(UPDATED with social media postings by Dear White People EP) A day before Dave Chappelle’s Untitled documentary is set to screen at the Hollywood Bowl and the comedian is expected onstage, his new Netflix special The Closer is generating a growing backlash over remarks about the trans and LGBTQ+ communities.
“Gender is a fact,” Chappelle declares in the special, which debuted on the streamer Tuesday. “Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth,” he adds, conspicuously negating C-sections, which make up about a third of all births in America alone. “That is a fact,” Chappelle goes on to say before launching into an anatomy line that “trans women” genitalia are “not quite what it is.”
Chappelle also supported Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s 2020 much criticized tweets about the transgender community and exclaiming he is “Team TERF!” (the acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist). Kicking off with an antisemitic swipe intended to outrage, Chappelle’s sixth Netflix special also seeks to offer a contrast between rapper DaBaby’s homophobic statements this summer and systemic racism.
“In our country, you can shoot and kill a [n-word], but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings,” the comedian says, in reference to a 2018 incident involving the rapper at a Walmart in North Carolina that saw another man shot and later die.
After years of Chappelle using the trans and LGBTQ+ communities in his stand-up, GLAAD today drew a line in the digital sand.
Dave Chappelle's brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities. Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don't support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes. We agree. https://t.co/yOIyT54819
— GLAAD (@glaad) October 6, 2021
The organization also retweeted a post from the handle going by HolyBullies that said: “I would suggest, Mr. Chappelle, that before you start on another one of your stupid routines about #LGBTQ people . . . google some names – Bayard Rustin, Monica Roberts, Barbara Jordan, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde.”
Taking the Sir Thomas More approach, Netflix declined comment on the controversy. Reps for Chappelle did not respond to request for comment.
However, others on Netflix productions and working at the streamer did have a comment or two to make Wednesday.
So far, Dear White People executive producer Jaclyn Moore is the most prominent figure on the streamer to speak out about the controversy. Dear White People has aired on Netflix for four seasons. Now an EP on Peacock’s Queer As Folk reimagining, former DWP co-showrunner Moore said in a Twitter string this evening that she would no longer work with the streamer “as long as they continue to put out and profit from blatantly and dangerously transphobic content.”
Having launched it fourth and final season last month on Netflix, the Justin Simien created and co-showrun Dear White People has garnered a GLAAD Media Award nomination as well as multiple Dorian Awards nominations. It won Netflix a Reframe Stamp award in 2018.
I love so many of the people I've worked with at Netflix. Brilliant people and executives who have been collaborative and fought for important art… But I've been thrown against walls because, "I'm not a 'real' woman." I've had beer bottles thrown at me. So, @Netflix, I'm done. https://t.co/2naqrzW0G2
— Jaclyn Moore (@JaclynPMoore) October 7, 2021
So when he says people should be mad a trans woman won a "Woman of the Year" award… When he misgenders… When he says he should've told that mother her daughter WAS A DUDE… I just can't… I can't be a part of a company that thinks that's worth putting out and celebrating.
— Jaclyn Moore (@JaclynPMoore) October 7, 2021
The National Black Justice Coalition’s executive director David Johns certainly had something to say also. The current head of the nearly 20-year-old civil rights group wants The Closer taken off Netflix ASAP:
It is deeply disappointing that Netflix allowed Dave Chappelle’s lazy and hostile transphobia and homophobia to air on its platform.
With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States — the majority of whom are Black transgender people — Netflix should know better. Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence.
Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community.
Make no mistake: Black LGBTQ+ and same gender people exist – and have always existed. The fight against oppression is not a zero sum game, and the pervasiveness of white supremacy in the United States is not an excuse for homophobia or transphobia.
At the end of The Closer, Chappelle, who opens the special with a “not saying it to be mean, I’m saying it because it is funny” quip, shifts focus, kind of. “I am not telling another joke about you until we are both sure that we are laughing together,” he says in a personal address to the trans and LBGTQ+ communities, noting his close friendship with now deceased transgender comedian Daphne Dorman. “All I ask from your community – with all humility – will you please stop punching down on my people?”
The Closer is currently fifth on Netflix’s U.S. Top 10 list.
Tom Tapp contributed to this report