The latest Dave Chappelle controversy has been mishandled at every level. It could have been an opportunity for the trans community to have a nuanced, educational national conversation about transphobia in art and comedy, and the commercialization of transphobia and whether corporations have the responsibility to edit and censor themselves. I still believe those conversations are worth having, and I hope that’s what comes out of this utter debacle. But instead of focusing on all of that, we have Netflix’s Ted Serandos running interference for a transphobic artist and defending hate speech. We also have Chappelle gleefully trying to make this into a bigger controversy, like he’s getting off on punching down on a marginalized community.
Netflix has its own sh-t to work out, clearly, and they have a responsibility to clean up their largely self-made mess. But Dave Chappelle? Chappelle’s agenda is not the same. Chappelle issued a video “response” to the now weeks-long controversy over his Netflix special, The Closer. Some quotes from the video:
He said what he said: “It’s been said in the press that I was invited to speak to the transgender employees of Netflix and I refused. That is not true — if they had invited me I would have accepted it, although I am confused about what we would be speaking about. I said what I said, and boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one that can’t go to the office anymore.”
It’s about corporate interests: “I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames it that it’s me versus that community, that is not what it is. Do not blame the LBGTQ [sic] community for any of this sh-t. This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say. For the record, and I need you to know this, everyone I know from that community has been loving and supporting, so I don’t know what all this nonsense is about.”
He’s being excluded from film festivals. “This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States and some of those invitations I accepted. When this controversy came out about ‘The Closer,’ they began disinviting me from these film festivals. And now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, nobody will touch this film. Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix, he’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet.”
His conditions for meeting with the trans community: “To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody’s demands. And if you want to meet with me, I’d be more than willing to, but I have some conditions. First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end. You must come to a place of my choosing at a time of my choosing, and thirdly, you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny.”
Chappelle’s half-assed play here is that he’s the outsider/rebel who is being censored and cancelled for his controversial and iconoclastic views. When he actually is a grown-ass man who stopped being funny years ago and now clings to transphobic and homophobic “comedy” for attention. Beyond the Netflix side of things – that’s a corporate problem – the Chappelle issue is one where he simply needs to be ignored. I know he won’t be and I know there will continue to be a “culture war” about this online. But truly, just stop giving him attention. Stop feeding this has-been’s f–ked up martyr complex.
Photos courtesy of Mathieu Bitton for Netflix.