When Dave Chappelle transformed Rick James into an early 2000's version of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I was enthralled. I thought it was incredible to see a comedian take society's shortcomings and turn them into razor sharp examples of collective introspection. I thought
Dave Chappelle was a genius. This, combined with his eccentric rebuke of the press and Comedy Central's bank account, had me thinking I was lucky to see a true vanguard take the world. So when he announced that he would be returning to television with two Netflix comedy specials I thought "Finally".
They say you should never fuck your idols, because they'll only disappoint you. If engaging in the exchange of laughter and surprisingly resonant musings is anything like sex, this era's Dave
Chappelle thrusts too hard and can't stop going soft. The man that began generation Y's discussion regarding race and social injustice, proved that no one is immune to the effects of time and callous-forming experience. That's not a positive.
I've never cared much to play moral judge to those who practice comedy--it's their job to make us uncomfortable. That being said, is their job to make us feel like utter trash?
Chappelle dropped the ball and revealed his liver spots when he went to pick it up. His understanding of sexuality and gender is hardly innovative or forward thinking. Further, he did more to prove that he has no clue whats going on than to prove his fitness for the role of society's jester. Intentionally misgendering Caitlyn Jenner (“He was beating Africans!”), crooning the age old melodies of toxic masculinity and a go-slow mentality. The material proved so lacking in any truly visionary thinking, it was hard to imagine who in his circle would be vapid enough to not stop being a yes man. Either Dave Chappelle has grown into the god-like status so many of us placed him in because of our commitment to the hits, or we expect too much.
Speaking on the “mental gap” that trans people have to bridge in order to be accepted, it seemed as if he was about to drop some serious knowledge. That feeling quickly faded when Chappelle began to muse aloud why trans people were “so accepted” while it is still illegal to be a Black man. Had I know Dave Chappelle was a hotep in hibernation, I’d have never started watching. The idea that trans people are more privileged than ANYONE is laughable at best, and I don’t need to go into the statistics surrounding our murder rates, unemployment rates, and housing discrimination cases. He is so tone deaf that he muses aloud “If cops shot this many trannies, you’d think it as goddamn conspiracy.” For a cisgender heterosexual Black man to think that their struggle is greater than that of transwomen--particularly Black transwomen is a betrayal to the fight for liberation, particularly when we are dying by the droves.
Personally, I had my doubts that he would arrive in grand fashion and blow us away with a new Chappellian philosophy because his stint on SNL was dry. Not only that, he seemed more interested in basking in his own celebrity and legend than producing top notch content. Perhaps that's the problem. Has Chappelle simply been a legend for way too long?
Zaida J. is currently the Associate Editor here at WUSSY and a self-described transgender loud mouth.