OPINION: Punching Down: Why Dave Chappelle’s The Closer is Worse Than You Think

By: Emily Lindzon

Minutes into his new Netflix special, The Closer, Dave Chapelle follows an antisemitic joke with the words “it’s gonna get worse than that.” Oh boy, did it get worse than that. After sitting through a confusing hour of hateful ‘comedy’, I feel the need to break down some especially problematic aspects of the special. 

At first, Chappelle’s comments were standard jabs at humanity. He has made a name for himself by joking about society for decades now. As a Black man, the majority of Chappelle’s jokes center around white people. 

Before I probe further I would like to mention that I am a white woman who is part of what he likes to call the “LBGTQ” community. Not 15 minutes into his show Chappelle expressed that, “I’m not that fond of these newer gays.” As one of those newer gays, at risk of sounding “too sensitive [and] brittle,” these jokes are not funny. 

The comedian has been clashing with the LGBTQ+ community since the early 2000s when he was called out by a trans woman for his offensive jokes. Chappelle finds himself being lectured with the points from her newspaper article constantly, by countless different people, for the past two decades.

At what point will he realize that if a large number of people independently come up with the same criticisms of your ‘comedy’, maybe it is worth listening to and not just ‘gay people being white again‘?

Chappelle’s issues with the community then transitions to transgender individuals. Halfway into the special, the comedian presents himself for the first of many times as “Transphobic comedian Dave Chappelle.” The irony in this is that he seems to be half-joking, veiling his true opinions under the crowd’s laughter. Throughout the hour, Chappelle claims both “I’ve never had a problem with trans people,” and “I am team TERF”. He also casually uses slurs targeted towards both transgender and lesbian people. Since it is not my job to educate him on the fluidity of gender, I would like to talk about, in my opinion, the two most problematic points he made.

By this point in the show, his comedy turned into what one may consider an unfunny rant. As mentioned before, he is a self-proclaimed TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist), supporting the belief that trans people are simply ‘playing dress up’.

He then told a story about a transgender friend of his. The act involves Chapelle switching between respecting her gender and making jokes at her expense, before revealing that she had killed herself years earlier. He went on to describe her as a father, using he/him pronouns, and otherwise misgendering her. But throughout this whole bit, he was adamant that “[she] would have loved that joke.” This is all alleged, especially since he is the one with a microphone in this situation.

He defends this transphobia with his stories of his transgender friend’s support. Just because one trans person said it was ok, does not mean you should ignore the multitude of others saying it is not. 

I admire the Netflix staff who have walked out due to this special being hosted on their platform. The higher-ups that defend Chappelle’s right to free speech must not have watched the show. Free speech should not include hate and dangerous information. Trans people are killed and victimized at unprecedented rates, and spreading hate in the form of ‘comedy’ is fueling the deadly fire. There is a difference between offensive jokes and hate speech, and when you are repeatedly told that Chapelle’s comedy is the latter, it is ignorant to brush it off. 

In the end, the performer made a point of spinning the narrative to place the blame on the disrespectfully-dubbed “LBGTQ L-M-N-O-P-Q-Y-Z” community. He made a point to say that he could not be punching down on these people, because he does not think less of them. I would like to remind him that making fun of an at-risk minority is still punching down, regardless of your opinion of them. The show in whole felt like a series of schoolyard taunts, with Chappelle using his platform to push down other marginalized communities.

So, as what Chappelle would call a young gay white girl, I just want to help up the people that he knocked down. Here’s a mic-drop of my own: if you can’t stop punching down on other people, stop punching at all.

DISCLAIMER: This article is a student’s opinion. It is not necessarily an opinion that is representative of the Golden Falcon editorial team or Forest Hill Collegiate as a whole.

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