People Are Not Here For Chelsea Handler’s Latest Netflix Special

It’s been a while, but Chelsea Handler has finally returned to Netflix with a documentary titled, Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea. The 64-minute program, which hit the platform back in mid-September, follows the comedian as she explores white privilege and all the ways that she’s benefited from it

Chelsea Handler at an event
Chelsea Handler at an event | Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage

And while the film may sound well-intentioned, many people have criticized it for its “awkward” interviews, “lackluster” self-reflection, and apparent failure to explain the history and context behind white privilege.

An overview of Handler’s Netflix documentary

In the beginning of the program, it seems that Handler is prepared to have what many would say is a much overdue conversation about race and white privilege.

“I was white, I was pretty, and I had a big mouth, and for some reason, that was rewarded in Hollywood,” she explains in the opening segment. “I’m clearly the beneficiary of white privilege, and I want to know what my responsibility is moving forward in the world that we live in today where race is concerned.”

She adds, “I want to know how to be a better white person to people of color without making it a thing.”

Handler starts to search for answers

She sets off on a trip around the country to speak with various people about race, including some celebrities, activists, scholars, and others. One of her first stops is a college open mic, where one student quickly points out that the film itself is “another example of white privilege.”

“Feel free to edit this out, because I’m embarrassed to be here with you because this is just another example of white privilege,” the woman says. “What are you going to do with it other than come into this space and take?”

Another student echoed that sentiment, noting, “This rabbit hole goes deep – deeper than a documentary.”

“One of the things I’ve noticed about white privilege is that it always ends up being about people of color’s experience—and it never becomes about whiteness,” another student shared. “You do need to learn about others, but you also need to learn about yourself.”

When Handler gets back to her car, she shares what she took away from the event. “We need to talk to people who are white and stop asking Black people to solve our problems because it’s a white person’s problem,” she says.

So, Handler goes to talk to white people

At one point, she sits down with a self-proclaimed “white trash” rapper from Tennessee named Jelly Roll (yes, really), who offers his take on how “the system” has failed black people.

Handler also visits Oktoberfest in hopes of talking to “a bunch of white racists.” There, she meets a bunch of people who mostly push back on the idea of white privilege. The same thing essentially happens in a later sit-down with a group of Republican women from Orange County.

If it wasn’t already obvious, it becomes increasingly clear that the issue is too complex for an hour-long documentary. But Handler ultimately seems satisfied that she was at least able to spark a conversation. It ends without any apparent plan for anti-racism work, making it feel… pointless.

Many people had heated reactions to Handler’s special

Hundreds — if not thousands — took to various websites to criticize the documentary.

One person wrote on Rotten Tomatoes, “Chelsea was good and put effort into trying to understand what is going on, but I don’t think she interviewed the best people to talk about this subject because I ended up taking nothing away from this documentary.

“She needed a good 5 years of research on the topic before diving in on a doc,” read another review.

Another man wrote on Twitter that “@chelseahandler’s Netflix special is basically like that video of Lindsay Lohan trying to save that homeless family in Dubai and everyone just staring at her like ‘wtf leave them alone why don’t you understand you’re not helping?'”

But others praised Handler for her effort

One man noted on Rotten Tomatoes, “It could definitely be deeper, but perhaps the goal is to give just enough that white people can focus on the basics. I love the message that white folks need to take this on with their circles and be allies.”

Another tweeted, “I’m not a big Chelsea Handler fan but I am appreciating her Netflix special ‘Hello, Privilege. It’s me, Chelsea’. At the end of the day, white people need to be the ones educating other white people about systemic racism and working to change things. Not us.”

And a third person added, “Chelsea Handler has a Netflix special about White privilege…. Wow…. This sh*t ain’t sugar coated. She’s real.”

Either way, Handler seems grateful for the responses that the documentary has received. On Sept. 20, she tweeted, Thank you for the continued conversation about my new documentary on @Netflix. And a special thank you to all the angry white people who have reached out as well. It’s my privilege to make you mad at a documentary about white privilege.”