Chelsea Handler’s Netflix documentary on white privilege – Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea – has been panned by critics, who say it amounts to a “misguided reckoning” and note that she is actively “exploiting her wokeness” and “profiting off a film about her white privilege.”
Handler’s Netflix special, which dropped last week, centers around the left-wing comedienne’s exploration of “white privilege” in an attempt to “be a better white person to people of color, without making it a thing.”
“I’m clearly the beneficiary of white privilege. And I want to know what my personal responsibility is moving forward in the world we live in today where race is concerned,” Handler says in the documentary.
However, the documentary has not been well received, with critics pointing out that she is, in fact, benefiting from white privilege by participating in a “white privilege” documentary and ultimately making money from the project.
“Unfortunately for Handler, she’s at times the worst part about the film. Most of her commentary or jokes during interviews came off either jarring or cringy,” a review from the Daily Dot reads, adding that the documentary “thrives when Handler uses her platform to allow disenfranchised people to speak.”
“It’s hard to watch Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea without feeling like Handler is exploiting her ‘wokeness’ at least a little bit,” the review continues:
She says at the beginning of the film that she “wants to be a better white person to people of color without making it a thing”—but then makes it a “thing” by airing a documentary on a major streaming service. She’s also presumably profiting off a film about her white privilege. There’s at least the assurance that Alex Stapleton, a Black woman, directed the film. But it also feels like a lose-lose situation for Handler. On the one hand, people are bound to criticize her for virtue-signaling by making this film. On the other hand, if she weren’t vocal about the journey she’s been on, she’d be accused of not using her voice to create change.
Vice did not offer a glowing review either, assessing that Handler “stumbles through a well-meaning but misguided reckoning with her place in the world” and arguing that Handler could have easily been “canceled” numerous times in the past over off-color remarks.
“It’s clearly a privilege to be Chelsea Handler because, despite numerous cancellable insults and other instances of inappropriate behavior, she doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon,” the Vice piece reads. “On the surface, that’s what makes her new documentary an interesting proposition: For the first time in her career, she seems to be willing to ask why she gets to stick around.”
By the end of Hello, Privilege, Handler seems more mature than the woman who once asked Al Sharpton why she couldn’t joke about fried chicken and watermelon. But the story about her grabbing a woman’s butt begs the question of what her activism looks like when the cameras aren’t rolling. Chelsea Does Racism and Hello, Privilege may be respectable first steps, but they aren’t enough to excuse Handler’s past and present behavior. Being a white ally to people of color goes beyond the proverbial “invite to the cookout.” And dismantling white privilege shouldn’t come at the cost of the people of color around you.
Handler’s documentary has earned an audience score of just 12 percent on Rotton Tomatoes, adding insult to injury.
“I am Mexican born immigrant and even I think this ‘documentary’ terrible,” one user wrote. “It fuels the racial division and resentment already present in our society. It helps noone [sic] and it is not even entertaining.”
“Absolute garbage, has sunk to a new low trying to pander and stay relevant while completely sucking!” another commented.
“I think creating a documentary and traveling the world seeking answers about white privilege is the epitome of white privelege [sic],” another added. “I’m a fan of Handler and especially her last book, but this wasn’t her best use of time in my opinion. Was just a little cringey to watch to be honest.”
During a recent appearance on The View, Handler confessed that she had to undergo therapy in order to talk to the four Republican women featured in the documentary.
“I had to do a lot of therapy to even have these conversations with people, because I have a temper and I’m reactive,” Handler said. “And when somebody’s annoying I want to tell them that they’re annoying or that they’re stupid.”
“My exercise in this film was to be more quiet and to stop inserting myself and saying ‘you’re wrong, you’re wrong,’” she added:
The former Netflix talk show host also appeared on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time Wednesday to promote the documentary and argued that President Trump is a “perfect example of white privilege.”
“[Trump] is a perfect example of white privilege. Let’s keep other people down so we keep winning, so I can keep filling my own pockets,” Handler said. “At a certain point if you really want equality you have to be okay with other people succeeding, and he and the Republican Party are all about no one succeeding except for them… All they care about is money.”