What does the backlash at Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special teach us about ‘cancel culture’?

cancel culture
Dave Chapelle’s new Netflix comedy special ‘The Closer’ has sparked some backlash from members of the LGBTQ+ community. Image Source: John Bauld (via Flickr).
Following a recent controversy surrounding Dave Chapelle’s latest Netflix comedy special, the ongoing debate around the influence of so-called ‘Cancel Culture’ has seen a resurgence on social media.

By Jack Robert Stacey | Editor-in-Chief

Dave Chapelle, the Mark Twain Prize-Winning Comedian, has faced backlash from members of the LGBTQ+ community who accused him of making trans-phobic and discriminatory comments as part of ‘The Closer’, the American performer’s new stand-up comedy special.

This month, a demonstration was held outside Netflix’s Headquarters in Los Angeles (California) with protesters calling for the streaming giant to take “accountability” for its actions and to remove the special from its online content library.

Ted Sarandos, CEO of Netflix, stood by his decision to release the special. As a global platform used by audiences “with various taste[s], various sensibilities, various beliefs,” Sarandos recognized that the company’s commitment to “free artistic expression is sometimes in conflict with people feeling protected and safe”.

Critics, however, have asserted that Netflix’s commitment to “free artistic expression” has provided a platform for hateful or discriminatory speech, especially that which targets traditionally marginalized groups.

Although the so-called “cancelling” of high-profile figures and organizations has been around for hundreds of years, this ongoing debate does raise an interesting question about the current relationship between comedy, audiences, and free speech: namely, ‘Should celebrities be held accountable or “cancelled” for expressing their views?’

The answer to this question (and, admittedly, an exact definition of ‘cancel culture’) is difficult to pin down without first understanding exactly what is meant by “cancelling” someone and, more importantly, what impact being “cancelled” can have.

What is ‘Cancel Culture’?

As a movement rooted in black culture and the rejection of problematic cultural norms, the act of “cancelling” is based around the notion of holding someone in power accountable for their actions, essentially punishing them by “cancelling” their harmful messages or behaviors – Focusing on this aspect, many historians have likened ‘cancel culture’ to a modern, mass form of social ostracization.

Over the last few years, for instance, several highly influential individuals in the entertainment industry (including YouTube star Shane Dawson, author J.K. Rowling and American television Host Ellen DeGeneres) have experienced being “cancelled”. As the result of this backlash against them on social media, many of these celebrities have spoken out about the impact of being cancelled.

J.K. Rowling, author of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, was specifically accused of making a number of trans-phobic comments back in 2019 when she asserted that a magazine should have the term, “women” rather than the more inclusive term, “people who menstruate.”

Proponents of ‘cancel culture’, including Anne Charity Hudley, the chair of Linguistics of African America at the University of California Santa Barbara, maintain that the movement allows individuals to exercise their own power and to “refuse to participate” in aspects of society that they are at odds with.

To many, as Charity Hudley explains, the act of “cancelling” someone is “a collective way of saying, ‘We elevated your social status, your economic prowess [and] we’re not going to pay attention to you in the way that we once did.”

In this way, however, critics of ‘cancel culture’ have previously asserted that the movement can therefore promote an irrational, almost mob-like mentality.

Drawing on 16th century witch trials, critics often claim that individuals can become “cancelled” for relatively small or minor infractions (including those committed in the past) which, as a result, potentially means that innocent people are now at risk of being unfairly punished – This stance is shared several comedians and other personalities in the entertainment industry.

Discussions on celebrities who have been wrongly “cancelled” (so-called “victims of cancel culture”) frequently reference Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL Quarterback who was faced backlash for kneeling during the American National Anthem back in 2016.

Kaepernick’s expression of support for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement was met with criticism from NFL supporters and former U.S. President Donald Trump for being “unpatriotic”. In addition to being omitted from the cover of an edition of Sports Illustrated magazine, a number of reports claim that Kaepernick has now been ‘blacklisted’ and, despite being a proven athlete, is unlikely to take part in professional sport again.

What impact can being “cancelled” have on someone?

As the mass rejection of a celebrity or high-profile organization often takes place on social media, its sometimes difficult to accurately gauge the impact that “cancelling” can have on someone.

‘Cancel culture’ has already proven its potential to alter the way that individuals are perceived in society.

Additionally, as has already been demonstrated with the likes of Dave Chapelle and J.K. Rowling, the impacts of ‘cancel culture’ and social media backlash are not just limited to online spaces and, instead, can have a very real, significant impact on the livelihoods of high-profile individuals.

As a result of the public boycott targeting Rowling, for example, publishers of the ‘Harry Potter’ series reported experiencing a “remarkably sudden and sharp drop” in sales – Some references to the author’s name have also been removed from fan sites.

Taking this into account, it’s also important to recognise that the act of “cancelling” someone does, as the movement’s critics have previously highlighted, also has the potential to cultivate a mass ‘mob mentality’ which may fail to acknowledge the core issue in a rational or fair way; Addressing the controversy surrounding ‘The Closer’ during a recent performance, Chapelle echoed this point.

