This has become a warground.
For the past several years, comedian Dave Chappelle has been locked in a vicious cycle of anti-cancel-culture standup comedy. Over six Netflix specials, Chappelle has lashed out at what he views as progressive attempts to cancel him for his incendiary comedy — all while mocking the queer and transgender communities and the Me Too movement and generally doubling, tripling, and sextupling down on the offensive jokes and reactionary politics that people took issue with in the first place.
It’s a fatiguing ouroboros.
Chappelle’s latest special The Closer is possibly his last for the streaming service, and with it, the discourse around his comedy has intensified. In the special, released October 5, Chappelle’s humor is more openly transphobic than ever.
Many trans viewers feel Chappelle’s comedy has escalated into overt hate — and they’ve been voicing their complaints directly to Netflix. Moreover, Netflix recently suspended a trans employee who tweeted about the special’s transphobia. Netflix has said the employee was suspended not for her viral tweets, but for attending a director-level business meeting without an invitation. (The company has since lifted the suspension; another trans employee was fired after allegedly leaking budget information about Chapelle’s special.)
Despite the uproar, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended Chappelle and his comedy. “We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line,” he wrote in an internal email on October 8.
But with Chappelle platforming a position of gender essentialism onstage, and declaring that he’s “team TERF” — thereby aligning himself with trans-exclusionary radical feminists who argue that trans women aren’t women— many Netflix viewers and employees disagree. Netflix’s approach to the whole situation has triggered employee resignations, backlash, and now, a walkout of the company’s trans employee resource group and allies, held October 20. Participating staff presented Netflix with a list of demands for boosting trans and nonbinary content on the platform and decreasing harm prior to the walkout— and while Netflix issued a statement of support, it’s unclear if any of them will be met.