The Chappelle Kerfuffle

It’s not going to hurt Netflix.

Netflix is too big, too desirable, too embedded in people’s lives to be abandoned, to be canceled. In this way it’s like Amazon or Walmart or Facebook. We constantly hear about their deleterious effects, boycotts are initiated, but the enterprise is just too good, it fulfills a need that the public can’t get satisfied elsewhere.

Not that I’ve seen Chappelle’s special.

Reminds me of Republicans testifying about records and movies that they have not heard or seen. So I’ve been delaying weighing in until I watched the special. But I just cannot do it, I just don’t find Chappelle that funny anymore, I don’t get it. So he stands on stage and riffs, sounding like he’s making it up as he goes. There are few laugh out loud punch lines. And it’s not like it’s uber-intellectual, it’s not like you’re laughing in your head, albeit silently. Chappelle is neither George Carlin nor Richard Pryor, the two best comedians of my lifetime. Then again, he created a beloved TV show, that I also didn’t watch, and then gave the middle finger to the man, becoming a cultural icon.


Do I have a problem with Chappelle’s success? Of course not. Do I think he should be censored? Of course not. But then it gets more complicated.

If Netflix fires Chappelle he’ll just go somewhere else, for more money. Chappelle is a cornerstone of the outlet’s programming, the linchpin of its comedy division, a halo that brings other comedians into the fold. Remember when all comedy was on HBO? Now it’s on Netflix. And it could go somewhere else, assuming someone was willing to pay. And when you’re building a company if you’re cheap, you’re doomed.

So for months we had to hear prognosticators say that Netflix was doomed, it was losing market share, the engine was starting to sputter. And then yesterday it exceeds projections, adds 4.4 million subscribers. Proving that if you want to know what is going on in a company, talk to those in the field, especially when it’s a new field. Too often general reporters weigh in and their opinions are worthless. Bottom line? It’s about hit product. Sure, Netflix lost “The Office.” And “Friends.” They’re blue chips, the “Bonanza” and “Seinfeld” of their era. But “Bonanza” eventually faded and “Seinfeld” is now on Netflix and anybody in the visual entertainment medium knows that it’s about new product, new hit product, ergo “Squid Game,” the most talked about show on the flat screen for months. Ultimately the most viewed show on Netflix ever. People signed up to watch it. How many will sign off? Of course there are professional cancelers, but the truth is most people forget to cancel until they’re confronted with the bill, if then, then again, many people find they like the service and stay. And you keep them with more new product. Something that HBO Max and Disney+ fall down on, never mind the emaciated Apple TV+.

So, Chappelle makes anti-trans comments.

Well the truth is trans people are not a majority of the public, which you might think based on the attention they receive. Then again, that does not mean they don’t deserve protection. How many handicapped people are there? But we still have cutouts in sidewalks and bars in bathroom stalls and that’s what a good society does, take care of all of its citizens.

But that does not mean Chappelle’s words have no influence.

It’s been established that homophobia is rampant in the Black community. By putting down, making fun of trans people, you’re playing into people’s biases. How can it be that Morgan Wallen is canceled for unconsciously using the N-word and Chappelle is quite consciously beating up on minorities and goes scot-free?

Wallen’s penalty was too tough.

Chappelle is not penalized at all.

Heroes. Who are they?

Well, they’re certainly not our politicians, seen as phony and sold-out.

And almost nobody with a brain looks up to today’s “musicians,” fungible, two-dimensional mini-brands who’ll do anything for the money as they demonstrate their ignorance ad infinitum.

Then there’s Kanye. Or “Ye,” as we’re now supposed to call him. This guy is bipolar and the public just sits by and watches the train-wreck. It’s akin to Chris Farley, but at least Chris Farley went to rehab. So Kanye holds listening parties for his new album and brings on stage pariahs Da Baby and Marilyn Manson. What is the message here? It’s hard not to see this as support. So, homophobia and abuse of women are okay? Da Baby has made his comments in public. Manson has only been convicted in the court of public opinion, we don’t know the truth. Then again, ever since O.J. people no longer have respect for the opinion of legal courts. People don’t only believe in alternative facts, they construct their own list of winners and losers, they have their own morals, the national fabric has unraveled.

So Chappelle is pouring gas on the fire. And the Netflix brass are clueless. This is what happens when you hang in the ivory tower too long, you don’t know how people outside it think. Never mind not knowing what the people in your own damn building think. I can see saying Chappelle’s show has a right to be aired, but I cannot see defending the position, saying that it will cause no harm. OF COURSE IT WILL CAUSE HARM! His work legitimizes heinous viewpoints. And we know society evolves slowly, one can’t imagine gay marriage being legal in the twentieth century, never mind marijuana. People have to be informed. The message has to spread from the inside to the outside. And as John Gruden’s e-mails proved, what people say in public is one thing, in private another. Come on, MeToo? The only difference is men now shut up publicly, they still say this stuff privately, and if you don’t know it you’re not a man. Same deal with homophobic comments. They’re rampant amongst men. We’ve got so much further to go. Forward instead of backward.

