Monique used to be a funny comedian. But she made herself into a joke recently when she put out a video message imploring all of her fans to boycott Netflix for alleged racism and sexism. She didn’t get the contract offer from them that she wanted so she decided that everybody else should quit watching Netflix. Right. This request for a boycott is exactly what is wrong with many of the pop-up protests that we have seen in recent years. Reflexive, ill-conceived, self-defeating and counter-productive calls for group action rebuking some company or individual for questionable offenses undermines legitimate protest efforts when the time is right.
Because it has exactly zero chance of making any positive change or any kind of a difference whatsoever, Monique’s call to action can be dissected so we can examine the anatomy of a stupid boycott. First, her charges of racism and sexism are complete and utter nonsense. Netflix offered her a half a million dollars for her next comedy special. She is pissed off because Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle scored about $20 million each and Amy Schumer hit about $11 million for hers. I guess since Mo’Nique is both black and a woman she figures she can get away with charging her paltry half-million dollar offer to the “isms” when the simple fact is that she is nowhere near as big a star as any of the three comics she compared herself to. There was actual bidding with other networks for their specials but not for Mo’Nique’s. Nobody else has made her an offer to do a show and her last stand up special was self-released on Amazon. So Netflix’s decision was about green dollars, not black vaginas.
The second tumor of stupidity that we find inside the body of this boycott is that if her fans (almost exclusively black folks) were to take up her cause, they would be hurting more black people than they would ever be helping. First of all, Netflix has several shows or specials with substantially black casts or black show-runners. Just to name a few, Netflix has recently partnered with Spike Lee to revive She’s Gotta Have It into a successful fan-pleasing series, provided the platform for Ava Duvernay’s award-winning documentary 13th, and made the biggest splash of all with the critically acclaimed feature film Mudbound which was written and directed by Dee Reese. And they also are responsible for the reboot of Dear White People and the original series The Get Down.
Just so we’re clear, Mo’Nique wants black folks to turn their backs on all of these black film-makers, actors and directors that are getting huge career boosts by their partnerships with Netflix in order to serve HER own vain and foolish whims. You could have a toothless meth whore talk to me for a week without saying anything THAT goddamned stupid. The selfishness and narrow-mindedness of her position is astonishing.
The third breech of good common sense that we’ll find once we continue to explore the body of this boycott is the idea that because somebody thinks differently than you do and they exercise their right to express it that they deserve retaliation. That is just dumb. I live in Atlanta and I recall specifically when my friends in the LGBT community wanted a boycott of Atlanta’s own Chik-fil-A restaurants because the foundng owner, Stuart Cathy, had the nerve to be a conservative Republican who had donated money to organizations opposed gay marriage- which was the hot topic back then.
Of course as a committed progressive I was down for the cause of marriage equality, but why in the hell would I want to punish the owners of Chik-fil-A because they take up the other position? They have a right to that view just like I had a right to mine and when the politics played themselves out marriage equality carried the day. The funny thing about that boycott was that it collapsed under the weight of humanity in less than a day: those chicken sandwiches are the best in the world and you aren’t about to get a bunch of folks in Atlanta to abstain from eating them. On the other end of humanity, the first day of the boycott was in the dead of summer and it was like 232 degrees in the shade. There was a Chik-fil-A in my office building and the manager there had employees go outside with cups of ice water and cookies for the protesters so they wouldn’t fall out in that heat.
Within a few hours the crowd was dispersed. There’s a lesson in that for all to heed: disagree without being disagreeable. You don’t have to try to hurt somebody because they see a subject different than you do when they are not doing you any harm.
As this relates to Mo’Nique, Netflix hasn’t done any wrong to her- they just don’t see her as being worth the same money as Chris, Dave or Amy. Besides the fact that they are right, they would have the right to be wrong. Just like Chik-fil-A was wrong on marriage equality but they were right as they could be on making great food and being great corporate citizens in the city of their founding. So boycotting them was dumb and boycotting Netflix was even dumber.
Grow up, Mo’Nique. You not getting what you want is not a cause for other people to champion- it is your business to handle. If you are lucky, Netflix won’t take the half million dollars off table. I suggest you take that money and get back to telling jokes while you still can- that is if you haven’t burned every bridge you have ever stepped on.
By way of contrast, look at what went on around the nation over the weekend and you will see what an evolved and effective protest looks like. The Women’s March was focused, organized and has a clear eye on a big prize: advancing the cause of equality for women by getting women elected to office and raising awareness of policies that are harmful under current leadership. The result is that record numbers of women are running for office (and so far, winning) and the political landscape is shifting. There are strong indications that the House of Representatives is going to flip to Democrat control in 2018, the Senate could also flip, and the White House could be restored from Trump’s Wreck-It-Ralph style presidency in 2020. That, my friends, is how protests are done right.