In recent weeks, Dave Chappelle has been in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. While some praise the recent Netflix Comedy special, The Closer, the comments made by the 48-year-old comedian have struck a chord with the trans community and allies.
The New York Post and other publications reported that TV personality Ashlee Marie Preston said that she had invited the comedian to join protesters at Netflix’s headquarters and that he “chose not to show up.”
Claims that Dave Chappelle disputed in an Instagram video he uploaded this Monday, saying, “It’s been said in the press that I was invited to speak to the transgender employees of Netflix, and I refused. That is not true — if they had invited me, I would have accepted it, although I am confused about what we would be speaking about.” he said in the video.
But as much as Chappelle would want to meet with the LGBTQA+ community, it was only going to be on his terms— “he would not be summoned.”
“To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody’s demands. And if you want to meet with me, I’d be more than willing to, but I have some conditions.”
“First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end. You must come to a place of my choosing and a time of my choosing. And thirdly, you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny,” he added.
David Chappelle claimed that the media was keen on making it a Chappelle v. the LGBTQA+ community, while in reality, it was a matter of corporate interest.
“I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames this that it’s me versus that community, that is not what it is,” Chappelle said in a video on his Instagram Monday, during a what appeared to be a recording of a recent live set. “Do not blame the LBGTQ (sic) community for any of this (expletive). This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interest, and what I can say, and what I cannot say.”
Dave Chappelle has since been disinvited for the film festival—something he says will hurt his documentary. It is at this point in the video that he thanked Netflix and its CEO Ted Sarandos.
“This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States. Some of those invitations I accepted. When this controversy came out about ‘The Closer’, they began disinviting me from these film festivals. And now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, nobody will touch this film. Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix, he’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet.”
In a show garnering both praise and condemnation, Chappelle made controversial comments that are being called transphobic. During the special, David Chappelle declared himself a TERF, an acronym for a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. The term refers to a group of radical feminists that exclude trans women, joining J. K. Rowling’s school of thought that gender is a fact.
The show also touched on cancel culture, which Dave Chappelle had a lot to say– The comedian referenced author J. K. Rowling, who was called out for her transphobic remarks in recent years.
“They canceled J.K. Rowling, my god. J.K. Rowling wrote all the Harry Potter books by herself. She sold so many books, the bible worries about her. And they canceled her because she said in an interview—and this is not exactly what she said but effectually—she said gender was a fact. And then the trans community got mad as shit. They started calling her a TERF.”
Dave Chappelle went on to say, “I didn’t even know what the fuck that was, but I know that trans people make up words to win arguments, so I looked it up.”
At the time this aired, people began calling for accountability on Netflix’s part, with the National Black Justice Coalition calling for Netflix to “immediately pull” Chappelle’s special, indicating to stats that show 2021 is on track to be the “deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States.”
In a Netflix internal memo obtained and released by Variety, the CEO, Ted Sarandos, stood by the special, saying it wasn’t “designed to incite hate or violence.”
The CEO came out to apologize, as his words might be taken out of context but standing by the show nonetheless— “artistic freedom.”
“Obviously, I screwed up that internal communication,” Sarandos told Variety. “I did that, and I screwed it up in two ways. First and foremost, I should have led with a lot more humanity. Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made. And I think that needs to be acknowledged upfront before you get into the nuts and bolts of anything. I didn’t do that.”
The fallout from the show is unlikely to settle in the coming days. Last week saw Netflix’s employees stage a walkout in protest of Chappelle’s the Close special.
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