What we are watching: The Closer10-28-2021
This week I screened Dave Chappelle’s The Closer for some of my students. It was optional. But I was heartened that they were eager to see the Netflix special that has generated so much controversy. Many of them had read quotations or seen clips that made the special appear deeply transphobic. No doubt, there is language in The Closer that uses words, expressions, and derogatory terms typically avoided in polite discourse today. There are stories that could easily be seen as misogynistic, transphobic, anti-semitic, anti-white, racist, and more. But as my students and I discussed The Closer after watching it, none of us could bring ourselves to think this was a hateful or transphobic work of art. On the contrary, to watch it as a whole was to experience a deeply humanist plea for empathy and respect for transgender people as well as for black Americans and all humans. I couldn’t help but think back to Hannah Arendt’s claim that those who had argued that she defended or excused Adolf Eichmann simply hadn’t read her book. Maybe some had rolled their fingers over the pages to marshall evidence for their points. But they hadn’t read the book with humanity.