Trans activists, comedians grapple with Dave Chapelle’s ‘sophisticated’ Netflix particular

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 10: Dave Chappelle looks on during UFC 264: Poirier v McGregor 3 at T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Dave Chappelle is in scorching water after making what some are calling “insensitive” jokes about trans individuals in his newest particular. But others have come to his protection. (Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

It’s been a tumultuous week for comic Dave Chappelle, whose launch of his newest Netflix particular, The Closer, did not land as easily as some could have hoped. 

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The sixth and last particular within the comic’s multi-million greenback take care of the streaming big, which was launched globally on Oct. 5, was met with a slew of backlash from queer activists and allies who argued that his jokes concerning the LGBTQ neighborhood have been incendiary, disrespectful and harmful, particularly for transgender ladies of shade.

What occurred?

During the particular, Chappelle touched on a number of hot-button points together with DaBaby’s current off-base feedback about HIV, J.Ok. Rowling’s controversial anti-trans statements in 2019, cancel tradition as a complete and his private expertise with the trans neighborhood — together with the lack of a pricey buddy who died by suicide after being bullied on-line for defending him.

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“You know a lot of the LGBTQ community doesn’t know DaBaby’s history, he’s a wild guy,” Chappelle stated within the particular. “He once shot a n****… and killed him — in Walmart. Oh, this is true, Google it. DaBaby shot and killed a n**** in Walmart in North Carolina. Nothing bad happened to his career. Do you see where I am going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a n**** but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”

For context, DaBaby fueled HIV misinformation onstage by suggesting it was a “deadly sexually transmitted disease” that may make you “die in two, three weeks,” which is something however true. In reality, individuals living with HIV stay lengthy, wholesome lives and can’t transmit the virus to others as long as their viral load is suppressed. Following his feedback, the rapper was bombarded by critics and has since apologized.

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“Remember, taking a man’s livelihood is akin to killing him. I’m begging you, please do not abort DaBaby,” Chappelle later quipped in The Closer.

Cancel tradition was additionally a recurring theme all through the particular. When discussing the backlash towards Harry Potter writer J.Ok. Rowling, who has been beneath scrutiny by trans activists following feedback she made about gender id that have been seen as divisive and triggering for trans ladies, Chappelle was no-holds barred.

“They started calling her a TERF,” Chappelle stated of the acronym for a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or a feminist who believes that organic intercourse determines gender, which contradicts the argument trans and nonbinary activists have made to affirm their existence — that gender id is extra advanced and nuanced than one’s organic intercourse.

“I didn’t even know what the f*** [TERF] was, but I know that trans people make up words to win arguments,” Chappelle stated onstage. “I’m team TERF. I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact… Every human being in this room, every human being on earth had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact.”

Chappelle’s feedback have been unwelcomed by some trans activists and allies, together with some at Netflix, who criticized the streaming platform for publishing content material they deemed was dangerous to their neighborhood. 

Last week, Terra Field, a queer/trans senior software program engineer at Netflix, known as out Chappelle on Twitter, arguing that his jokes have real-life ramifications.

“Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act,” Field wrote. “This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be.”

Netflix’s response

Days later, it was reported that Netflix allegedly suspended three staff — together with Field — for reportedly “crashing a meeting of its top executives” in protest. The firm later denied that the workers have been suspended for tweeting concerning the particular however relatively for “attending a recent leadership meeting without proper clearance,” in accordance with stories, telling the Los Angeles Times, “Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”

In the wake of the controversy, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos despatched out a memo siding with the comic in protection of inventive freedom, writing, “Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him,” including of inside considerations, “As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”

‘Now the victims have turn out to be the bullies’

Jaclyn Moore, showrunner of Netflix’s Dear White People, and a trans lady, known as for a boycott of Netflix over the insensitive jokes, telling Variety that whereas she “never loved Dave’s trans material before,” it was the “first time I felt like, ‘Oh, people are laughing at this joke and they’re agreeing that it’s absurd to call me a woman.’”

Trans activists are making their voices heard, too. Raquel Willis, a Black trans activist, author and thought chief, says that Chappelle’s views are half of a bigger “structural barrier” that retains Black trans individuals from being “masters of their own narratives.”

“We see a lot of folks who are not within that demographic being allowed to be the mouthpiece,” Willis tells Yahoo Entertainment. “For all of the discussion around ‘intersectionality’ being a buzzword over the last decade, there seems to still be a fundamental lack of understanding around this concept. There continues to be a lot of ‘oppression Olympics’ when it comes to discussing race and gender, and so many other dimensions of identity and experience. And so you can have someone who in one way is marginalized — like Dave Chappelle as a Black man — be able to use that as a shield to further the marginalization of other people, i.e. the LGBTQ-plus community, and particularly the trans community.

