At the Crossroads

Dave Chappelle is the new Donald Trump. Will the masses cheer him on under the veil of free speech and anti-political correctness, or will we resist?

Dave Chappelle in his Netflix special, “The Closer.” Mathieu Bitton. Photo USA Today

by Scott King

Hate-mongering. Dog-whistling. Being brittle and defensive. Bragging about your physical prowess lends itself towards violence and physical confrontation. Proud as a peacock of your belligerent ignorance, misguided aphorisms and aggression towards a marginalized group of people. All in the name of your own glory and self-aggrandizement.

Sound familiar? These characteristics can be attributed to the 45th President of the United States, as well as the world’s most popular stand-up comedian, Dave Chappelle.

Mexicans are rapists. Gay people are racist. They are bad hombres. I am transphobic. I am not politically correct. Boy, I’m in trouble now.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Dave Chappelle released his latest Netflix special, “The Closer,” arguably exclusively to air his beef with the trans and LGBTQ+ communities and to declare the conversation closed. It’s all one-sided. It’s all abusive. And as a bonus, Chappelle reveals himself as the hero at the end for having a (dead) transgender friend.

I stopped being a fan of Chappelle after his previous Netflix-funded rants about “the Alphabet people.” It wasn’t just Chappelle. I was tired of the Trump-era hack motif of politicians and public figures bullying a marginalized group of people and then painting themselves as victims of the criticism – or “canceling” efforts – of these groups.

“Chappelle’s Show” was my favorite TV show in college. In recent years it was such a bummer to watch Chappelle sell out to trite, anti-PC hackery. And now it’s so disappointing that instead of coming up with fresh material, he’s doubling and tripling down on mining his worst opinions. As Hannah Gadsby put it, Dave Chappelle is “processing his emotionally stunted partial world view” through “hate speech dog-whistling.”

Chappelle declares, not knowing what the eff he is talking about, that “gender is a fact.” That we all come out from between our moms’ legs with gender. He is referring to sex, of course, not gender, but never mind. What he means is that sex and gender are the same thing and that anyone who dares subvert this wisdom is wrong and unnatural. Basically, in Chappelle’s worldview, transgender people are illegitimate and should not exist.

In his act, Chappelle jokes – and brags – about beating up a woman, a lesbian, whom he thought was a man. He declares himself transphobic over and over again, compares transgenderism to blackface, and acts as though black and trans folk are from two mutually exclusive communities.

What Chappelle doesn’t realize – or admit – is that, although yes, Black people in America are still victimized way more than a lot of privileged cis queer white people, trans people of color are one of the most statistically doomed sections of the U.S. population. He doesn’t know or realize or admit or care that hate speech of the type he spews on Netflix is just the type that the abusers of trans people, and trans people of color in particular, are just waiting to hear to affirm their worldview, and, unfortunately, their violent actions.

Sadly, outside of some yet undiscovered egregious personal misbehavior, it looks as though Dave Chappelle is uncancellable. What is not uncancellable, however, are our Netflix subscriptions. It’s the marketplace of ideas. The power of the purse. And it’s a relatively effective way to make a change and show the presence of the LGBTQ+ community and, of equal importance here, our allies.

Yes, well-intentioned allies – this is your chance to shine. Here you can have an effect on the conversations surrounding LGBTQ+ issues. Speak your mind, and loudly cancel your Netflix. We thank you in advance.

Don’t fool yourself, folks. Netflix isn’t standing by Chappelle because they are First Amendment scholars. Netflix is making millions and millions of dollars from Chappelle’s belligerent hate speech, and they have made a shrewd calculation that standing by him will be better for their bottom line than caving to the internal and external pressure.

So let’s prove their cynical math wrong. Dave Chappelle is a test case. If we don’t stand firm in our beliefs and apply pressure, there will be others right behind him.


Please note that this application of pressure – public, private, spiritual and existential – is not a violation of freedom of speech. Nor is it fascism. If Jim Gaffigan put out a Netflix special in which he aired all his grievances with the Black community and declared himself “a racist” 10 times in 90 minutes, and then, as a result, he was publicly criticized and canceled, would you consider this fascism? Or would you consider it justice?

There is an acute difference between freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment and what we as a society continually decide is acceptable in mainstream discourse. David Duke is entitled to his opinions – and his speech. As is Marjorie Taylor Greene; as was Anita Bryant. The difference is that now Netflix has, 50 years after the latter’s heyday, granted the philosophy of Anita Bryant a cozy seat on the great big sofa of America’s living room. Dave Chappelle has brought misinformation about and vitriol towards the LGBTQ+ community back into our mainstream consciousness. It’s always been out there, but now it has the power of mainstream celebrity and corporate approval behind it, thanks entirely to the buffoonery of Netflix.

Is this the world you want to live in? If so, go on giving lip service to free speech and rolling your eyes at cancel culture. If not, cancel your Netflix subscription today.

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