Netflix suspended trans employee who tweeted about Dave Chappelle’s comedy special The Closer. In the stand-up, released on October 5, Chappelle doubles down on his jokes about LGBTQ groups.
The next day, Netflix software engineer Terra Field tweeted about Chappelle, writing that the comedian was “attacking the trans community and the very validity of transness” in the special:
I work in @netflix. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community and the very validity of transness – while trying to oppose other marginalized groups. You are going to hear a lot about “offense”.
We are not offended
– Terra Fied (@RainofTerra) October 7, 2021
The tweet thread went viral, quickly turning into a conversation about free speech and culture cancellation. Netflix then suspended Field, allegedly for attempting to attend a meeting she was not invited to, according to people familiar with the matter. Another trans employee leaves the company because of the way the special – and Field’s comments – were handled.
The special sparked significant controversy within Netflix (Disclosure: The edge is producing an upcoming show for Netflix.). Shortly after its release, employees began asking pointed questions about whether or not trans people were included in the decision to air the special, and where the company draws a line between commentary and commentary. transphobia.
“We repeatedly provide a platform for content harmful to the trans community,” a current employee wrote in Netflix’s open question and answer document. “These decisions have a significant impact on our business, including prejudice to our current employees and the refusal of our talents to work with us. What’s our plan on how we’re going to fix this particular situation? »None of the questions seen by The edge requested that the special be withdrawn.
On October 8, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos responded to questions in an internal email. “It never feels good when people are in pain, especially our colleagues,” he wrote. “You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the next few days, which we are not going to do.”
Sarandos also said that Chappelle’s last special, Sticks & Stones, is “the most watched, tackiest and most awarded special stand-up to date”.
Several of you have also asked where we draw the line on hate. We do not allow titles designed to incite hatred or violence on Netflix, and we do not believe The closest crosses that line. I do recognize, however, that it’s hard to distinguish between commentary and prejudice, especially with the stand-up comedy that exists to push the boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean, but our members appreciate it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.
Netflix’s trans employee resource group has been meeting with executives for years to try to educate them on the impact of transphobic content, according to a current employee. When Netflix bought the movie Girl, about a fifteen-year-old ballet dancer preparing for gender confirmation surgery, it sparked multiple internal conversations about cisgender directors creating content about trans people.
Sarandos said the company’s commitment to inclusion is reflected in headlines like Sex education and Disclosure, a documentary on Hollywood’s impact on the trans community. But a current employee says The edge they were not influenced by the statement. “You can’t do carbon offsets for fanaticism,” they said dryly. Disclosure director Sam Feder also tweeted that Netflix “has rented [the documentary] for half of what it cost to do it.
Netflix has a long history with Dave Chappelle. In 2016, the comedian signed an agreement to create three specials for the platform. Four years later, Netflix withdrew Chapel Show streaming service at the actor’s request. (He then reinstated it in 2021 after Chappelle’s Beef went missing with Comedy Central.)
But while the comedian’s previous specials have sparked controversy, Chappelle’s most recent has elicited a much stronger response. The closest drew criticism from GLAAD, who wrote on Twitter that “Dave Chappelle’s brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities.” In a statement to Variety, the National Black Justice Coalition said, “Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence. Netflix should immediately remove The closest from its platform and apologize directly to the transgender community.
Read Ted Sarandos’ full email below:
Netflix declined to comment on the record for this story.
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