As An Answer To Injustice, Dave Chapelle’s Standup Specials Miss The Mark

by Sarah C. Epstein



Reviews of Dave Chapelle’s new standup specials are making the rounds this week, and they aren’t looking pretty. The two specials, The Bird Revelation and Equanimity, which aired on Netflix Jon anuary 1, are mainly madeup of transphobia and mysogyny. While many critics were gentle, calling his comments controversial, it seems that the videos actually present viewers with a classic case of men not willing to hold other men accountable, relying heavily on victim blaming, and generally refusing to raise the standards that society holds men to.

However, Chapelle has a long history of mollifiying the sexual misbehavior of famous men. “How old is 15, really?” he said during a set in 2010 regarding the accusations against R. Kelly. 

Here, he does not condone the Hollywood stars behaviors in full, calling the accusations against Louis C.K. “terrible” during the set. However, in a nod to Matt Damon, who likes to distinguish between levels of misconduct, Chapelle says that the consequences C.K. suffered — losing multiple jobs, his family, etc. — are “disproportionate” to the infraction, and that “being a man is hard.”

In a bit that addresses the story of one woman who claimed her experience with C.K. prompted her to quit comedy, Chapelle says, “show business is just harder than that…I hate to say it, y’all: They sound weak.” He shows a similar attitude to Weinstein, who excused his coercive and abusive behavior as just a part of the trials and tribulations of show business.

Chapelle opens Equanimity by saying that as a comedian, “you have a responsibility to speak recklessly.” But Equanimity isn’t reckless, it’s hateful. When refering to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, he uses the adjective “yuck,” and generally denies trans identities. While he does make some biting insights about racism, he unfortunately relies on a type of oppression Olympics, pitting (presumably white) trans people against people of color, saying,  “I cannot shake this awful suspicion that the only reason everybody is talking about transgenders [sic] is because White men want to do it…It reeks of White privilege.” Instead of investigating the intersection of marginalized identities, he divides them, declaring their injustices irreconcilable.

While there are kernels of truth in his sets, they’re shrouded in offensive material marketed as “divisive” and “edgy,” and neither set is worth watching. If Dave Chapelle wanted to radically change the status quo, he wouldn’t punch down, but would instead opt to create material that actually benefitted humanity’s growth. 

Top Photo from Equanimity by Netflix

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