Netflix can’t shake off the Chappelle controversy
Netflix can’t seem to close the door on “The Closer,” the streaming giant only further fueling controversy with its defense of Dave Chappelle’s mockery of the transgender community in its latest comedy special.
Netflix had touted Chappelle’s stand-up routine as a chance for the 48-year-old Emmy Award winner to “try to set the record straight” and “get rid of a few things” when it is released earlier this month.
But instead, the show – the finale of a six-part series for which Chappelle teamed up with Netflix – quickly sparked a firestorm.
“Now listen, women get mad at me, gays get mad at me, lesbians get mad at me – but I’ll tell you right now, and it’s true: these transgender people,” says it, “want me dead.”
While declaring that he is “not indifferent to someone else’s suffering”, Chappelle devoted almost half of his 70-minute set to jokes ridiculing the LGBT community, especially transgender people. .
The comic used coarse terms to refer to the anatomy of a transgender person and offered JK Rowling’s defense against critics who branded the author of “Harry Potter” as transphobic. Using a sarcastic tone to call himself a “transphobic comedian,” Chappelle told a Detroit audience, “Gender is a fact.”
“Every human in this room, every human being on earth, had to go through a woman’s legs to be on earth. It is a fact,” he said.
“I am the TERF team! Exclaimed Chappelle, referring to an acronym meaning radical feminist of trans exclusion, or transphobic feminist. “Gender is a fact.”
Transgender men and non-binary people can get pregnant and give birth – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website refers to “pregnant people” rather than just women.
GLAAD condemned Chappelle, saying its brand “has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people,” while the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT rights organization, called on Netflix to end the special.
Controversy erupted again after CEO Ted Sarandos responded to criticism in a pair of notes defending Chappelle.
“We do not allow titles [on] Netflix that are designed to incite hatred or violence, and we don’t think ‘The Closer’ crosses that line, ”Sarandos said in one of the notes.
In a separate company-wide note sent on Monday, Sarandos acknowledged that some employees “were left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix.”
But the Netflix executive drew the ire of critics even more with another line in his memo, writing: “While some employees disagree, we are firmly convinced that on-screen content doesn’t translate. not directly by damage in the real world. “
Raquel Willis, a black transgender activist, rejected Sarandos’ statement, telling The Hill in an interview that, like Chappelle, “It’s very clear that the CEO of Netflix also doesn’t understand intersectionality and clearly doesn’t understand. that the LGBTQ + community, and in particular the trans community, is a marginalized group. “
“I think what hurt me the most is the fact that this misinformation would serve as a confirmation bias for the many people – especially cisgender and heterosexual people – who have no idea what real lives are like. trans people, ”said the Brooklyn, NY writer.
When people say, ‘These are just jokes. It has no impact on the world, “I have to call BS because we know that most Americans say they don’t know a trans person in their day-to-day lives, or at least they don’t. don’t think so, ”said Willis, 30. “And so that means their first and often the only interactions with us are through what is shared by the media.”
Willis also dismissed the special as a case of “Chappelle being Chappelle” – an equal opportunity offender known for pushing boundaries and throwing grenades with his comedy.
In “The Closer,” Chappelle recalled befriending a transgender comedian, who he said was a fan and supported him amid criticism of his LGBT cracks. and it doesn’t. He doesn’t knock. He doesn’t knock. He hits lines. “
Chappelle “ignores his status in the world” with transphobic remarks, according to Willis, who said he “has no idea of his place as a person who can also be oppressive as a straight cisgender man who is also now wealthy and has platform, privilege and status in Hollywood. “
Eric Schiffer, an expert in crisis communication and public relations, said the controversy simply comes with the territory when you watch Chappelle on stage.
“The typical canceling bloodbath that many comedians would get in this sort of situation, it will continue to escape,” said the president of Los Angeles-based Reputation Management Consultants.
While some will view the artist’s transgender rejection jokes as “excruciating,” Schiffer said, “I don’t see this as the moment of annihilation for Chappelle.… It just isn’t spontaneous combustion for his career, that’s for sure. “
Some Netflix employees are planning a walkout next week to protest the company’s stance on Chappelle, according to multiple reports. And The Verge reported on Friday that the organizer of the walkout was fired.
“We fired an employee for sharing confidential and commercially sensitive information outside the company. We understand that this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt by Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is at the heart of our business, ”said a Netflix spokesperson on Friday in a statement to ITK regarding the layoff.
A Twitter account called Most run by “queer and trans people” which describes itself as “the hotbed of Netflix’s LGBTQ + storytelling,” wrote Thursday that “the past two weeks have been tough.”
“We can’t always control what happens on screen. What we can control is what we create here, and the POV we bring to internal conversations,” the account said, adding that its team “will continue to advocate for bigger and better queer representation.”
A Netflix spokesperson told The Hill earlier this week that the company supports “artistic expression for [its] creators. “
“We also encourage our employees to openly disagree,” the spokesperson said. A representative for the streaming service declined to be interviewed or to comment further on the controversy on Friday.
Chappelle and Netflix have found support from some cultural and conservative commentators. YouTube personality Dave Rubin dubbed Chappelle’s special “brilliant” during an interview on Megyn Kelly’s eponymous Sirius podcast, lamenting what the “social justice warriors have done to America” with their reviews.
“A lot of this special felt like he was just working to not get destroyed afterwards and then ironically of course they’re going to go after him anyway,” Rubin told Kelly.
Former “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan praised Netflix’s handling of the critical drumbeat.
“It’s so refreshing, frankly, to see any CEO in Hollywood take a stand in which they stand up for free speech and free speech,” Morgan said.
Freedom of speech, Morgan continued, “doesn’t just mean the freedom to listen to views and opinions with which you agree, in fact it often means that you have to tolerate opinions with which you agree. do not agree “.
For Willis, the harm was caused by Chappelle’s words and Netflix’s defense.
The company, Wilis said, should listen to its transgender employees and take other meaningful action: “At the very least, we have to start by acknowledging that harm has happened, move on to some kind of public apology, then take action. So that means how are you going to compensate for this harm by raising, supporting and funding transgender innovators in Hollywood? “
While Chappelle seemed to embrace the controversy arising from his material – reportedly said in an appearance earlier this month: “If that’s how to be canceled, I love it,” – he also seemed to have the desire for “The Closer” to be his last word on the subject.
Towards the end of her Netflix special, Chappelle said, “LBGTQ, LMNOPQYZ, it’s over.”
“I’m not telling another joke about you,” said Chappelle, “until we’re both sure we’re laughing together.”
—Update at 5:46 p.m.