Graphic by Brian Winters
To truly comprehend Dave Chappelle’s new stand-up, ironically entitled “Sticks and Stones,” there’s a fundamental conversation that must take place. It seems that we’ve entered an age where free speech and art are treading the thin lines they’re drawn on, which is becoming a large problem.
In the 65 minute-long Netflix special “Sticks and Stones,” Dave Chappelle manages to cover a slew of topics ranging from abortion, suicide and the LGBTQ+ community, prompting some outrage – but mostly praise. Days after the special was released, the Rotten Tomatoes reviews were in and they weren’t completely matching up. The audience reviews for the show were at a whopping 99% while critic reviews of the show were almost two thirds lower.
I personally enjoy comedy as much as the next person, but not at the expense of others’ internal or external struggles. In this age of warranted political correctness, the only reason why the Dave Chappelles of the world continue to find this behavior acceptable is that there is no defined line as to when art and free speech stop being simply art and free speech. Instead, they’ve become buzzwords and excuses for those to air out what might be in their hearts: outright bigotry.
As an artist, you have the right to create whatever content makes you happy. But to profit from the struggles you have never faced, and even those you have, is disrespectful. And quite frankly, it’s getting old.
What Dave Chappelle and many others are doing isn’t new. Political incorrectness has always been a thing, and for most comedians, it is their schtick. Because of this, it is an unoriginal and tacky way to continue your legacy.
Using your platform to air out personal thoughts and feelings towards marginalized groups does nothing but give oppressors more ammo. It starts as a simple joke aimed at one of these groups and backed by free speech. It ends with those words or ideas justifying their opinions on that group.
Chappelle addresses the viewers’ choice to watch his special multiple times throughout it, and he’s right. Every individual who’s expressed their disappointment and anger about the special used their own free will to make a conscious decision to watch it. Dave Chappelle didn’t wave guns in our faces or bribe us to watch. We chose to.
So, isn’t this our fault?
It is not our fault, and that’s the flaw in Chappelle’s logic. My free will to watch a show does not, and should not allow you to degrade others and use them as the butt of your joke. Chappelle’s newest show is controversial and has caused an uproar for good reason. The time to turn a blind eye toward people abusing their power as an entertainer is over, and it’s about time.
But, it’s not just Chappelle’s fault. In a way, we as a society have let him and others get to this point of blatant disregard where he and mixed company think this is appropriate behavior. It is time we take “Sticks and Stones” as a lesson and own up to some of the monsters we have created in our silence.