What The Hell Is Going On With Dave Chappelle?
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Move over J.K. Rowling – it seems yet another beloved pop-culture and indisputable health expert has hopped through platform 9 ¾, boarded the Hogwarts Express and got off at the TERF station -- none other than the former purveyor of modern solutions for modern problems, Dave Chappelle. After several years away from the spotlight, the beloved comedian continued his return to Netflix earlier this week, his brand-new stand-up special, The Closer, hitting the platform on Tuesday. Unfortunately for those of us who were looking forward to a 90-ish minute break from of the dystopian hell hole of our reality, it seems the excitement surrounding the release was short-lived – all thanks to his absolute trash-tier takes on transgender people. At one point during the special, Chappelle takes a break from cracking jokes to checks notes give a Ted Talk on transgender issues and declare that he, like Rowling is a certified TERF. For those of you who aren't plugged into Twitter discourse – firstly, congratulations -- and secondly, TERF stands for trans exclusionary radical feminist, a.k.a. a group of transphobic radicals with terribly unflattering bangs and worse opinions on the LGBTQAI+ community, inexplicably deciding that refusing to acknowledge the existence of trans people – often trans women -- is a hill worth dying on. Because as we all know, nothing says “girl power” quite like invalidating the sheer existence of other women!
“They canceled JK Rowling – my God," he said, referencing the Harry Potter author, who has openly identified as a TERF in recent years, much to the dismay of her ten remaining fans who weren't completely annoyed with her constant revisionism. "Effectually she said gender was fact, the trans community got mad as shit, they started calling her a Terf," he said before proclaiming that he's a member of “team TERF.”
If publicly associating with an insufferable group known for their vocal hatred of trans people with a name that sounds like a bad two-for-one meat deal at an overpriced seafood joint wasn't bad enough, the comedian then proceeded to explain just how little he evidently understands about gender, seemingly confusing it with sex, a notion that has been widely debunked.
“Gender is a fact," he said. “Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. This is a fact,” he added before inexplicably bringing up what's in trans womens' pants, calling their genitalia as “not quite what it is.” Ahh, yes, because other people's privates are entirely our business and a perfectly appropriate topic of public discourse!
One of many subversive jokes included in the special's one-hour and 12-minute run time, NPR's Eric Deggans seemingly asserted that the once highly-revered comedian's quips may actually be seeking this type of reaction, potentially looking to pull the rug out from people with these jarring comments.
"Coming from Chappelle, a joke like that felt like a dare," Deggans wrote in his article, entitled “For Dave Chappelle, punchlines are dares. His new special, 'The Closer,' goes too far,” referencing another quip in the special with the punch line “Space Jews." “He knows, in the moment, that such a punchline will briefly break the spell he has on the audience, make them rethink their allegiance to him, at least for a second. And he'll have to work a little to get them back on his team again — which he does,” he continued, adding in parentheses that “He also knows reviewers like me will quote the joke and criticize him for it, which I am. I don't really care what point he's trying to make; a joke that sounds like antisemitism gets a hard pass from me."
The writer also notes the ways in which Chappelle has addressed those who have called him out. “And the message Chappelle has for those who have criticized him about transphobic, homophobic or any other phobic jokes seems to be: Race trumps all.”
However Deggans is not alone in seemingly raising an eyebrow at some of the special's concerning punch lines. Others online have spoken candidly about taking a hard pass on the special entirely, including Jaclyn Moore, a writer and showrunner for Dear White People. In a recent social media post, Moore accused Netflix of providing a bigger platform for anti-trans rhetoric and as a result, Moore says she will no longer work with the platform.
“After the Chappelle special, I can’t do this anymore,” she explained. “I won’t work for @netflix again as long as they keep promoting and profiting from dangerous transphobic content.”
Although Moore recognizes Chappelle's importance in the comedy scene, ranking him among her “comic heroes" she says she is less-than-thrilled with the joke included in his special. “His shadow is huge,” she told NBC News earlier this week. “He’s a brilliant goofy comedian, he’s brilliant as a political comedian. He has been brilliant for so so long, but I also don’t think because you’ve been brilliant means that you’re always brilliant."
So, folks, take it from Dave Chappelle and JK Rowling – don't spew TERF-y nonsense, unless you have a thing for pissing off pretty much everyone.