It’s becoming pretty clear that many comedians will cling to their bad trans jokes until the bitter end. The latest prominent example is, once again, Dave Chappelle. I’m not going to link to any of it (but will include an example, seen below). A google search will suffice, if interested. Or you could watch his Netflix special, hoping in vain to catch a glimmer of what made him so great.
An easy maxim to follow in comedy is to punch up and not down. Chappelle continues to punch down with regards to the trans community. The root of this appears to be that he thinks no one would ever give a fuck about trans people if it weren’t for white people, and it’s not something he’s willing to get past:
And I cannot shake this awful suspicion that the only reason everybody is talking about transgenders is because white men want to do it. That’s right, I just said that.
Right. Because white “transgenders” only started existing once Caitlyn Jenner “wanted” to do it. It gets worse from there, even going so far as to include “man-pussy” in a gut-busting punchline. So fucking edgy!
The topic obviously has an effect on him, or else he wouldn’t keep returning to it. But he has no interest in learning about contemporary/historical trans issues. He becomes aware of criticism and rejects it out of hand. There is no introspection, no empathy, no attempt at understanding. He gets to make his bad jokes with an impish smile, and his adoring audience erupts with laughter and applause. It’s all the validation, to the extent it’s even desired, he needs. Well, that and the millions of dollars Netflix keeps giving him.
Within the context of comedy that discusses social/political issues, the best of it is able to inch up to the shadowy line of good taste without crossing over into “problematic” territory. Such comedians that are able to effectively navigate this ever-changing realm are heralded as unafraid truth-tellers.
But crossing that line leads to people complaining on Twitter and thinkpieces. In response, the thin-skinned comedian, upset over critics daring to utilize their free speech, lashes out. Many of the comedian’s fans will circle the wagons which, at the end of the day, are the only class of consumers that matter. Their continued adoration serves as vindication.
To me, worse than the actual jokes was the laughter. It didn’t seem like many in the audience had an issue with his blatant transphobia. It’s hard not to think that such people agreed with the overall sentiment, and to some extent felt that Chappelle was saying things they wish they could.