Kevin Hart on Dave Chappelle: ‘You Have the Option of Just Not Watching’
Kevin Hart says that, if anyone is uncomfortable with Dave Chappelle, they’re more than welcome to not engage with him. Funny how that’s basically the advice trans people have been giving Chappelle about themselves for years.
Like Chappelle, Hart has his own uncomfortable history with the LGBTQ community and their reactions to his material. Hart famously withdrew from hosting duties at the 2019 Academy Awards after old jokes he made at the expense of the gay community resurfaced on social media — the story was a central bit in Chappelle’s 2019 Netflix special Sticks & Stones, wherein he defended Hart and characterized the criticisms of the Philadelphia comedian as unfair and censorial. In a recent interview with The Independent, Hart returned the favor when asked about Chappelle’s increasingly right-leaning remarks about the transgender community, whom he’s targeted in every new special for the last half decade.
“We’re just in a time now where the microscope is significantly pointed in the direction of the comic, and what the comic is saying,” Hart argued. “But you have the option of just not watching someone you don’t find funny or entertaining. That’s something extremely simple that people are forgetting.” Audiences didn’t seem to forget that option when we all collectively decided to ignore Lift.
In a vacuum, Hart’s advice to Chappelle’s detractors is obvious and uncomplicated — people shouldn’t seek out media that upsets them or isn’t to their taste, just like a sensible vegan would never set foot in an Arby’s. Not every product available to an individual consumer is going to be for them, and an individual demanding that an artist they don’t like change his act to suit their tastes is unreasonable. The way Hart frames the conversation makes walking away from it seem painfully simple.
But in the real world, it’s not that easy — whether or not they watched Chappelle’s last five specials in which he shamed them and questioned their right to self-determination, the transgender community is a part of the cultural dialogue over their rights and the perception of them by the general public whether they like it or not. Putting aside the inherent and incorrect assumption in Hart’s statements that the trans community’s problem with Chappelle is that they just “don’t find him funny,” the negative effects of Chappelle’s routines on the trans community extend past Netflix. Alt-right pundits, thought leaders and politicians working to strip the trans community of their few legal protections, including but not limited to podcaster Ben Shapiro, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert and media commentator Jordan Peterson, have all co-opted Chappelle’s comedy as a powerful talking point in their collective fight to rob the trans community of their rights.
Whether or not Shapiro, Boebert, Peterson, Hart, Chappelle or any of those figures’ followers consider trans people’s gender identities to be legitimate or worthy of their respect, there’s no arguing that hate crimes against trans people and the LGBTQ community as a whole are increasing year-over-year. A transgender person is four times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than a cisgender person, and the world is becoming even less safe for trans people with each passing day while Chappelle’s defenders argue that, if trans people don’t like what Chappelle has to say about them, they should just ignore him and the problem will go away.
Hart, Chappelle and the rest of the super-rich A-list stand-up community actually do have the option to ignore their critics and continue on with their lives undisturbed, but they all still choose to engage with their detractors anyway. Proposing that vulnerable communities should turn the other cheek while bigoted comedians can’t cash their eight-figure checks without crying about cancel culture is a worse pitch than, “Kevin Hart does a heist movie without The Rock carrying him.”