Famous stand-up comedian, Dave Chappelle just released a Netflix comedy special – The Closer; one he says will be his last for a long while. Comedy fans were excited for the special because it’s Dave Chappelle, a legend in the world of comedy – BUT it wasn’t long before backlash of the show came

What is cancel culture?

Cancel culture is a modern form of a democratic procedure in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether be it online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this are said to have been “cancelled”. To cancel someone (usually a celebrity or other well-known figure) means to stop giving support to that person. The act of cancelling could entail boycotting an actor’s movies or no longer reading or promoting a writer’s works.

Cancel culture has at times been called a toxic culture because people have grown soft. Other have criticised cancel culture for taking away freedom of speech, and in the example of Dave Chappelle – artistic freedom.

When the backlash on Dave’s special started, Netlix’s CEO, Ted Sarandos, came out defending Dave and the comedy special. He was quoted saying, “Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him.” He continued to say comedy is mean-spirited and members of Netflix enjoyed it and it was an integral part of their content offering.

It wasn’t until he retracted his defence of Dave and the special as pressure from outside the company was mounting and things were hot on the inside too. He was quoted saying, “I screwed up.”

Netflix employees who are members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community and other transgender activists staged a walkout at the Netflix offices in Los Angeles. Ashelee Marie Preston, who is a transgender activist and a transgender woman herself, was the organiser of the walkout. Preston said they weren’t protesting because they can’t take jokes but because jokes take lives. She was referring to the transgender lives that have been taken over years.

In another screening in London, Dave Chappelle told the audience, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve got enough money to never work again in my life.” This begs the question does cancel culture really work? We have seen individual have been ‘cancelled’ continue with their careers as before. Dave Chappelle has been cancelled before for another controversial special, “Sticks and Stones,” he made a ‘comeback’. Another famous, stand-up comedian arguably even more famous than Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, was cancelled in 2018 for a homophobic joke he made in his comedy special and in tweets resurfaced. Kevin has since made a ‘comeback’ releasing another special and starring in movies like Jumanji: The Next Level and Netflix’s Fatherhood. Does this mean cancel culture doesn’t work?

Cancel culture might not totally cancel an individual or make that person’s fans forget about them, but it does raises conversations around the issues and affords people an opportunity to learn about social issues. Preston has since invited Dave Chappelle to a ‘table’ to teach him and talk to him about the issues in The Closer than endanger the lives and freedom of the trans community.


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Tell us: What do you think about cancel culture?