentally disabled” can have extremely harmful after effects that could cause harm to many people, not just the individual who has been labeled.
Derek teaches us to think before stereotyping and labeling. Neurodiversity – google it, learn about it, and re-train the way you think about ability and disability.
Magic is kindness.