“I think that that is one of the major failures of Chappelle’s work,” she provides. “There’s this idea that you can just flatly equate gender and race, and kind of switch them out amongst these other conversations around ‘Who’s the most oppressed?’ And it’s actually a lot more complicated than that.”

Furthermore, Willis argues, regardless of the trans neighborhood changing into extra “visible” in recent times, it doesn’t imply that actual progress has been made — socially, culturally and politically — towards justice and fairness. “People have this idea that we have won so many fights that we actually haven’t,” she says. “Winning over extra visibility doesn’t imply that we even have as genuine illustration out on the planet as individuals assume.” 

Meanwhile, Flame Monroe, a Black trans standup comic who’s been working for nearly two decades, tells Yahoo Entertainment, “I see all facets of the Chappelle controversy. As a comedian, I don’t want to be censored. As a trans woman, I want to be treated fairly in this country. And as a Black person, I want the equal rights that we’ve been promised. But I’m a fair person. I see the whole world and not half of the world.”

Monroe continues, “The safest place for comics to be is on a stage with a microphone and a willing audience. If you start censoring [comics], you’re going to miss out on so many things. A comedian’s job is not only to make you critically think, but it’s also to talk about things that make you uncomfortable, that are happening in the world — you may not be able to say it because you might lose your job. But my job is to bring information to you. My job is to bring it to the light.”

Other comedians, such as Damon Wayans agree, recently telling TMZ that Chappelle “freed the slaves,” referring to comedians. “We were slaves to PC culture and he just, you know — as an artist he’s Van Gogh. He cut his ear off. He’s trying to tell us it’s OK.”

It’s complicated

To that point, Chappelle spoke directly to the LGBTQ community at the end of his set. “I’m not telling another joke about you until we are both sure that we are laughing together,” Chappelle said. “I’m telling you this is done. I’m done talking about it. All I ask from your community, with all humility, will you please stop punching down on my people?”

Monroe argues that even within the LGBTQ community, “context and research” are often missing when comedians make certain jokes, leading to a useless “tug of war” over who’s right and wrong.

“It is hypocrisy. Now the victims have become the bullies,” she says. “The LGBTQIA community keeps asking for inclusion — ‘see us, accept us’ — but not in our own community. The tug of war is not with us and them. The tug of war is in our own community.

“The rainbow flag is beautiful in the front but look at the back of it,” Monroe points out. “There are cracks, potholes, racism, ageism, classism, sexism, right there in the community. We can’t ask to be repaired outside of our community when we won’t fix what’s going on in our own community, which is why we keep lashing out at everybody else who doesn’t speak like us.

“As a transgender person, he didn’t say anything that was a lie,” she adds, explaining that while online critics “went after” his jokes, “no one pointed out his heartbreak” over the loss of his friend, Daphne Dwarman.

Later in the special, Chappelle gave a touching tribute to Dwarman, a young trans comic who he described as “the coolest person I ever met.” Soon after they met, he asked Dwarman to be the opening act for his shows each time he stopped in San Francisco. It was an opportunity of a lifetime for Dwarman, though her first night was anything but a showstopper. “This b**** bombed for 45 minutes straight,” Chappelle quipped in the special.

Regardless, their friendship continued to grow, and eventually Dwarman “blew the roof off the place,” he acknowledged. Even when the trans neighborhood “dragged” him on Twitter over distasteful jokes from his prior particular, Sticks and Stones, Dwarman rose as much as defend him by acknowledging their friendship and the large threat he took in hiring her.

“The hardest thing for a person to do is go against their tribe if they disagree with their tribe, but Daphne did that for me,” he stated of Dwarman, who ultimately turned a goal on Twitter for defending the comedian.

Days later, Dwarman died by suicide. “My heart was broken,” Chappelle recalled of listening to the information of her dying. “I don’t know what was going on in her life but I bet dragging her [on Twitter] didn’t help. I was very angry at [trans activists]. I was very angry at her.”

Chappelle would later begin a fund to assist Dwarman’s daughter, which Dwarman’s household confirmed. “Empathy is not gay. Empathy is not Black. Empathy is bisexual. It must go both ways,” he stated within the particular. “And I don’t know what the trans community did for her but I don’t care, because I feel like she wasn’t their tribe, she was mine. She was a comedian in her soul.”

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While Dwarman’s story is certainly heartbreaking, Willis argues that it shouldn’t be thought-about “evidence that [Chappelle] understands the trans experience enough to be an authority on us to share with the world.”

Monroe, who’s had a hoop of profitable Netflix specials together with Tiffany Haddish’s They Ready and the sequence Netflix Is a Joke, reiterates that comedy is supposed to push boundaries as a result of its function is to point out that we’re extra alike than we’re completely different. “We all undergo the identical factor,” she says. “And that is what Dave Chappelle stated in his particular.” 


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