It looked for a moment this weekend like Patton Oswalt was refusing to buckle to cancel culture. He posted a handful of photos (including the one above) about joining his friend Dave Chappelle for a New Year’s Eve set in Seattle. Oswalt was doing a smaller show nearby and got a call from Chappelle to come over and join his show at the stadium nearby. That’s a pretty nice invitation and Oswalt seemed really happy about it. He wrote, “I waved good-bye to this hell-year with a genius I started comedy with 34 years ago. He works an arena like he’s talking to one person and charming their skin off. Anyway, I ended the year with a real friend and a deep laugh. Can’t ask for much more.”
If you scroll through the comments they’re almost uniformly complimentary, e.g. “Two comic geniuses and two of the best ever to do it.” But it turns out the comments only look that way because Oswalt spent some time removing critical comments about him saying nice things about a self-described TERF. So yesterday, Oswalt put up a second Instagram post apologizing.
I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time this New Year’s Eve. We’ve known each other since we’re teens. He’s a fellow comedian, the funniest I’ve ever met. I wanted to post a pic & an IG story about it — so I did. The friend is Dave Chappelle. Thirty four YEARS we’ve been friends. He’s refocused and refined ideas a lot of us took as settled about race & history & Life On Planet Earth and spun them around with a phrase or punchline. We’ve done bad & good gigs, open mikes & TV tapings. But we also 100% disagree about transgender rights & representation. I support trans peoples’ rights — ANYONE’S rights — to live safely in the world as their fullest selves. For all the things he’s helped ME evolve on, I’ll always disagree with where he stands NOW on transgender issues. But I also don’t believe a seeker like him is done evolving, learning. You know someone that long, see the struggles and changes, it’s impossible to cut them off. Impossible not to be hopeful and open and cheer them on. Also, I’ve been carrying a LOT of guilt about friends I’ve cut off, who had views with which I couldn’t agree, or changed in ways I couldn’t live with. Sometimes I wonder — did I and others cutting them off make them dig their heels in deeper, fuel their ignorance with a nitro-boost of resentment and spite?
There’s a lot in this paragraph. He emphasizes that he and Chappelle have been friends for a long time and that Dave is very enlightened on issues of race. Then he says he disagrees with his stand on transgender issues. Then he suggests maybe Chappelle will continue to evolve on this issue and it’s probably not a good idea to cut people off as Oswalt says he’s done in the past. Maybe cancel culture isn’t helping, he seems to be saying.
To that point, all of this seems somewhat defensible. It’s a bit mealy-mouthed but he’s not throwing Chappelle under the bus exactly. But he didn’t stop there. Here’s the apology:
I’m an LGBTQ ally. I’m a loyal friend. There’s friction in those traits that I need to reconcile myself, and not let cause feels of betrayal in ANYONE else. And I’m sorry, truly sorry, that I didn’t consider the hurt this would cause. Or the DEPTH of that hurt. I’ve been messaging a lot on IG today, and the back and forth has really helped guide me in the writing of this. I (naively) deleted a lot of posts in the comment thread — critical ones from LGBTQ writers AND shit-posts by TERF/anti-trans orcs looking for clicks & giggles. I wanted a “nice comment thread” about the pic with my friend. Ugh. So easy to think someone ELSE needs growth and miss the need in yourself. Gonna keep trying.
So after saying how happy he was to end a bad year with his good friend Dave Chappelle now he’s sorry he didn’t consider the hurt having such a friend would cause? I mean, maybe people shouldn’t be demanding you stop being friends with a guy you’ve known for 34 years because they don’t like his opinions. Maybe that’s as far as this needs to go? Instead, Oswalt feels the need to spend the day apologizing to the people who crapped all over his nice moment with their complaints about what a bad person he is for having Chappelle as a friend.
The comments on the apology thread are full of people saying how disappointed they are:
- Look. These choices are yours to make obviously but I am super disappointed. How tone deaf can you be? You’re also smart enough to know about the “paradox of tolerance.” I’m not going to judge you for the decisions you made, but as a fan I’m really sad about this and need to take a break from your content.
- Having and being friends with someone who is perceived as bad person will likely reflect against you. You can’t tell me you didn’t know this.
- BS. BS. BS. and more BS. You’re not right for this. Bye
But there are also a bunch of sensible comments from people who point out this isn’t how you treat a friend after they do you a favor:
- The fact you feel the need to explain a picture with a “friend” of 34 years, for a joke, speaks volumes of you. You’re the piece of shit here, not him.
- Imagine apologizing to strangers because you took a picture with a friend 😂😂 comedians are supposed to be the ones pushing the envelope, not bending their knee to a mob. Shameful.
- Why are people who question the most extreme manifestation of trans identity “shit posters” but every person who attacks you from the pro trans position deserves respect? That’s actually a complete negation of your so called friendship with and respect for Chappelle
I think this makes Oswalt look like a bit of a jerk. If an old friend does you a favor you don’t apologize for knowing them. At least that’s how it should work but I guess if you’re on the far left like Oswalt cancel culture is too powerful to resist entirely.
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