Breaking Down Dave Chappelle's Transphobic Netflix Special — And the Ensuing Fallout

dave chappelle transphobic special
courtesy Netflix

Dave Chappelle’s comedy has always been offensive, but his new Netflix special The Closer is downright disgusting and dangerous.

The special is a little over an hour long and he spends much of that time going after the LGBTQ community, particularly the Trans community.

The special is so transphobic that one of Netflix’s employees, Terra Field, went on Twitter and posted a multi-tweet thread calling out Chappelle and Netflix, and explaining why the comedian’s rhetoric isn’t funny.

The first tweet of the thread, which was posted on October 6, read,

“I work at Netflix. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness — all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups. You’re going to hear a lot of talk about ‘offense.’ We are not offended.”

In the tweets that follow, Terra explains that anyone who has come out as trans does not have “thin skin” and isn’t easily offended. Instead, she says that his comedy is harmful because it empowers people who don’t believe someone can be transgender or who just downright hates the community.

After all, if a celebrity can say such derogatory things on a platform as big as Netflix, then it must be okay for everyday people to spew hate, too, right?

In one of his “bits,” Chappelle talked about how people canceled J.K. Rowling after she tweeted harmful ideas about sex and gender, and followed up that tweet with a very transphobic essay defending herself. (More on J.K. Rowling’s history as a TERF here).

In the special, Chappelle said,

“And then the trans community got mad as shit, and started calling [J.K. Rowling] a TERF. I didn’t even know, what the fuck that was. But I know that trans people make up words to win arguments. [laughter] So I looked it up. TERF is an acronym. It stands for Trans-exclusionary radical feminist. This is a real thing, this is a group of women that hate transgender. They don’t hate transgender women but they look at trans women the way we Blacks might look at Black face. It offends them like, ‘Oh, this bitch is doing an impression of me.'”

It gets worse. He then says,

“I’m team TERF. I agree. I agree man. Gender is a fact… gender is a fact, this is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact. Now, I am not saying that to say, that trans women aren’t women. I’m just sayin, that those pussies that they got [pause]. You know what I mean?”

Throughout the special Chappelle also asks the LGBTQ community to basically un-cancel DaBaby despite his homophobic rant, mocks the use of the pronoun “they,” says he’d be scared if he saw a trans woman using the men’s bathroom, then laughs at the thought of seeing a trans man trying to use a urinal in a men’s bathroom. He also makes light of rape and feminism.

But don’t worry, he thinks he can redeem himself at the end when he wraps up the show with a story about a trans woman who was his friend and how she came to his defense a few years back when the trans community went after him about some of his “jokes”. He explains that she was then dragged on Twitter for defending him, and then died by suicide six days later. It’s a sad story — that he finishes up with a final “joke” about her being transgender and tops it off with a “joke” about suicide.

The whole thing is disgusting, and not only does Netflix say they stand behind Chappelle but days after Terra’s tweets went viral, the company sent an email to its employees saying,

“Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.”

The email continues,

“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

On October 11, Netflix coincidentally ended up suspending Terra and two other staff members for “dropping in on an executive meeting” (according to the company). After her suspension caused even more backlash, Terra tweeted on October 12 that the company had reinstated her after determining there was “no ill intent” on her part in attending the meeting.

Still, here we are, a week or so after Netflix dropped The Closer and it’s showing up among the platform’s top 10 most-streamed movies/shows in the US. So, not only are they defending Chappelle’s hate, but they’re also actively promoting it and essentially giving others the green light to speak out in the same ways.

If you’re curious to know the specifics of what he said, don’t add to the stream-count on Netflix, instead read the full transcript here (trigger warning: it’s bad).


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Ashley Ziegler
Aside from being a writer, Ashley is a mom of two girls and a wife to a passionate public school administrator. When she does have free time (cue laughter from working moms everywhere) she loves going to hot yoga classes, watching anything on Netflix that isn't a cartoon, and weaving her way through every aisle of Target while listening to one of her favorite podcasts.