So, Netflix can’t let Chappelle go, it would be an horrific business decision, like Warner Music caving to blowback and allowing Interscope to walk, ultimately aligning itself with Universal, which helped Universal become the overwhelmingly dominant record label when it used to be an also-ran.

But that does not mean Netflix is powerless.

What should Netflix do?

I’m not exactly sure.

But there is a continuum. Between letting Chappelle’s special air unfettered and canceling it. Maybe a warning in front. That’s a cliché at this point, but we need to remind people that although this is comedy, these are serious issues, just don’t buy the opinion lock, stock and barrel.

You have to remind people of the dangers, the pitfalls. You should be able to make fun of anything, but the truth is Chappelle’s opinions are beyond jokes.

Then again, I didn’t see the show. But reading about it, which is a poor substitute, I know that Chappelle is defending himself against being potentially canceled. But don’t compare Chappelle with Lenny Bruce. Chappelle is actively putting down a segment of our population, whereas Bruce was testing limits, and sacrificed his career in the process.

But it’s a different time. Without Lenny Bruce there is no modern comedy, just like without Curt Flood, there is no modern Major League Baseball.

So, we just can’t let Chappelle skate completely. It’s not like he’s saying it’s just a joke, that it’s meaningless, this is what he truly believes. And do we want everybody to be able to amplify heinous beliefs unrestricted?

Of course not.

This is what is happening with Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. And Donald Trump. Let’s see, Colin Powell not a hero? Vaccines don’t work because he died after getting inoculated? Of course the issue is much more complicated than that if you have a blood cancer like multiple myeloma, are immune-compromised. But people with these underlying conditions, LIKE MYSELF, don’t deserve attention because a huge slew of people don’t want their “freedom” impinged upon. The antivax message is so loud that we don’t realize how few people actually hold this position.

I point you to the latest e-mail from John Dick, majordomo of polling company CivicScience:

“Americans aren’t ‘divided’ over the COVID vaccine.

They’re divided over Friends (50%) versus Seinfeld (50%).

Or beer (51%) versus wine (49%).  

Or tucking in their top bed sheet (43%) or not (41%).

But not the vaccine.

By our latest count, 81% of U.S. adults have either received the COVID jab or plan to in the immediate future. Six percent remain on the fence. Just 13% are steadfastly against it (or can’t receive it). 

With over 300,000 different questions in our database, I’ll venture this ranks as one of the LEAST divided things we’ve ever studied. I can’t even tell you how rare it is when 67% of Republicans agree with 91% of Democrats. It’s top-percentile kind of stuff. 

The 13% of Americans who are anti-vax are equal to the percentage who don’t own a smartphone. It’s barely half the number who believe Bigfoot is real (26%) and nearly 50% smaller than the number who don’t believe in God (19%). It’s less common than brushing your teeth in the shower (17%) or not putting a top sheet on your bed at all (16%).

If you subtract the people who have legitimate health reasons for not getting vaccinated, the number of conscientious anti-vaxxers dips below the percentage of Americans who don’t wear deodorant (11%). 

I’m not judging any of these things (at least not out loud), but, make no mistake, they are outlying, fringe, possibly even extreme behaviors – statistically speaking.”


If someone is unvaccinated, it affects the population at large. If someone is trans… How does this affect your everyday life? You don’t like it conceptually? I mean what exactly is the problem? That trans people are going to turn other people trans? What next, Black people are going to make White people BLACK? Then again, ignorance knows no bounds.

Like the people pointing to Netflix firing a trans employee in the wake of the Chappelle fracas. THE EMPLOYEE LEAKED CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION! And if you follow the company, you’ve been stunned at what has been leaked, previously unknown facts, like how many people watched a show, what the show cost, the profit… But most people never get past the headline.

Ted Sarandos and Reed Hastings have to admit that visual content has consequences. Just like smoking onscreen does. They can also say that they don’t want to censor their talent. But this blanket, knee-jerk defense, is offensive. These two should have taken the side of the trans people, seen their viewpoint and said they don’t agree with what Chappelle said. But being SO fearful of pissing off the prickly Chappelle, they immediately defended him. The way families defend a criminal in their midst.

The solution is not black and white.

But the offense is.

Everybody is vulnerable in some way. We don’t want to have language police, we don’t want to make people afraid to express a cornucopia of viewpoints. But that does not mean we let everybody’s utterances skate by, uncommented upon.

Isn’t the measure of a great society that it takes care of its most vulnerable, its most defenseless, however few in number?

And yes, it is a slippery slope. Trigger warnings for classic books. The cancellation of Abraham Lincoln. The woke police can and often do get completely out of hand. But that does not mean there are no issues. They are thorny, we need to learn how to deal with them. And Netflix did a bad job here. As for Chappelle… This is the kind of guy you want to lionize? Isn’t this the problem in America today? That outliers are considered mainstream, like Tucker Carlson above? Just because a subject is hot, just because there is money involved, that does not mean you’ve got to be hands-off…the brave dive in! It’s easy to sit on the sidelines like a politician. It’s much harder to work for solutions. What would you do?

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