You Don’t Get a Prize for Not Being Offended

Yes, and that's okay
Yes, and that's okay Photo by JAM Project via Flickr
Dave Chappelle tells unfunny, transphobic jokes and has for quite a while now.

This was apparent in his latest Netflix special, Sticks and Stones, which I just re-watched to make sure that his jokes were still unfunny and transphobic. A lot of people don’t agree with me about the unfunny part. Breitbart, for instance, loved Sticks and Stones. The Federalist said it was hilarious. Lots of other people - most of whom are not trans and who tend to congregate around the alt-right - felt that Dave Chappelle was a breath of fresh air, which frankly should be all that needs to be said. When Ben Shapiro calls your comedy a must-watch it’s probably a must-avoid.

Throughout the defense of Chappelle’s work is the word “offense.” People seem to think that it’s a sign of maturity to have not been offended by a comedian’s bigoted, tired yuck-yucks. As if offense was somehow a problem in and of itself . Let’s look at some tweets.

You get the idea. Let’s talk about offense.

It should go without saying, but if you are not part of the group a piece of media is targeting negatively then your opinion on whether it is offensive is completely meaningless. You have the right to say it, but it should be ignored and forgotten. It’s like telling someone a horror movie isn’t scary or a dessert isn’t delicious. Offense is always a personal thing, not one that can be objectively measured. I watched a comedian on Facebook start a conversation with other comedians about the Chappelle special trying to decide if it was offensive or not. Not a single one of them was trans. What the hell did they think they were going to find except their own anuses?

Being a practitioner of an art does not imbue someone with magical skills to determine how that art affected other people. You can only learn that by listening to them. If you Google “dave chappelle trans” you will find that his remarks were received by trans people with almost universal disgust. A rare exception is Daphne Dorman, the trans woman who appears in the special’s epilogue. On Twitter she said that she was “too busy sucking his big, comedy dick.” It’s reasonable to assume that Dorman is fine with Chappelle’s jokes because she was a comedian who was getting a chance to be a part of a major Netflix presentation. Regardless, getting one person from a marginalized group to agree with you does not negate the mountains of people who don’t. It's not a scientific proof where one instance of a phenomenon not occurring disproves the whole theory. There’s a reason Candace Owens and Milo Yiannopoulos are treated like traitors and fools from the majority of their respective demographics.

Even that aside, though, there is no prize for not getting offended. A certain segment of the internet treats offense like it’s some sort of fail state. Whoever gets offended first loses and the person who cares the least is crowned Lord High King of the Rational. Offense is framed like it’s some kind of embarrassing personal problem to be shamefully hidden.

We’re supposed to get offended at things that are terrible. We’re supposed to look at bigotry and consider the person saying it to be a toilet head with a turd clog where their brain should be. When things are cruel, mean, and bullying then the response should be abhorrence, not laughter. Dave Chappelle trotted out ridiculous, thoughtless, unoriginal, stereotypical material, not any sort of rumination on the trans experience that gave an indication he had put any real emotional thought into his art. He phoned in a bathroom joke, and people who think it’s kind of funny that bathrooms are a place where trans people get murdered laughed at it.

There’s no accomplishment in that. There’s no wisdom or virtue in acting like you’re above feeling offended because it’s just a product of privilege. It’s really easy to be blasé about a problem you don’t have and likely never will. I remember a conversation I was having with a random commenter about illegal immigration. I brought up the fact that America has concentration camps for children, and his response was “nice try, making me feel something about that.” What kind of isolated, entitled git thinks they have to avoid feeling things about children being hurt? At what point does feeling bad about children dying become a rhetorical inconvenience rather than a core part of your soul?

Offense is a natural emotional response to that which we as a society should be repulsed by for the sake of continuing the species in health and happiness. Bigotry, rape apologia, the belief that poor people deserve to get sick and starve until they learn to code or something… these are irrational, emotional manifestations of destruction, not the output of some logically superior mind. They aren’t just opinions to be disagreed over. They are things that should cause rightful offense, and when they don't it means you are malfunctioning.

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner