Wil Wheaton shared a personal story on Facebook as he explained why Dave Chappelle’s controversial comments in “The Closer” were so dangerous.
Wheaton spoke about Chappelle’s special, which sparked backlash around the world due to the transphobic jokes, revealing just how influential comedians can be.
The “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star began, “For anyone who genuinely doesn’t understand why I feel as strongly as I do about people like Chapelle making transphobic comments that are passed off as jokes, I want to share a story that I hope will help you understand, and contextualize my reaction to his behaviour.”
He opened up about being 16 and loving Eddie Murphy’s 1983 standup special “Delirious”. However, despite the special having bits in it that still “kill” him, Wheaton wrote: “There is also extensive homophobic material that is just f**king appalling and inexcusable. Long stretches of this comedy film are devoted to mocking gay people, using the slur that starts with F over and over and over.
“Young Wil, who watched this with his suburban white upper middle class friends, in his privileged bubble, thought it was the funniest, edgiest, dirtiest thing he’d ever heard. It KILLED him. And all of it was dehumanizing to gay men. All of it was cruel. All of it was bigoted. All of it was punching down. And I didn’t know any better.
“I accepted the framing, I developed a view of gay men as predatory, somehow less than straight men, absolutely worthy of mockery and contempt. Always good for a joke, though,” sharing how he went to play hockey with a group of “really great dudes” who he didn’t know were gay.
He said how, “without even realizing what I was doing,” he ended up saying the homophobic word he’d seen in Murphy’s special.
Wheaton explained how he lied and said his gay friends used that word all the time, sharing how he was “so embarrassed and horrified” with himself.
He said he was still mortified 30 years later, writing: “A *huge* part of that normalization was through entertainment that dehumanized gay men in the service of ‘jokes.’ And as someone who thought jokes were great, I accepted it,” apologizing to the men in question.
Wheaton’s lengthy post included, “So this stuff that Chapelle did? That all these Cishet white men are so keen to defend? I believe them when they say that it’s not a big deal. Because it’s not a big deal TO CISHET WHITE DUDES.
“But for a transgender person, those ‘jokes’ normalize hateful, ignorant, bigoted behaviour towards them. Those ‘jokes’ contribute to a world where transgender people are constantly under threat of violence, because transgender people have been safely, acceptably, dehumanized. And it’s all okay, because they were dehumanized by a Black man. And the disingenuous argument that it’s actually racist to hold Chapelle accountable for this? Get the f**k out of here.”
He added, “Literally every defense of Chapelle’s ‘jokes’ centres white, cishet men and our experience at the expense of people who have to fight with every breath simply to exist in this world. Literally every queer person I know (and I know a LOT) is hurt by Chapelle’s actions. When literally every queer person I know says ‘this is hurtful to me,’ I’m going to listen to them and support them, and not tell them why they are wrong, as so many cishet white men do. If you’re inclined to disregard queer voices, especially as they relate to this specific topic, I encourage you to reflect on your choices and think about who you listen to and why.”
Wheaton concluded, “I was sixteen and didn’t know any better. I still regret it. Frankly, a whole lot of y’all who I’ve already blocked should feel the same shame about what you said TODAY that I feel for something I did three decades ago when I was sixteen and didn’t know any better. But you don’t, and that is why people like me need to keep using our voices to speak up and speak out.”