ENGL 129 Reflection 2 FINAL
25 February 2018
The Social Commentary Within Dave Chappelle’s Comedy
Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Equanimity and The Bird Revelation both implore Chappelle’s masterful use of social commentary. Although most of his comedic skits, including some in this Netflix special, are historically offensive, Chappelle reveals the interconnection between the ongoing Civil Rights issues surrounding race in America along with the current struggles within the transgender community. In Equanimity, Chappelle shows how Caitlin Jenner is only of topic because she was once a white male struggling to find a gender identity. In The Bird Revelation, Dave allegorically uses the narrative Pimp to describe his own experiences in Hollywood to that of the prostitute in the novel. Each of these skits shows Chappelle’s underlying social commentary on the interconnectedness of racial issues and the hardships faced by the transgender community.
One of the most profound skits within this Netflix special pertained to the transgender community, which was brought up during Chappelle’s Equanimity. During this skit, Chappelle mostly poked fun at those who transform from males to females. Caitlin Jenner, who is possibly one of the most noted transgender women of this era, was the main target for Chappelle’s comedic digs at the transgender community. However, despite the “hustler style” jokes, Dave was able to reveal quite a bit of social commentary throughout this skit’s entirety. To scratch the surface of such commentary, Dave empathized for those who struggle with their gender identity. He understood that “their life is hard” and explained how he did not agree that such feelings should “disqualify someone from dignity and safety” throughout their lives. Obviously, Chappelle shows empathy for those of such struggles and takes a step back from his skit to express this. However, this is not the only instance of social commentary. Later on in this same skit, another social issue around the transgender community was brought up. Dave brings up that his problem does not reside with transgender people, but the dialog around it. He explains that America has never cared for anybody unless white males are the subject of such scenarios. Chappelle is trying to expose one of the reasons why America is finally listening to those of a minority, and it is because that group is predominately represented by white American males. Dave says that if it was “women, black people, or Mexicans” who had the same issues, nobody would listen.
Dave Chappelle reveals his social commentary yet again in The Bird Revelation by explaining the importance of a “bottom bitch” to a pimp. Although Dave was identifying the issue of women being taken advantage of, he may have also been portraying himself as the “bottom bitch” of Hollywood. In the narrative Pimp, a woman is labeled by her “mileage” and used time and time again simply for Iceberg Slim’s want for money. Oddly enough, this same scenario can be related to how Dave was treated in Hollywood. Whenever Chappelle’s talent was brought onto the big stage, he instantly became a price tag for the big businesses of Hollywood. Labels were wanting to sign him in order to achieve economic well-being. Chappelle’s “mileage” was being used at such an alarming rate that he had to step away from the Hollywood scene for quite sometime. Dave truly was Hollywood’s “bottom bitch.” Sadly, his race was most likely the cause of such behavior. Chappelle noted previously in this Netflix special that being a black man in Hollywood is not easy, and that is why he was thinking about getting out while he can. However, even though this talk is quantified as speaking on racial issues, there is a connection to gender identity within this skit. Chappelle was relating himself to a female prostitute, which completely adheres to the notion of how his social commentary illustrates the idea of race and the transgender community together.
As shown throughout this Netflix special, Chappelle reveals the interconnection of Civil Rights issues and the struggles of the transgender community. His skits turned from comedy and became more confessional. Chappelle has been in Hollywood long enough to understand the true demise of the African American community within this setting. He relates such hardships to those faced by the transgender community in the modern day era. Dave is able to develop an understanding of what it is like to be of a minority group. In doing so, he is able to speak on such issues regarding race and the struggles of the transgender community.
Chappelle, Dave. Equanimity and The Bird Revelation. Distributed by Netflix, 2017. https://www.netflix.com/watch/80230404?trackId=14170032&tctx=3%2C3%2Cbdcb951a-b1fc-4a48-a444-fbefa19453bb-29491019