On Tuesday, The Root reported that a trans employee and a handful of others who were suspended after trying to attend a director-level meeting that they weren’t invited to. The trans employee in particular, Terra Field, had previously spoken out against Netflix’s decision to house Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, The Closer, which included jokes and language that “attack the trans community and the very validity of transness.”
Fields has been reinstated; now, according to OkayPlayer, several other trans employees and allies are staging a walkout, Oct. 20 in response to the special and how their employer has handled the backlash.
A Slack message posted by an employee, and obtained by the L.A. Times, reads:
“I encourage all [members of] Trans* and allies not to work for Netflix that day… As we’ve discussed through Slack, email, texts and everything in between, our leadership has shown us that they do not uphold the values for which we are held… Between the numerous emails and non-answers that have been given, we have been told explicitly that we somehow cannot understand the nuance of certain content. I don’t know about you, but asking for us to show the whole story and not just the pieces that harm trans and [LGBTQ+] people is not an unreasonable ask.”
Additionally, this news comes just after co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent yet another internal memo to staffers in which he seemingly doubles down in support of Chappelle and the special. Per an email obtained by Variety, Sarandos explained:
We know that a number of you have been left angry, disappointed and hurt by our decision to put Dave Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix. Also, we have many new colleagues who want to better understand the principles that guide our team’s content choices, especially with challenging titles like this.
Our goal is to entertain the world, which means programming for a diversity of tastes. This member-centric view has driven our growth over the last 20 years, despite all the competition, and remains Netflix’s north star today. We also support artistic freedom to help attract the best creators, and push back on government and other censorship requests. Our Entertain the World and Strategy Bets memos, which we’ve debated extensively, are clear about both principles – including the trade offs, i.e. that we’ll always have titles some members and employees dislike or believe are harmful.
With The Closer, we understand that the concern is not about offensive-to-some content but titles which could increase real world harm (such as further marginalizing already marginalized groups, hate, violence etc.) Last year, we heard similar concerns about 365 Days and violence against women. While some employees disagree, we have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.
The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others. We are working hard to ensure marginalized communities aren’t defined by a single story. So we have Sex Education, Orange is the New Black, Control Z, Hannah Gadsby and Dave Chappelle all on Netflix. Key to this is increasing diversity on the content team itself.
In his special, Chappelle makes harsh jokes about many different groups, which is his style and a reason his fans love his comedy and commentary. Stand-up comedians often expose issues that are uncomfortable because the art by nature is a highly provocative. As a leadership team, we do not believe that The Closer is intended to incite hatred or violence against anyone (per our Sensitive Content guidelines).
He concluded, “We’ve had these operating principles around pleasing our members and artistic expression for many years, and the team’s decision to put The Closer on our service was consistent with them. The variety and quality of our content is what members value most. Our hope is that you can be hugely inspired by entertaining the world, while also living with titles you strongly believe have no place on Netflix. This will not be the last title that causes some of you to wonder if you can still love Netflix. I sincerely hope that you can.”
“[GLAAD was] founded 36 years ago because media representation has consequences for LGBTQ people. Authentic media stories about LGBTQ lives have been cited as directly responsible for increasing public support for issues like marriage equality. But film and TV have also been filled with stereotypes and misinformation about us for decades, leading to real world harm, especially for trans people and LGBTQ people of color. Ironically, the documentary ‘Disclosure’ on Netflix demonstrates this quite clearly.”
They later added in a tweet: “We stand with the trans employees, Black LGBTQ employees, and everyone at @Netflix supporting them, speaking out, and calling for change.”