The comedian said that he was “confused” by the backlash he has received online and, speaking about his own experiences with the LGBTQ+ community, maintained that everyone “has been nothing but loving and supporting, so I don’t know what all this nonsense is about.”

Closing off his performance, Chapelle addressed his critics directly. He maintained that whilst that he is “more than willing to give [the LGBTQ+ community] an audience,” he would not be “bending to any demands” or summons: “You cannot have this conversation and excuse my voice from it,” Chappelle concluded, “that is only fair.”

‘Cancel culture’, therefore, occupies an interesting position within our modern social landscape and, without doubt, will continue to be a pertinent topic of debate moving forwards.

Yn dilyn dadl diweddar yn sgil comedi Netflix diweddaraf Dave Chapelle, gwelir atgyfodiad y ddadl barhaus ynghylch dylanwad ‘Diddymu diwylliant’ ar y cyfryngau cymdeithasol. 

Mae’r comedïwr sydd wedi ennill Gwobr Mark Twain, Dave Chapelle, wedi wynebu adlach gan aelodau o’r gymuned LGBTQ sy’n ei gyhuddodd o wneud sylwadau traws-ffobia a gwahaniaethol fel rhan o ‘The Closer’, sef comedi stand-yp newydd y perfformiwr Americanaidd. 

Y mis hwn, cynhaliwyd arddangosiad y tu allan i Bencadlys Netflix yn Los Angeles (California) gyda phrotestwyr yn galw ar y cawr ffrydio i gymryd “atebolrwydd” am ei weithredoedd ac i dynnu’r rhaglen ffwrdd o’i gynnwys ar-lein. 

Cadwodd Ted Sarandos, Prif Swyddog Gweithredol Netflix, at ei benderfyniad i ryddhau’r rhaglen. Fel rhwydwaith fyd-eang a ddefnyddir gan gynulleidfaoedd “gyda gwahanol diddordebau, gwahanol lefelau o sensitifrwydd a chredoau amrywiol,” cydnabu Sarandos fod ymrwymiad y cwmni i “ryddid mynegiant artistig  weithiau’n gwrthdaro â phobl sy’n teimlo eu bod yn cael eu diogelu ac yn saff”. 

Fodd bynnag, mae beirniaid wedi honni bod ymrwymiad Netflix i “ryddid mynegiant artistig ” wedi darparu llwyfan ar gyfer araethu atgas a gwahaniaethu, yn enwedig rhai sy’n targedu grwpiau sydd wedi’u hymyleiddio’n draddodiadol. 

Er bod y “canslo” honedig o ffigurau a sefydliadau proffil uchel wedi bod o gwmpas ers cannoedd o flynyddoedd, mae’r ddadl barhaus yn codi cwestiwn diddorol am y berthynas bresennol rhwng comedi, cynulleidfaoedd, ac araith rydd: sef, ‘A ddylai enwogion gael eu dal yn atebol neu eu “canslo” am fynegi eu barn?’ 

Mae’n anodd nodi’r ateb i’r cwestiwn hwn (a deall union ddiffiniad o ‘ganslo diwylliant’) heb ddeall yn gyntaf beth yn union a olygir wrth “ganslo” rhywun ac, yn bwysicach, pa effaith y gall cael “canslo” ei gael. 

Beth yw ‘Diddymu Diwylliant’? 

Fel mudiad sydd wedi’i wreiddio mewn diwylliant du a gwrthod arferion diwylliannol problemus, mae’r weithred o “ganslo” neu ‘diddymu’ yn seiliedig ar y syniad o ddal rhywun mewn grym yn atebol am eu gweithredoedd, ac ei  cosbi drwy “ganslo” eu negeseuon neu eu hymddygiad niweidiol – Gan ganolbwyntio ar yr agwedd hon, mae llawer o haneswyr wedi hoffi ‘diddymu diwylliant’ fel ffurf modern a thorfol o ostraceiddio cymdeithasol. 

Dros yr ychydig flynyddoedd diwethaf, er enghraifft, mae nifer o unigolion dylanwadol iawn yn y diwydiant adloniant (gan gynnwys seren YouTube Shane Dawson, awdur J.K.Mae’r Lletywr Rowling a Theledu Americanaidd Ellen DeGeneres) wedi cael profiad o gael eu “canslo.” O ganlyniad i’r adlais hwn yn eu herbyn ar y cyfryngau cymdeithasol, mae llawer o’r enwogion hyn wedi sôn am effaith cael eu diddymu. 

Cyhuddwyd J.K.Rowling, awdur y gyfres ‘Harry Potter’ o wneud nifer o sylwadau traws-ffobia yn ôl yn 2019 pan honnodd y dylai cylchgrawn gael y term, “menywod” yn hytrach na’r term mwy cynhwysol, “pobl sy’n cael mislif.” 

Mae’r rhai sy’n ‘diddymu diwylliant’, gan gynnwys Anne Charity Hudley, cadeirydd Ieithyddiaeth Affricanaidd America ym Mhrifysgol California Santa Barbara, yn honni fod y mudiad yn caniatáu i unigolion arfer eu pŵer eu hunain ac i “wrthod cymryd rhan” mewn agweddau ar gymdeithas y maent yn groes iddynt. 

