Cancel culture clouds Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special

Jason Jung, Editor

When comedian Dave Chappelle released his Netflix special, Sticks and Stones, in late August, he was expecting to face backlash. Chappelle chose to perform jokes that include a wide spectrum of socially taboo topics, including but not limited to the LGTBQ community, the Sandy Hook shooting, and Michael Jackson’s molestation scandal. 

 Arguably, Chappelle’s special can be interpreted as a social commentary on a current trend in the media known as ‘cancel culture,’ a form of boycotting a celebrity after they share a socially insensitive opinion. 

 Cancel culture has often led to a decline to a celebrity’s notoriety. For instance, comedian Shane Gillis was recently fired from the Saturday Night Live cast after using racial slurs on a podcast he was featured in. 

In his special, Chappelle brings up the example of Kevin Hart, an internationally recognized comedian, who stepped down from hosting the Oscars after specific homophobic tweets resurfaced from the comedian’s past. Chappelle claims that Hart was being unfairly punished for statements that were said during a time when awareness to communities such as the LQTBQ was not as prevalent as it currently is.

Despite the number of celebrities who have been under fire due to cancel culture, it’s also given many movements and groups new voices in the media. English teacher Russell Anderson provides insight into how cancel culture has developed within society.

“It’s definitely a product of the time; I think it’s good in that it encourages companies and celebrities to stand for something at times,” Anderson said. 

In honor of pride month this past June, numerous companies and brands released pride products. These companies, including Nike, American Eagle, and Disney, released a plethora of rainbow-colored products and advertisements, indicating their support for the LGTBQ community and movement.

Chappelle is no stranger to stirring up controversy. The comedian has received a fair amount of hate in previous sets for sharing opinions that he claims are genuine yet unpopular. Senior Aditya Prathap shares his view on why he enjoys Chappelle’s sets.

 “Dave Chappelle is a really funny comedian; although I like more of his earlier sets, his conversational style of comedy is refreshing, especially since most comedians on mainstream media use clearly rehearsed sets that feel more robotic,” Prathap said. 

However the inclusion of jokes that involve socially taboo topics in his recent special have led to claims of Chappelle trivializing certain socio-political topics. 

“While it may seem hypocritical considering I find Dave Chappelle funny, I think his jokes went a step too far,” Prathap said. “By making jokes on his set regarding suicide or abortion, it could cause the average viewer to believe that these topics are jokes in real life. By attaching these divisive issues to jokes, it will allow the average viewer to justify their apathy and indifference as they gradually become more desensitized.”

In the midst of his criticism, there has also been support for Chappelle testing the limits of his comedic craft. Anderson believes that although finding such limits in the arts should be encouraged, there are other creative ways to achieve a comedic effect.

“Whether it be comedy, literature, music, or film, I think it’s important for artists to continually push to do things other people haven’t done yet,” Anderson said. “I think it’s also true that there’s a line since some of his jokes are about people who are already marginalized.”

Despite the received controversy, Chappelle stands his ground, indicating how the comedian feels about cancel culture’s place in the media. Prathap shares his thoughts on how he believes cancel culture should fit within society.

“People are imperfect and will make mistakes, so if they do whatever they can to make up for those mistakes, I think cancel culture would just be unnecessarily punishing them,” Prathap said. “At the end of the day, the cancel culture was never supposed to demonize every person who made mistakes in their past, it was supposed to prevent enabling people who continually act inappropriately without remorse.”