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'Dear White People' showrunner boycotts Netflix over 'transphobic' Dave Chappelle special

Jaclyn Moore says she will no longer work with Netflix due to Chappelle's comedy special, "The Closer," where he makes numerous jokes about trans women.
Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle performs in "The Closer."Netflix

Jaclyn Moore has always considered Dave Chappelle one of her “comic heroes.”

“His shadow is huge,” says Moore, who was a writer and showrunner on Netflix’s “Dear White People.” “He’s a brilliant goofy comedian, he’s brilliant as a political comedian. He has been brilliant for so so long, but I also don’t think because you’ve been brilliant means that you’re always brilliant.”

Moore announced on Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday night that she would no longer work with Netflix after she watched Chappelle’s latest standup special, “The Closer,” which premiered on the streamer on Tuesday. In the special, Chappelle makes numerous jokes about trans women.

Moore transitioned during the pandemic, a journey she has chronicled across her social media platforms.

“After the Chappelle special, I can’t do this anymore. I won’t work for @netflix again as long as they keep promoting and profiting from dangerous transphobic content,” she wrote on Instagram.

She also tweeted, “I love so many of the people I’ve worked with at Netflix. Brilliant people and executives who have been collaborative and fought for important art….But I’ve been thrown against walls because, “I’m not a ‘real’ woman.” I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me. So, @netflix, I’m done.”

I talked to Moore on Thursday afternoon from New Orleans, where she is working on the Peacock reboot of “Queer As Folk.”

Why did you decide to speak out on Twitter?

I never loved Dave’s trans material before but this time it felt different. This is the first time I felt like, "Oh, people are laughing at this joke and they’re agreeing that it’s absurd to call me a woman." The fact is that’s the exact rhetoric and language that is used against us. I have had beer bottles thrown at me. I have been thrown against a wall for using a women’s bathroom. I would just say it’s ironic that for somebody who famously walked away from a TV show because he felt like the messages of the joke got lost, he doesn’t see what the messages of these jokes do to people. He talks about our feelings being hurt. My feelings are fine, but being thrown against a wall hurts or worrying at night if I can get home safe. That stuff is not theoretical. I’m really tired of my existence being a matter of debate, that this is something that we all just get to have an opinion about. We all get to have an opinion whether or not I am what I say I am. Look, I have no desire to cancel Dave Chappelle. He should make whatever he wants to make but I will say to Netflix, it’s not like this was a live special. They saw this and were like, “Yeah this seems okay to put out there.” The truth is it’s not. It’s dangerous and it has real world physical violence repercussions. People like to say, “Oh, it’s just a joke.” I get the joke. By the way there’s a lot that’s funny about being trans, but the idea that it’s funny that we call ourselves women, which was the subtext of a lot of those jokes, is not one of them. It’s actually the same language used by people who seek to hurt us.

Why do you think this went through at Netflix? The streamer is known for inclusive and diverse programming and expanding opportunities for the most marginalized.

That’s a good question. I don’t know how it got passed because I will say having worked on a show there, I know that they think about these things and have conversations about these things. I think probably part of it is that Chappelle has carte blanche to say whatever he wants, and I think that’s great. I do believe in freedom of speech. I really do. But I have the freedom of speech to say that somebody’s speech bothers me, and I don’t want to work with a company that promotes that speech. It’s dangerous. It’s dangerous language. I can’t say it any clearer.

Do you think Chappelle has a responsibility to stop telling these jokes?

I don’t think it’s my place to tell Dave Chappelle what he needs to do. He should make the jokes that he wants to make. I cannot like them and that’s what I’m saying here.

Do you want Netflix to pull his specials?

I don’t think that’s the answer. I don’t think that’s a reasonable outcome here. I don’t think this material and a lot of his trans material has a place in discourse. I think a lot of his trans material that maybe I personally had given a pass before feels a lot worse in context of this material. Any benefit of the doubt that was given feels like it is gone. But what I really want is I want companies to hire trans people to work there who can say, “Hey, we sure about this?” The fact of the matter is there are very rarely trans people in those rooms and yet we are so often the subject of the derision. We’re very rarely in any decision-making positions. And I think that’s my bigger concern. I don’t know what Netflix should do, but I feel something needs to be done. Whether that’s removing part of this special, whether that’s amending the special in some way, I don’t know. To be honest it’s not my job to fix their problem, but I do think they have a problem.

Have you heard from anyone from Netflix since you tweeted last night?

I had a very nice conversation with somebody who I think is a stand up person who wanted to talk and to hear my point of view. And I really respect them for doing that. But it wasn’t like something was going to be changing after this one phone call, nor that’s what I expected.

Had you been talking to Netflix about any new projects?

I’m developing stuff currently and there’s always a conversation about where are we going to take the pitch. I am not going to be taking anything to Netflix for the time being. I don’t know what it will take for me to feel comfortable in changing that. I know that it will take some action.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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