"You know what my parents told me, Don't fight in front of white people," are the last words the veteran comedian utters before he drops the mic and raises his hands in contentment as he receives a standing ovation after having delivered one of the most controversial 'Netflix Specials' ever. If you thought Dave Chappelle's Comedy Specials were jaw-dropping, then this one might dislocate it. Ironically, Chris Rock Begins by disclaiming that he does not plan on offending anyone with his special, however just an hour later after watching, one definitely feels some type of way depending on which side of the coin you fall under. This review attempts to dissect the sensitive red button issues that Chris Rocks addressed in the 1 hour long special.
"Dissecting Society's Selective Outrage"
"Everybody is full of Shi$%"
Without wasting anyone's time, Chris gets straight into business by addressing the flaw of our human condition: “Everybody is full of sh**.” He asserts this notion by giving us a clear example where society proved to be inconsistent in its quest for morality.
“The kind of people who play Michael Jackson songs but wont play R kelly, same crime, one of them just has better songs).
This interrogation of human nature doesn't just end with the case of how society willingly chooses who they cancel and who they spare the rod. It also interrogates our daily hypocrisy, by reminding us that the devices we use to tweet woke sentiments were made using the hard and sheer labor of children in Africa. Personally, I was triggered (lol).
What we can take away from this is, who among us is moral or pure enough to cast woke aspersions on another? Just like how Jesus probed "he who without sin ought to throw the first stone," the viewer seems to be faced with the same predicament. In this highly unethical system governed by greed and consumption, who among us is worthy to examine the morality of another?
“I think I speak for the entire audience tonight when I say, that most people in this crowd would prefer a pair of $20 racist yoga pants.”
This joke is a commentary on the hypocrisy of corporations and businesses who want to paint their brand image as socially aware, yet ignore the basic needs of people, such as ignoring the rising cost of living affecting consumers, and placing profits first. Yes, we get that these fruits were organically produced on a free-range farm that uses clean energy, but can the ordinary being afford them?
"...the biggest addiction in America is not opioids but Attention"
Though the joke was given in a different context, Dave Chappelle does take a similar route in shedding light on the conundrum facing America as highlighted in the above quote by Chris Rock. Dave Chappelle gives a comic commentary on the Jussie Smollett saga, as he laments the extreme measure people will take in order to receive attention and play the victim.
“...But if everybody claims to be a victim, when the real victim needs help, ain't nobody going to be there to help them, and right now we live in a world where the emergency room is filled up with Muthaf**rs with paper cuts”
Sadly, the above quote by Chris Rock is the dilemma that society struggles to grapple with. Social media has created narcissists who are willing to do anything to receive attention and sympathy while playing the victim. After the Jussie Smollett scandal, do we have the emotional bandwidth to believe another person who genuinely cries out for help? After the Amber Heard drama, will society be open to believing women who cry out for help when they are victims of gender-based violence?
Two things can be correct at the same time
“Some of that shit she went through was not racism, it was just some in-law sh**”
While it's unfair to just render Meghan Markle's trauma and experience as having emanated from uncomfortable family-in-law dynamics, it doesn't eliminate the possibility that negative attitudes that brew in in-law dynamics could possibly have been one of the driving factors that contributed to her trauma. It goes without mentioning that marrying into a royal family while coming from a nonroyal background can bring with it certain culture shocks that may be hard to process at first. The late Princess Diana, as known to the public, did experience moments that could be traumatizing to the psyche. Therefore the overall conversation becomes complicated, on one end of the spectrum should Meghan not be allowed the freedom to express her feelings, are her experiences not valid? On the other hand, could she be misplacing her trauma, could she be failing to really understand the intricate dynamics that come with marrying into one of the most popular monarchies in the world?
Chris Rock goes on to state, “Even black people wanna know…” with reference to people wanting to know how brown the baby is going to be. He justifies this claim by stating that black girls trying to get accepted by white in-laws face the same struggle as white girls trying to get accepted by black in-laws. African American culture is largely built on the pinnacles of building a new narrative for the African American people, a narrative of greatness and excellence. This could explain why dating a white Caucasian woman as a successful black African American is frowned upon as you are considered as impeding on the project of 'Black excellence.' One key propagator of this school of thought is Dr. Umar Johnson who provides commentary on these issues using his popular social media channels.
“America has got it worse than Ukraine, Ukraine is united, America is divided. Our sh** is so screwed up right now, if the Russians came here right now, half the country would go like, let's hear him out. Republicans lie, and democrats leave out key pieces of the truth that would lead to a more nuanced argument’’
As usual, it's not a Chris Rock Comedy special unless he delves into the intricate politics of America. America is a highly divided country, sometimes this division seems to be solely along two extremities. Your views on life and politics could label you as an opponent of one of the two political narratives, which is the danger of American politics.
“There is a part of me that is pro life, because I am definitely pro their lives (his daughters), but since I love my daughters unconditionally, I want my daughters to live in a world where they have complete control of their bodies, and because of that I am pro-choice”
America is heavily polarized, you are expected to have a stance on everything, it's either you are pro-life or pro-choice, either you are pro guns or no guns, and many other burning issues. Once you form an opinion, you are assumed to be leaning toward a particular political school of thought. Former President, Barack Obama does lament this ordeal facing American politics in his book, 'the audacity of hope.' and encourages blurred lines in politics.
Chris Rock maintained his usual style of delivery of jokes in the form of story-telling through retrospective personal accounts of his childhood upbringing and family structure, and through commentary on issues such as politics. Through the former, you get to understand Chris Rock as a family man. One of the most beautiful parts of this special is when he gives an account of his mother, who lived during the harsh racist policies of the past, and today she lives in a totally different society.
“Think about it, The same woman who had to go through the indignity of getting her teeth getting taken out by a vet, the same woman now twice a year, gets on a plane, flies to Paris and has coffee with her granddaughter who is going to culinary school”
Conclusion: The elephant in the room
“By the way, that is not a Jay-Z diss, I do not need another rapper mad at me”
I guess the moment we had all been waiting for was when he finally got to speak on the looming issue lurking in people's minds, how he felt about being slapped by Will Smith at the Oscars. while carefully assessing this last bit of the show, we can draw from it that maybe he had gone off script and was speaking from his heart. Seldom do stand-up comedians, especially seasoned ones like Chris Rock, make mistakes when delivering, however, the fact that he confused the two Will Smith movies 'Concussion' and 'Emancipation' perhaps reveals that the last segment may have been impromptu. One thing we can pick up from this last bit is that he believes that Will Smith's 'selective outrage'' emanated from making Chris Rock an outlet for all the pain and shame Will Smith had endured all his life and he finally took it out on the person he knew very well he could beat up. Above all, the show did make people laugh, cringe, and shock us all at the same time, which we believe are the key facets of comedy, especially for those who have a palate for raw unfiltered comedy.