The controversy surrounding Dave Chappelle’s recent special, The Closer, continues to be a major headache for Netflix as the trans employee resource group stages a massive walkout in protest of co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ defense of the comedian’s anti-trans remarks.
Many celebrities including Elliot Page, Lilly Wachowski and Wanda Sykes tweeted out in support of protest with organizers even having to make a last minute change of venue to accommodate the overwhelming response. “We want the company to adopt measures in the areas of content investment, employee relations and safety, and harm reduction, all of which are necessary to avoid future instances of platforming transphobia and hate speech,” employees wrote in a press release along with a list of demands.
Prior to the walkout, Sarandos walked back his defense of Chappelle admitting in an interview with Variety that he “screwed up.” “I should have led with a lot more humanity,” Sarandos said. “Meaning, I had a group of employees who were definitely feeling pain and hurt from a decision we made”
This comes following the firing of a pregnant Black employee last week who was coincidentally one of the main organizers of the walkout.
According to Netflix, the employee was fired after leaking streaming metrics about the special including how much the special cost to make as well as Chappelle’s salary in a statement to Bloomberg. Apparently, Netflix paid a whopping $24.1 million for The Closer, which to put that into perspective the company paid only $3.9 million for Bo Burnham’s Inside. “We understand this employee may have been motivated by disappointment and hurt with Netflix,” the company said in a statement, “but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is core to our company.”
Speaking to the Verge, the former employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of becoming a target of online harassment, said, “all these white people are going around talking to the press and speaking publicly on Twitter and the only person who gets fired is the Black person who was quiet the entire time. That’s absurd, and just further shows that Black trans people are the ones being targeted in this conversation.”
The dismissal comes following the suspension of a trans software engineer, Terra Field, when she and two other employees crashed an executive meeting in protest of the special. Field has since been reinstated but the internal turmoil did prompt an email from Sarandos clarifying which meetings employees were allowed to attend. In an internal memo, Sarandos defended Netflix’s decision to not take down the special, “We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line. I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries.”
Sarandos did add, “it never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues,” but cited the platform’s more progressive titles like Sex Education or Disclosure as examples of “more people see their lives reflected on screen and that under-represented communities are not defined by the single story.”
Chappelle’s special, The Closer, has been a lightning rod for controversy with the comedian doubling down on past transphobic comments, proclaiming himself to be a part of “team TERF,” asserting that “gender is a fact,” accusing LGBTQ+ people of being “too sensitive” and defending J. K. Rowling, DaBaby and Kevin Hart. Chappelle has yet to comment on all the backlash.
Photo via Getty/ Rafael Henrique/ SOPA Images/ LightRocket
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