Chris Rock’s “Selective Outrage” was Netflix’s first live streaming event, and the outlet treated it like a coronation. Rock’s friends and admirers, young and old, turned out for a pre-show presentation that portended a stand-up set for the ages. The sight of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was particularly encouraging, given his vehement support of the trans community in the face of a right-wing-driven campaign disputing their very right to exist.
Rock, perhaps leery of his colleague Dave Chappelle’s TERF-friendly dismissal of trans people, made a glancing joke about the Kardashian family’s acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner before explaining how his blue-collar brothers would lose their minds if their father pursued gender reassignment. The bit was meant to enlighten “wokes” — and, yes, he disappointingly used that term as a pejorative during his routine — as to the difficulty of getting regular people to adjust to the concept of transgenderism. Amazingly, Louis C.K., Rock’s disgraced former writing partner, was more gracefully understanding of gender fluidity — which he compared to playing a fretless bass — in his most recent stand-up special.
The title “Selective Outrage” prompted hope that Rock would train his ire on our social-media-addled obsession with tabloid sideshows like the Kardashians and the British Royal Family. Instead, Rock sunk undue minutes of his set into celebrating Robert Kardashian’s role in exonerating O.J. Simpson of murder (when he was merely a periphery player in the legal soap opera) and excoriating mixed-race Meghan Markle for marrying into a famously exclusionary lily-white clan.