I lawer, fel eglurai Elusen Hudley, mae’r weithred o “diddymu” rhywun yn “ffordd gyfunol o ddweud, ‘Fe wnaethom godi eich statws cymdeithasol, eich manteision economaidd [ac] nid ydym yn mynd i roi sylw i chi yn y ffordd y gwnaethom unwaith.”  Fel hyn, fodd bynnag, mae beirniaid ‘diddymu diwylliant’ wedi honni o’r blaen y gall y mudiad felly hyrwyddo meddylfryd afresymol. 

Gan ddefnyddio treialon gwrachod o’r 16eg ganrif, mae beirniaid yn aml yn honni y gall unigolion gael eu “diddymu” ar gyfer tor-dyletswydd cymharol fach neu mân (gan gynnwys y rhai a gyflawnwyd yn y gorffennol) sydd, o ganlyniad, o bosibl yn golygu bod pobl ddiniwed bellach mewn perygl o gael eu cosbi’n annheg – Rhennir y safiad hwn gyda sawl comedi a phersonoliaethau eraill yn y diwydiant adloniant. 

Mae trafodaethau ar enwogion sydd wedi cael eu “diddymu” ar gam (fel y’u gelwir yn “ddioddefwyr diwylliant diddymu”) yn aml yn cyfeirio at Colin Kaepernick, cyn-chwarter NFL a wynebodd adlais am benlinio yn ystod Anthem Genedlaethol America yn ôl yn 2016. 

Cafodd mynegiant Kaepernick o gefnogaeth i’r mudiad ‘Black Lives Matter’ ei feirniadu gan gefnogwyr NFL a chyn-arlywydd y UDA, Donald Trump am fod yn “anhryloyw”. Yn ogystal â chael ei hepgor o glawr rhifyn o gylchgrawn Sports Illustrated, mae nifer o adroddiadau’n honni bod Kaepernick bellach wedi’i ‘roi ar y rhestr ddu’ ac, er ei fod yn athletwr profiadol, mae’n annhebygol o gymryd rhan mewn chwaraeon proffesiynol eto. 

Pa effaith y gellir ei chael ar rywun? 

Gan fod gwrthod enwogion neu sefydliad proffil uchel yn aml yn digwydd ar y cyfryngau cymdeithasol, mae’n anodd weithiau mesur yn gywir yr effaith y gall “diddymu” ei gael ar rywun. 

Mae ‘Diddymu Diwylliant’ eisoes wedi profi ei botensial i newid y ffordd y mae unigolion yn cael eu gweld mewn cymdeithas. 

Yn ogystal, fel y dangoswyd eisoes yn sgil Dave Chapelle a J.K. Rowling, Nid yw effeithiau ‘diddymu diwylliant’ ac adlach cyfryngau cymdeithasol wedi’u cyfyngu i fannau ar-lein yn unig ac, yn hytrach, gallant gael effaith wirioneddol a sylweddol iawn ar fywoliaeth unigolion proffil uchel. 

O ganlyniad i’r boicot cyhoeddus sy’n targedu Rowling, er enghraifft, dywedodd cyhoeddwyr y gyfres ‘Harry Potter’ eu bod wedi profi “gostyngiad sydyn iawn” mewn gwerthiant – Mae rhai cyfeiriadau at enw’r awdur hefyd wedi’u tynnu o safleoedd cefnogwyr. 

Gan ystyried hyn, mae hefyd yn bwysig cydnabod bod gan y weithred o “ddiddymu” rhywun, fel y mae beirniaid y mudiad wedi tynnu sylw ati o’r blaen, gyda’r potensial i feithrin ‘meddylfryd mob’ torfol a allai fethu â chydnabod y mater craidd mewn ffordd resymegol neu deg; Wrth fynd i’r afael â’r dadlau ynghylch ‘The Closer’ yn ystod perfformiad diweddar, ategodd Chapelle: 

Dywedodd y comedïwr ei fod wedi ei “ddrysu” gan yr adlach y mae wedi’i dderbyn ar-lein ac, wrth siarad am ei brofiadau ei hun gyda’r gymuned LGBTQ, dywedodd fod pawb “wedi bod yn ddim byd ond cariadus a chefnogol, felly dydw i ddim yn gwybod beth yw pwrpas yr holl nonsens hwn.” 

Gan gloi ei berfformiad, aeth Chapelle i’r afael â’i feirniaidaeth yn uniongyrchol. Dywedodd, er ei fod yn “fwy na pharod i roi cynulleidfa [I’r gymuned LGBTQ], “ni fyddai’n “plygu i unrhyw ofynion” neu wŷs: “Ni allwch gael y sgwrs hon ac esgusodi fy llais oddi arni,” daeth Chappelle i’r casgliad, “mae hynny ond yn deg.” 

Felly, mae ‘Diddymu Diwylliant’ yn meddiannu sefyllfa ddiddorol o fewn ein tirwedd gymdeithasol fodern ac, yn ddi-os, bydd yn parhau i fod yn bwnc trafod perthnasol wrth symud ymlaen. 

Jack Robert Stacey Editorial 

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *